The Fall of Jonas Freimann

At the age of 38, Jonas Freimann, scientist, philanthropist and philosopher, had discovered a way to abolish world hunger.

As a young man, Jonas had wanted to become a zoologist, but upon entering his studies as an undergraduate, realized that saving the lives of his fellow humans was a far nobler cause. The process was simple: Simple carbohydrates, such as potatoes, grains and rice, were saturated with nutrients. These nutrient rich foods were then replicated exponentially.

These foods were then sent to the far reaches of the world, where more replication stations were established, and more food produced. All that was needed for sustenance was contained within these simple products. The plan certainly left something to be desired for the taste buds, but in lieu of death by starvation, the blandness of the food certainly seemed more bearable. In time, Jonas hoped to further improve the process.

It was on this day, the 30th of May 2015, when Jonas announced that his process had been perfected, and the whole world rejoiced at its completion. A press conference was held that would be transmitted and translated in real time all over the world. Most of all, Jonas wished to communicate to the world that a new age of technology had begun; one that put human needs above profit, philanthropy above apathy and love above greed.

Jonas was ushered backstage early on that day where he was fitted with a microphone and had his hair was flattened by a stylist before being pushed out on stage along with a panel of other experts. A flurry of questions from the media ensued as soon as he appeared. The camera flashes and the buzz of noise were almost more than he could take. Yet, this was his cause, so he pressed on, sat down and took a deep breath.

The first, a shallow question indeed: “How much do you expect to profit from this discovery?” Clearly a tabloid magazine looking to discredit him by twisting his response. “Nothing,” he replied flatly, “All the money that would have come to me personally is being rerouted into the fund, in order to create more food for the less fortunate. I wouldn’t feel right profiting from giving people what they have a natural right to.”

The next, a better one, but rather simple: “How long did it take you to develop this process?” “I’ve had the idea since I was in University. Food was never an issue among me or my ivy league compatriots” (laughs from the crowd) “but when I walked along the street on the coldest of nights, and saw the homeless clinging to life on the air vents of office buildings, I knew something had to be done to solve this problem. I started volunteering at homeless shelters, dolling out stew to those who were quick enough to get it, but it never felt like enough. I knew I could get the education and the materials to make this dream not just a dream, but a realization of a dream.” The crowd beamed. It was clear the media was very pleased with his answer, despite the fact that he was speaking truthfully and from the heart.

As the conference was coming to a close, the head of the National Science Commission stood up. “Dr. Jonas Freimann is an outstanding individual with unequivocal intelligence and drive. Not just any drive, but the type of drive that makes the world a better place to live in; a drive that improves the lives of others. I am happy to declare today “International Hunger Abolition Day” in honour of Jonas Freimann and all of his accomplishments in the interest of people everywhere.”

A roar of applause burst out in the crowd, and for a moment Jonas couldn’t believe if he had just heard correctly. Being recognized by his colleagues and those that he helped was thanks enough, but it was hard to accept that the whole world would celebrate every May 30th in his honour. “Since the sphere is the most perfect of shapes, equal all around in every right, I would like to present Dr. Freimann with this silver sphere as a reminder that people all over this sphere we call home are now as equal in privilege as the dimensions of this shape.” The head of the NSC presented Jonas with a small royal blue box. Inside he found a small, silver ball, composed of a lustrous metal, no bigger than a golfball. He thanked the head of the NSC heartily and smiled at the cameras as they clicked and flashed. The whole day had been a blur, but nothing could overshadow his sense of pride in knowing that very night, people around the world were eating what they deserved.

In the dark of the unlit room, smelling of smoke and vermouth from a celebration after the conference, Jonas walked over to the mantelpiece, reached into his pocket and pulled out the royal blue box with its sentimental gift inside. Before setting it there, he admired the ball for a moment, watched the light from the lamps in the street play off its highly polished surface. He smiled at the gift, aware of the symbolism of the thing. Such a small gesture, but so appropriate, he thought. He left the lid open, displaying the ball on the mantel and slunk off to peel his suit from his body and fall into bed.

