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January 6th, 2019
Once when Lucilius was a young boy, he fell and broke his leg and was confined to his room while the bone healed. But while lying in bed and remembering the pain when he fell, Lucilius began to fear the future. The boy’s anxiety rose to such a pitch that even after his body was healed, he remained secluded in his room.
He became completely obsessed with a future he could not see, and such unknown terrified him. Days turned into months and the days had become all alike as Lucilius resolved to do absolutely nothing.
An old man, long revered in the community, was caring for him during this time, kindly bringing him meals at regular times, knowing full well that the regularity only helped to entrench young Lucilius’ thinking about the future.
One day the old man entered Lucilius’ room with lunch a little early, and Lucilius remarked,
“You’re early! You’re not supposed to come in for another 10 minutes.”
The old man smiled and left the room with the food and sat down to wait. When he came back in to give Lucilius his food, he asked:
“What do you think about all day in bed?”
As Lucilius pulled his bowl of soup close, the boy said, “I’m planning my life.”
“Yes, if I can plan everything, then nothing can happen that I don’t like.”
The old man thought for a few moments. “And how is your plan coming along?”
“I’m almost done,” he said.
“When does it start?”
“I haven’t planned that yet.”
“Don’t you think that’s a good place to start when planning something so big?”
Lucilius looked at the old man with a suspicious face. “Yea, maybe, but I have to finish it first before I know when it starts.” he said.
“But doesn’t the plan change depending on where you start?.”
“I’ll start right here when the plan is finished.”
The old man paused for a moment. “I guess I meant to say ‘when’ the plan starts. Doesn’t the plan change depending on when it starts?”
“I don’t see why.”
“Well let’s say you start your plan in the middle of the night, but in order to do the first thing in your plan, you need to be able to see outside. You won’t be able to do that at night as well as you can in the middle of the day.”
“I’ll just wait till the next day,” Lucilius said.
The old man thought for another moment. “Well, that does work for some things that repeat predictably like night and day, but what about things that don’t repeat everyday like sunrise and night time?”
“Like what?” Lucilius asked.
The old man smiled. “Like your next good idea about what to do.”
“But that’s what I’m doing.”
“Wait,” the old man exclaimed, “You’re telling me you even planned when you would get the good ideas for your plan?”
Lucilius looked down for a moment, puzzled. “No, I just wait for them.”
“But that means you’ve found something that’s impossible to plan!”
Young Lucilius frowned at the old man, and turned his concentration back to his soup. The old man smiled and got up, and as he was leaving young Lucilius’ room, he said “You know I’ve found that I have my best ideas while walking through the woods or climbing mountains. Can’t claim too many good ones while sitting in bed.” He didn’t need to look, but could feel how young Lucilius’ face crunched in displeased confusion.
The old man closed the door, and turned around to look where he had affixed a booby-trap to the wall above the young boy’s door – a bowl filled to the brim and carefully secured and balanced on a swivel so that it could tip and dump it’s contents. He double-checked the date, and muttered,
“just about time.”
He set up the trip wire for the booby-trap and then sat back down near the warm fireplace where he had a good view of the young boy’s bedroom door. The trap was set, and he smiled thinking back to that time long ago when he had finally been curious enough to leave his room and the surprise and joy he felt when he was showered in candy.
How he had come to wake up an old man in the town where he had grown up, he had no idea.
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