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The Tinkered Mind
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May 16th, 2021
The steady beep was a rhythm for Lucilius’ thoughts as he looked at all the tubes and wires laced into the unconscious body of someone he loved very much. The heart monitor was backed by a softer beat of another machine, slowly inflating and deflating, to breathe for the person before him who could not. The hand Lucilius held was still warm, and he looked off out the window while his thoughts bubbled up in the same way.
“I’m torn,” Lucilius said. “I know what I promised I’d do, but now that the time has come, I’m torn.”
He looked back at the closed eyes, the tubed and taped mouth, and wondered. “When we had this conversation, things were different. The future wasn’t so bright with possibility, with innovation, and back then it made perfect sense to make the promise I did.”
Lucilius rubbed a thumb softly over the back of the hand, staying clear of the taped lead. “I wish I could just know if you are hearing me or not. I suppose that would make it easer. Though, I’m not sure. If you can’t hear anything, and it’s just like you’re asleep, than what’s the harm in waiting? The money certainly isn’t an issue, and I’m willing to wait as long as it takes. But if you can hear me, than I guess that makes this all the worse. I can explain myself but I have no way of knowing if you’re experiencing a kind of torture, chained to this bed by tubes and wires, growing antsy and restless, your thoughts screaming back at every word I’m saying.”
He paused to let the pain he felt from the thought pass. “The thing is, when I made that promise, when we discussed the possibility of this situation, it seemed like medical advancement was at a standstill. But now the portion folding problem is solved, and the theory of information aging seems to be proving itself out, a whole set of different industries are set to collide over the next few years and the fruit that will probably come from those combinations just makes it seem so likely that what’s going on right here will be an easy fix. So what am I to do?”
Lucilius sighed, and then chuckled a little. “I know, I know, I can hear you yelling at me in that head of yours. You’ve always had your own ideas about how things are going to turn out.”
Lucilius laughed a little more and then shook a finger at the unconscious person. “But who has been proven right time and again with these sorts of predictions?”
His smile quickly weakened with no reaction to bolster it, and he sighed deeply. “Here’s the thing, here’s the way I need you to look at it. Imagine for a moment that I keep my promise to you, but I also turn out to be right about all this stuff. Imagine it’s three or five years in the future and I’m reading an article about the exact sort of breakthrough that we could use right now, but you’re gone at that point.” Lucilius winces at the thought. “That’s the hard one to think about, and thing is I’m almost certain it’s what’s going to happen if I follow through and keep my promise to you. But then you also have to imagine, what is that breakthrough comes and it fixes everything that’s keeping you from answering me right now. Imagine if we could have more time together, years, and decades of full and healthy life…. It’s either that or I have to live those decades thinking about how you could’ve been there with me, but you aren’t, because I kept my promise.”
Lucilius rubbed his eyes and his head at the temples. “Caught between a promise and a possibility. But I guess what I’m saying is that you already know what I’m going to do, you know the way I think, and as stubborn as your condition is, it’s nothing compared to what you know I can muster.”
Carefully, he laid down on the edge of the bed, and studied the arc of the breathing tube, looked at the familiar skin, now pale.
“Can an honest promise turn into a bad promise? Of course you’d agree with that possibility, but maybe not about this situation. I just don’t know. I just. Don’t know. You could be hearing every word I’m saying and your thoughts could be screaming for me to pick one way or another now based on what I’ve said, but I just don’t know. But I’ve still got to decide.”