By June, the madness of the response to his discovery had subsided slightly, and Jonas was free to relax and enter into more research. He wanted to discover a way of improving the taste of the foods being produced. He knew this development would never be as lauded as his first discovery, yet he found something comforting and humbling in knowing he would never make as great a discovery again.

It was around the middle of May the next year that Jonas started seeing references to “International Hunger Abolition Day”. He was walking down the street one afternoon, past a department store, when he noticed a sign: “Get your Hunger Abolition Day spheres here!” The notion pleased him, as he didn’t want people to forget about the importance of abolishing hunger worldwide. He went into the store, and merely out of amusement, purchased the same type of ball he had received the year before. This one would sit beside the other on the mantel, as a personal reminder that the world’s people had not forgotten to continue caring about one another. The ball cost him $15.99, a small investment. Throughout the day, he saw other signs in shop windows, each bringing a smile to his lips. He was truly in awe of the common philanthropic attitudes of his fellow man. When he arrived home later that night, the ball went straight to the mantel, beside the original.

The day of May 30th approached and a parade honouring the cultures of the world who had been helped by Jonas’ discovery marched through the city. The parade was a huge success, if a little kitschy, and people rejoiced with their brothers and sisters from around the globe. The feeling of human goodness and fellowship was liquid in the air, and was being drunk by all.

That night, Jonas had been invited to a party honouring the one year anniversary of his discovery. There was a lot of back-patting and congratulating in addition to excessive amounts of expensive liquor and opulent gourmet delicacies (the untouched portions of which would later be tossed in an alley dumpster).

Later that night, Jonas found himself in the same position he had been a year before, standing in front of the mantel, contemplating humanity and common human efforts, staring at the shiny balls that refracted the street light into his eyes. And again, with a sigh of goodwill, Jonas undiscovered his clothes and discovered his bed.

    ***

It was the end of April the next year when Jonas began noticing the signs in shop windows. He thought it was a bit early to start advertising for Hunger Abolition Day, but he surmised that the shop owners simply wanted to gain a little footing over each other. Surely, this was all in the interest of humanity. A week or so later, the signs became more looming, the number of shops selling the spheres was rising, and the overall frantic need to purchase these shiny balls was growing among people as a whole. One sign in particular caught Jonas’ attention: “44% larger Hunger Abolition Day spheres”, this came as a surprise, so naturally, he went into the establishment to see for himself. Sure enough, in a display in the centre of the floor there were the spheres. And indeed, they did look at least 44% bigger, perhaps only 40% in some cases. Regardless, Jonas was baffled. May 30th was about quality of life, not quantity of sphere. Something made Jonas sick in the depths of his abdomen, but he could not place it. Perhaps it was that tuna sandwich he’d had for lunch.

    ***

The next year, the same sick feeling returned, but this time even earlier. It was mid-March and the sphere sales were in full swing. Not only had the trend for bigger spheres taken over, but also the need for shinier and more lustrous balls had grown. Signs all over were ejaculating comments like, “Shiniest Spheres in the City!”, “Bigger and Better Balls, we sell them here”, “Sick of low quality spheres? Look no further”, and “Spheres, Spheres and more Spheres!”. It was rare to even find the meaning behind the spheres advertised anywhere. Only one sign that Jonas could find said, “You want spheres, we got ’em” in bold capital letters, followed by “in honour of Hunger Abolition Day” in tiny lettering off to one side.

    ***

By the time Jonas was 45, Hunger Abolition Day, or Sphere Day as it was more commonly referred to, had run rampant. Advertising for the event had now begun just after Ground Hog Day urging people to “Get your spheres early and save 25%”. And now, the spheres had become so large, people had to rent special wagons to attach to their cars in order to get them home. The poorer consumers simply rolled them from the store, but this practice was uncommon, as it scratched the highly prized shiny surface of the balls. The richer even began building additions onto their houses to accommodate these large purchases. Most simply left them outside on the front lawn, although, this was risky as sphere theft was on the rise. Jonas had an inkling that Hunger Abolition Day had lost some of its influence over the people of the world.

