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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


January 10th, 2021


The typewriter finished it’s clack and then zipped as Lucilius pulled the finished page out of the machine.  He wore a placid smile as he glanced over the lines of text.  As he did, a boy in his care watched.  A nearly blank page lay before the kid, a couple of words crossed out on it, a meandering doodle adorning an edge, unfinished and representing nothing.


Lucilius unscrewed a pen from it’s cap and held down the page to scratch out a line and scribble in some new thought.  The page was soon marked up and Lucilius leaned back from it.  He took in a large breath and sighed at the sight, then looking at the boy, seeing he was doing nothing he asked,


“Well, shall we get some lunch?”

The boy seemed to shrug and nod at the same time.  Lucilius got up and glanced at the boy’s page.


“Nice doodle.”

The boy just grimaced, embarrassed by the plain ineptitude.



The two shaded their eyes from the sunlight as their eyes adjusted and Lucilius lead the way down to the water were there was a a good fish’n chips spot.

Lucilius took in the bright day and it’s fresh air.  Nothing could be better, he thought as they walked along.  He was cognizant of the boy’s mild air of brooding, but what could be more natural for a kid looking around at this odd world, filled with it’s auras of emotion and revelation.  Lucilius pulled the distant strings of his own memory and recalled the sense of that claustrophobic confusion, and from it a sense of compassion arose: he was grateful for his opportunity to give the boy a small example of living.


As they waited for their food, the boy was quiet, looking off at the boats in the harbour, squinting the light away to see.  Lucilius was still waiting, knowing the bubble of thought that was multiplying, collapsing and growing as a foam of concern in the boy.


Finally he turned to Lucilius.  “How do you write so much?”


Lucilius considered the question a moment, a bit surprised, washing an open hand over the his mouth and jaw, considering an answer.


“There’s certainly no shortage of material, that’s for sure.”


The boy looked mildly insulted.  “Well, I couldn’t think of anything to write.”


“Sure you could, you just didn’t write it down.”


“Yea, that’s because it wasn’t worth writing down, I was just thinking without having any ideas.”


“Ok,” Lucilius said,  “what if I told you that you have to write in order for the thinking to turn into ideas.”


“How does that make sense?  Ideas are thoughts.”


“Yes, but writing is one way to listen to those thoughts, it’s a way to look at them and make them felt that they are seen.”

The boy wore a doubtful look, shrouding confusion.


“Thoughts react differently when you listen to them,” Lucilius continued, “they change.”


“But I am listening to my thoughts,” the boy said.  “How can I not?”



Lucilius paused for a moment, looking away, calling in thought for another way to say what he seemed to feel.  His eyes adjusted from the quick daze of thought and he realized he was looking directly at someone on the other side of the restaurant. 

“Ok,” he said, looking back at the boy.  “Take this for instance, what would happen if I started staring intently at someone else in this restaurant who I don’t know.  Or let’s say someone random started staring at you, what would that be like?”


“Well, it’d probably be weird.”


“Exactly, and weird is just a little different, which means, something has changed.  Your thoughts are the same.  When you start watching them, and especially when you start writing them down, it’s like they get a little self conscious, as though they’re their own thing, and they react to what’s going on, they change, and if you keep at it, some surprising things can come up.”

The boy was puzzled but interested.


“Sometimes, it can be helpful just to write nonsense even, or whatever words or pictures are going through your mind.  Once on the page, your thoughts react to what’s there, and the game changes, it evolves.  Honestly, it’s really just a matter of getting started.”


The boy looked off again to let his thoughts digest.  He pictured the books on Lucilius’ shelf.  The task of all those words and pages seemed so alien and otherworldly.


“Take this for instance,” Lucilius said, sliding a salt shaker across the table so it was between the two.  “What do you see?”

“A salt shaker,” the boy said.


“Is it the same that I see?”

“Yea, of course.”

“Ah but you see that side, and I see this one, so do we really see the same thing?”

“Sure we do, it’s even the same on your side.”

“But it’s not the same side.”


“I guess.”


Lucilius pulled out his pen, and penned a quick mark on his side of the salt shaker so the boy couldn’t see it.  “What about now?”

“Well, yours has a mark on it now, I guess.”

“So it’s different from your side?”




Lucilius spun the shaker.  He hadn’t actually marked it but had only pretended to, and there was nothing there.


“It’s the same.”


“Yes, and no,” Lucilius said.  “You thought it was different because you saw me pretend to mark it.  So the sides were different in your mind.”


The boy seemed to be sticking together some sense in the matter.


“We can spin this salt shaker all the way around and get a different look at it.  Or we can turn it just a little, or a little less, or a little less than that.  Any movement really gives us a new perspective on it, now matter how similar it is to the first time we look at it.  Not only is this a physical fact, but each time you look at it, even the same side, you are looking at it during a different point in time, with new thoughts, realizations and experiences to change the way you think about it, like when you saw me pretend to make a mark.”

“So what does this have to do with writing?”

Lucilius looked off for a moment, wondering where his thoughts were leading him, and then they found their mark.


“An idea is a perspective.  If you want ideas then you simply need to look at something in a different way.  Sometimes that can be as simple and straight forward as moving around and looking at something from another angle.  Or it can be as subtle as feeling a bit different while thinking about something for a second time.”

The boy pondered all this for a long moment.  Their food arrived and the quiet satisfaction of the meal settled.  As they finished and lingered slower with stray French fries, the boy said,


“So every moment is like a new idea?”

Lucilius smiled.  “I like that perspective.”

Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 1001: A Lucilius Parable: Split the Angle

Tinkered Thinking

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