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June 9th, 2019
Lucilius was in a crowded market, sitting for a meal and reflecting on the warmth of the sun. He took a bite of food and thought of his good fortune in that moment. To be among the bustling people, on a beautiful day with food before him after a long fast. A small smile graced his face as he chewed his food and looked at the people moving along in the market. Until a face stopped moving, and Lucilius noticed someone was looking directly at him with a strange look of startle. A wide smile grew on the person’s face and then the person began to walk directly towards Lucilius. This person stopped just before Lucilius, eyes bright, and said:
Lucilius looked at this person, a little confused and curious, chewing his food slower and slower, until he swallowed. He quickly looked around.
“Well, yes, I am.”
“I’ve been wanting to meet you for so long,” the person said.
“You have?” Lucilius said.
“Yes, so much.”
Lucilius looked down for a moment, thinking. He looked back up at the person’s beaming face.
“How do you know who I am?”
“I read about you in a book.”
“Yes, and ever since, I’ve been dying to meet you.”
Lucilius thought for a moment, wondering how a book ever got written about him without his knowing. Surely this was some kind of madness, or a dream maybe.
“Does this book have pictures?”
“Sort of, but none of you.”
“Well then how did you recognize me?”
“I got in touch with the author.”
“Who might that be, by the way?” Lucilius took another bite of food, thoroughly amused with how the day was turning out.
“I never found out but, seemed pleasant enough.”
“So you found me through this author?
“How exactly did you do that?”
“Well I asked the author how I could meet you, and at first the author laughed and thought it was a silly idea, but then it was decided that I could meet you if a story was written about us meeting.”
Lucilius stopped chewing his food altogether. He swallowed. He carefully looked around, suspicious of this world around him. His eyes narrowed, and he rested and opened his awareness, checking the details of everything around him. The text on the gummy plastic menu next to him. The clean silverware sitting in a coffee cup shinning dully from many washes. The few words he could pick out from the mellifluous clatter of many languages oozing from the crowd. He looked again at this person in front of him.
“So you’re telling me that your able to meet me today, here and now because a story was written about us meeting?”
The person paused and reflected for a brief moment as though to make sure all the details were right.
“Yes.. I think that’s right.”
“Well,” Lucilius said, “that would mean we’re not actually in this market but in a story that someone has written.”
The person’s brow furrowed a little and an unsteady look began to overcome their face.
“Actually,” Lucilius said upon second reflection. “We don’t really exist in the story. If what you tell me is true, then we really only exist in the minds of anyone who has read the story.”
The person looked even more troubled. Lucilius gestured at the market around them and the little open-air café where he was sitting.
“Does this look like a story, or what someone visualizes while they read a -” Lucilius froze, stopping mid-sentence. Then his arms collapsed to his side. He slumped a little and mumbled to himself,
“Well, of course it does.”
He put a hand to his chin and looked as though he was thinking harder. Then his face lit up.
“Wait, you said you got in touch with this author?”
“Yea, of course.”
“How did you get in contact with the author, do you know where this author is?”
The person’s eyes shifted to a side, then they jittered around as though looking for something.
“Actually,” The person’s brow furrowed, and worry began to flood their face. “I can’t. . . remember.”
“Oh crap,” Lucilius said. “the author just locked us in.”
Lucilius pondered a little more as the person before him began to grow more and more worried, looking around just as Lucilius had earlier, questions arising that could venture nowhere into the past.
After a moment Lucilius noticed how distressed the person was becoming.
“Oh hey, I’m being rude, why don’t you sit with me and eat with me.”
The person focused and their face brightened some before moving around the bar banister to take a stool next to Lucilius.
“It’s a beautiful day,” Lucilius said, “and there’s nothing stopping us from enjoying it a little.”
The person was nodding, happy to be taking a seat.
A kind waiter approached and as this new person was ordering some food, Lucilius pondered the whole situation a little more. His thoughts were orbiting something he himself had said. Locked in. He looked around again, taking in the sight of the market, feeling the warmth of the sun on his skin, the fresh air slowly filling his lungs, the taste of the food in his mouth, the sounds of it all. Locked in, he thought again.
Then he burst out laughing.
The waiter and Lucilius’ new friend both looked his way.
“So sorry. Please, don’t mind me.”
Lucilius’ friend finished ordering and turned back to him. “What was so funny?”
“Ok, without thinking about it too much, remember when I said that the author just locked us in?”
A flash of worry came upon the face of Lucilius’ new friend, as they nervously spoke. “Yea…”
“Well, let me ask you: can you get out of your own experience of what’s going on?”
“What do you mean?”
Lucilius thought for a moment.
“Well, you are limited to what you see, hear, touch, and all that good stuff, and you can’t somehow get away from any of those things. You can’t jump out of your body and experience, say, what a tree is experiencing. Surely there are some ways to have radically altered experiences” Lucilius said, interrupting himself impromptu, as he reflected and riffed on his thoughts at the same time. “but even with radically altered experiences there’s no externally verifiable evidence that something like an out of body experience is possible, except from a subjective point of view.” Lucilius looked at his new friend.
“I think I’m following you,” his new friend said, nodding.
“Thank the author…” Lucilius muttered with a smile.
“Nothing,” Lucilius said, “just a joke to myself.”
He swallowed his smile and continued. “So if everyone is limited to their own point of view in these respects, then we don’t ever have to worry about being in a story.”
“Why’s that?” Lucilius’ friend asked.
Lucilius looked around. “Even if it is a story, we are still experiencing what we are experiencing, you can look at the story as a sort of trap or prison, but you can also look at the experience of your own consciousness in the same way, as a trap or prison that you can’t get out of.”
“That sounds kind of terrible,” Lucilius’ friend said and Lucilius pondered a moment.
“Oh, that’s actually just because we have negative associations with the words ‘trap’ and ‘prison’. I guess a better one would be submarine or space ship. Without those containers we’d be screwed if we found ourselves in the exact same place, that being deep under water or in space. No one in a space ship or in a submarine while in space or deep underwater wants to get out of those vehicles because they allow a person to live in such extraordinary circumstances.”
“And you’re saying our body is like a submarine or spaceship.”
“Yes, maybe even just our experience of consciousness is what I’m talking about. Story or not, it allows us to experience the extraordinary circumstance of this universe.”
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