    ***

When he was 48, ten years after his discovery, spheres were as big as houses and only those of the highest status, with the most space and money could afford them. The city dumps looked like inverted cloudscapes with ready-made silver linings. The true meaning of the day was essentially gone. Jonas, feeling particularly low, wandered the streets, searching for anything—a gesture, an expression, a word—to prove to him that his beloved humanity had not gone completely blind.

Overwhelmed with grief, Jonas sat down on a bench to reflect, when he saw a child of about eight walking down the street toward him. The child was engrossed in an object that he was holding in his hand. As he got closer, Jonas could see he was holding a silver sphere, not bigger than a golfball. “Dearest child,” said Jonas, as the child got ever nearer, “what have you got there?” “It’s a sphere, for Sphere Day”. Well isn’t that precious, thought Jonas, a child with a tiny sphere, much like his own. This child, truly, cannot be lost to the clutches of humanity’s disillusions. “And do you know why people buy spheres?” prodded Jonas. “Some old guy discovered spheres today, I think. My mom says the biggest and shiniest spheres mean you’re better than anyone else so I got this to show my friends who’s boss.”

Jonas, incensed, jumped up from his bench and stormed downtown, leaving the child to stare gormlessly after him. As he hurried, Jonas hoped he had not already missed the parade. At the end was going to be the unveiling of the biggest, shiniest sphere ever created at the City Square.

When he arrived at the square, a massive group of people was standing in front of a massive shrouded ball, which was at least a story tall. The mayor stood at the ready to unveil it on an enormous scaffolding arch. Without wasting any time, Jonas dodged a few security guards and began to mount the scaffolding, climbing ever higher and faster. Once he reached the top he jumped down onto the sphere, kicking and tearing at the shroud until it loosened and fell in a giant ring all around the base of the sphere. The glint from the shiny ball was blinding and people had to shield their eyes momentarily.

“YOU HAVE LOST YOUR WAY!” Jonas shouted at the crowd, “YOU HAVE ALL LOST YOUR WAY!” Some gasped, others cried out, most just stared in open-mouthed awe at the man on the ball. “Does anyone even remember why we celebrate on this day? It’s because I, Jonas Freimann, solved world hunger ten years ago today. Today is not about making your neighbours envious. It is not a day to blind each other with the glint from these abominations. This day is a reminder of the goodness of humanity. A reminder of what we can accomplish when the happiness and health of others comes first. You have all lost your way and should be ashamed of what you have become!”

There was general confusion and muttering from the crowd below. It was clear they were trying to come to some conclusion on their own. “He’s right!” shouted one man. “We have lost our way”, shouted someone else. The crowd burst into a frenzy of language, as people apologized to each other and to themselves. “Tell us,” shouted one woman, and the crowd hushed, “how can we reverse the damage we have done?” “Remember to always care for your fellow humans in the future, and never let pettiness get in the way of human love,” Jonas shouted down.

Jonas had not felt this good since the first night of his discovery. The sickness in his stomach floated away and he was glad, once more, to be one among his beloved species. Unfortunately, this feeling of elation couldn’t contend with the condensation that had gathered on the sphere. The cool metal and the warm sun had produced a dangerous combination of slippery wetness. Before he had time to react, Jonas’ right foot flew out from under him, followed by the left. It was only moments later that he was lying sprawled and broken on the pavement. Horror spread among the crowd as the shadow of the sphere was made darker still by the pool of blood seeping from Jonas’ skull.

The papers said things like “Scientist killed by own commemorative sphere”, “Triumph to tragedy: One man’s descent”, “Our greed is what killed the greatest man of our time”. Jonas was a legend as well as a martyr.

Due to the guilt felt by most people, it was decided that the May 30th would no longer celebrate the abolition of world hunger, but instead honour the life and death of a man so concerned with the well being of humanity. The goal of the day would be to reflect on humanity and greed and to work toward preventing another such tragedy. People everywhere were to wear small silver ribbons, as a way of remembering the past and changing the future. Yet, it’s arguable to say that the very next year, those same ribbons were perceivably larger and more elaborate than they had been the year before.

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