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The Tinkered Mind

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March 6th, 2022

The clacking stopped. Lucilius’ fingers rested easy on the stout keys, the metal crescent of hammers resting easy after their frenzied assault on the white page, now bending in an arc out away from the typewriter. Lucilius pulled the page and reread the last few lines. It was the first decent story Lucilius had written, and he smiled at it, knowing now, for sure, that it was good. After so much rewriting, after so many dozens of stories tossed away, finally, he’d arrived at the place he’d yearned for and dreamt of for so many years. 


It was a starting line, of sorts, he thought. Which lead him to wonder. It would probably take another ten years of consistent, dedicated work to gain the kind of skill he needed to produce the novel he had in mind. A new thought accompanied the dream: what would the world look like in ten years? It didn’t really matter for good fiction. Literature is timeless, and that was his aim, making it irrelevant what the world would look like after another decade of work.


But still, the idea kept at him over the next few days of rewriting and refining. When finally he felt the story was ready to send off, he pushed away his typewriter, and opened his laptop. Obviously, the typewriter was a purposeful anachronism. All of his favorite writers of the past had used typewriters, and the singular purpose of a typewriter helped him focus. A computer has so many uses beyond just a word processor, and they all linger as potential distractions.


So he started to research: did anyone have a good idea about what the world would look like in another ten years? It wasn’t long before Lucilius was in the bowels of a rabbit hole, obsessively reading about the world painted by futurists and technologists.


After several days, Lucilius found himself, thoroughly depressed. The dream he’d spent so much time chasing suddenly felt… quaint. Unnecessary. The aim itself now an anachronism. He suddenly felt like an artisan of spears in the age of gunpowder. So much passion and love now painted in his mind’s eye a vision of himself playing dress-up, like a kid, or an actor for some historical reenactment. He’d always had a notion of what amazing developments there’d be in the future, but what he hadn’t anticipated was that such advancements would get here so soon. In fact it seemed like their progress of arrival was itself speeding up.


For weeks, Lucilius was aimless - paralyzed by a feeling of complete inability. He’d prepared for a different future, for a different life, and now he felt drastically behind everyone else. The technological world he’d been so suspicious of, and had even hated was winning, and it was swarming around Lucilius at a pace he’d never even dreamed possible.


His mind had ruptured. He could do nothing. He could not write, he could not read, he could only obsess over this new and terrible vision of the future, one of accelerating disruption. HIs typewriter began to collect dust while Lucilius spent more and more time on his computer.


After months in this state of horrific limbo, Lucilius finally admitted what he’d known for some many weeks. He sat down at his computer and searched: how to code. If Lucilius was anything, he was a builder, and perhaps - he thought - he could build something else, instead of his stories, and his characters.  


There was a kind of poetry in the act of beginning again. Like starting a new story, and having no idea how it would turn out, what would be required and what his characters would do, it was now him, Lucilius, tasked with learning something new, having no idea how it would go, nor what would come next. And as with anything, the going was slow.


Within a few weeks, he could do the most elemental of tasks with the little code he’d learned. He was spending nearly his whole day trying to learn more, and as much as he tried to ignore it, he really missed writing, like a loved one now gone and mourned. But of course, it was still available, he realized.


One morning, before he set to the grind of learning more, he took his computer with him to the little coffee shop where he spent a bit of his morning everyday, and he opened up the word processor. He wondered what to write about. He didn’t have too much time, he realized, and decided what he could manage in just twenty minutes. Something he could complete then and there. 


Quickly, this became a habit. Before his long days trudging through the task of learning code, he would quickly write a small piece over coffee. What seemed to be materializing were short, whimsical pieces of non-fiction. He seemed to be actively thinking about his own process of thought during these sessions - as if deconstructing how he came about to have the thoughts and beliefs he did. They were satisfying, and quick.


And slowly, he made progress with code. For one of his first projects, as dictated by a program he was following, he built a blog. Lucilius absolutely hated the word, blog, and it was the full reason why he’d never bothered to try and start one himself. But when it came to the step where he had to populate the blog with nonsense Latin, Lucilius realized he had quite a bit of his own writing that would work beautifully as some placeholder text. Lucilius followed through with the project, and got it working online. He was pleased with the look, and the sight of so much of his own writing was nice, especially after such a sad time it had been to ‘give up’ that dream. He’d even mixed in some fictional stories, which he’d dubbed Parables. Stories that were no longer constrained like his serious fiction, but whimsical, like his non-fiction, dipping into all manner of science fiction and thoughtful realism. Writing had become a pure joy, unencumbered by the strict seriousness of his old dream.


Without thinking about it, Lucilius showed the little practice blog to a friend, and then some days later, that friend messaged Lucilius: I keep going back to your blog to read more. When are you going to update it?


Lucilius hadn’t actually considered the project, nor the writing with any kind of seriousness. It was all whimsical - just a selfish excuse to dip into that guilty pleasure of words each morning. But now, perhaps, there was more here than he realized.


Years later, after the blog had grown far beyond anything he expected, he got a package in the mail. He opened it, and smiled, looking down at a book. After years of writing, the number of Parables on the blog had stacked up, and Lucilius realized he might have a book, which he then compiled, and built an online store to sell it with. He now held the forth volume of Parables, and opened it at random. There on the page was a drawing of his old typewriter, and below it, the title of a parable: A Dream Refined.

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