Look at this! A blogging job of my very own! But what kind of blogger shall I be? A topical one, tackling new as it happens? A games one, yammering on about how Call of Duty is evil and Undertale is fantastic? An emotional one, getting worked up over bird calls and flower scents? None of these sound very appealing. But how will people describe me to their friends if they don’t know what kind of blogger I am? Will they say, he’s like an opinion columnist if that columnist was a millennial malcontent with a tendency to ramble and an incomplete dictionary for a brain. Sheesh, that’s a Cuil’s worth of qualifications. You know what, that’s a good place to start: Cuils. People should know about that. Then they can decide just how many Cuils away from a journalist I am. I should think at least two.

On July 28th, 2008, a new search engine came on the market, called Cuil. It lasted a mere three years before being shut down, though it can still be found on the Web Archive. The engine was notorious for poorly optimized results, giving users URLs with little or tangential relation to their search, occasionally generating URLs that didn’t exist at all. Bad as it was, the word and the engine would have faded into obscurity had it not been for the random brilliance of Reddit. Deep in a thread about baby farming, one user commented that Reddit thumbnails are a “Cuil away from their subject.” The responding post is as follows:

Can we make that a unit of measurement?

One Cuil = One level of abstraction away from the reality of a situation.

Example: You ask me for a Hamburger.

1 Cuil: if you asked me for a hamburger, and I gave you a raccoon.

2 Cuils: If you asked me for a hamburger, but it turns out I don’t really exist. Where I was originally standing, a picture of a hamburger rests on the ground.

3 Cuils: You awake as a hamburger. You start screaming only to have special sauce fly from your lips. The world is in sepia.

4 Cuils: Why are we speaking German? A mime cries softly as he cradles a young cow. Your grandfather stares at you as the cow falls apart into patties. You look down only to see me with pickles for eyes, I am singing the song that gives birth to the universe.

Note: Cuils 5 and 6 deemed too complex for ordinary viewing audiences. Pursue here at your own risk.

            As bizarre and random as that post sounds, once explicated it makes a fair amount of sense. In the first Cuil away from reality, you are given a raccoon. As a raccoon is not a hamburger, that puts it at one Cuil. Next, you ask a non-existent person for a hamburger (+1 Cuil) and receive an abstract representation of it (+1 Cuil) putting the situation at 2 Cuils. Cuils three and four introduce fractional Cuils. Firstly, you are a hamburger (+1 Cuil), but you are also sentient (+.5 Cuil) and have motor control (.5 Cuil). Lastly, the world is in sepia (+1 Cuil). The sentient and mobile qualities of the hamburger are attributes added to the new reality’s given. In this three Cuil reality, it is a fact that you are a hamburger; all else related to you is ancillary. At four Cuils, everything is German (+1 Cuil) a weeping mime has a cow that your grandfather turns to patties with his gaze (+1 Cuil) your friend has pickle-eyes (+1 Cuil) and he sings the birth of the universe (+1 Cuil). Seem simple? Good, here’s the complicated part.

Since Cuils abstract from reality, moving in a positive direction, Cuil theorists posit they can also abstract towards reality, moving in a negative direction, or hyper-reality. To use the earlier situation, at 0 Cuils a request for a hamburger yields a hamburger, but at -1 Cuils, you ask for a hamburger and your friend asks how you intend to pay for it. Further, at -2 Cuils, you ask for a hamburger and your friend hands you a quarter pound of raw beef, some seasoning, and points you toward the stove. At -3 Cuils, you ask for a hamburger and your friend drives you to a cow pasture and hands you a large saw. Seem simple? Good, here’s the complicated, complicated part.

Cuils can be multiplied together. Say some thugs break your parent’s legs because they got behind on their mortgage payments (-2 Cuils, a harsh but effective reality) and in the same day your spouse divorces you (-1 Cuils away from a standard marriage). The result is (-2 Cuils)(-1Cuils)= +2 Cuils, filling you with an immense and inexplicable creative impulse and enabling you to write a hit stage play based off these events. This is where Cuil theory really intersects with reality.

Does the above situation sound believable? Great art comes from suffering, and the most debilitating of consequences have been known to lead to the most unforeseen opportunities. Take Frederick Douglas, beaten to an inch of his life on a regular basis, yet he rose to be a powerful influence, not only in his time, but in ours. Cuil theory is a way to measure the eccentricities of reality. It’s a part of humanity’s need to codify and understand the world around us, and its applications are limitless. Codes and ciphers can be constructed so many Cuils from reality, and decoded on the other end. Books and movies can operate from a base of the surreal and still interact with their audience. Imagine a by-the-numbers rom com written and directed four Cuils from reality1. Infinite new modes of painting, sculpture and photography have a potential to emerge from this system. Then there’s theology. Imagine interpreting holy texts, boiling their symbolism and rhetoric down a few Cuils from our reality or expanding them beyond their current scope. The possibilities are endless, and I sincerely hope Cuil theory gains more popularity in the future. I am immensely excited to see what it produces.

  1. I assume the male lead would be Sean Bean who crosses paths with Eleanor of Aquitaine and the two attempt to reconcile their love amidst the fluctuating time streams as long-dead persons continually reappear from beyond the grave to derail the plot. The amount of time they have on screen should correlate directly with how long they’ve been dead. Sadly, Abe Vigoda will be afforded only three minutes of screen time.

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