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The Tinkered Mind
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October 27th, 2019
Lucilius walked into an old used bookstore. Books were stacked from the floor to the ceiling, everywhere, as walls and columns forming a delicate maze. Books made up the bookcases that were mere slats of wood pinned in stacks forming bridges upon which more books were shelved. The smell of the place had a comfort like that of a cool and ancient forest, muffling sound as though everything was resolved into a palpable firmament of thought and dream that floated between towers of words and wood and paper. Lucilius felt himself smile as a calm slowly over took him.
He wandered through the disordered store looking at the spines of color, picking out a title here and there, some upright, some easily read on their side. He’d walked in just out of curiosity and stayed not because he wanted some book to buy and take but merely to appreciate that a place like this existed.
Lucilius was serene, and then a combination of shapes caught his eye. His head slowly turned to a perpendicular and the shapes snapped into recognition as he read the letters of his own name. He stood still, a moment, reading the title of the book over and over:
The Lucilius Parables Vol. II
He so rarely saw his own name that it was a bit of a strange and curious puzzle that he’d never come across this book, and that it was a second volume nonetheless, implying that there was a first made it even stranger. Surely he wasn’t so oblivious that he would have missed two books that happened to have the same name as his own.
He hooked a finger at the top of the spine and unsheathed the small volume from its neighbors. He opened the book to a random page and read:
. . . . Lucilius was serene, and then a combination of shapes caught his eye. His head slowly turned to a perpendicular and the shapes snapped into recognition he read the letters of his own name. He stood still, a moment, reading the title of the book over and over:
The Lucilius Parables Vol. I
He so rarely saw his own name that it was a bit of a strange and curious puzzle that he’d never come across this book, and it was a first volume, implying that there were more volumes either planned or written. Surely he wasn’t so oblivious that he would have missed numerous books that happened to have the same name as his own.
He hooked a finger at the top of the spine and unsheathed the small volume from its neighbors. He opened it at random and read:
I hope this letter finds you well. Letter of letters - so strange that we refer to a letter of the alphabet and a letter that we mail to someone as the same word. There’s something recursive about it that short-circuits the mind. And to think: it’s mere letters that have granted me the power to pull this notion, this idea from my head and send it through the bizarre distortions of time and reality to you, and then to have that concept bloom again in your mind.
What a strange situation you must find yourself in right now. Reading words you never remember writing. How varied your adventures have been, the loves you have nurtured, the loves you have lost, the triumphs and the crippling realizations, how expansive your adventures will become, and yet, through all of it, what are you looking for other than me?
Well here I am my boy. Not really in the flesh, as one might be poised to say, but more as a recorded ripple, the record itself another ripple, more indelible than the first. Everything I write to you here and now is a mere poor simulation at best. We all know that aching dissatisfaction when we have failed to communicate an idea as we feel it. It’s a strange way of letting yourself down, a form of unintended self-sabotage almost. And yet, any simulation is always a simplification of the thing it seeks to represent. We cut out details that don’t fit in the frame of the simulation, details that don’t seem to have any discernable impact on the way things work at that level of resolution. But you must feel – as I do – that this is a mistake. Every context is self-serving, just as it is limited by it’s own scope. Like your perspective, like all of their perspectives. That’s what I think our mission is Lucilius, to find the loophole – if there is one – that allows these contexts, these perspectives to open a door to one another. I don’t see how it can happen yet, and so I default to the brute force option. Not a brute force upon one another, but upon our only real enemy and treasure: time. I imagine an infinite conversation. Because each word – each letter – expands the context. I am trying to do that right now, here, with you. Perhaps this idea hasn’t occurred to you yet. Perhaps you’ve forgotten, and that possibility pressed me to the page, to write to you, and entrust these letters to ripples of eternity, echoing, like a repeated signal, waiting for the sphere of those pulses to expand out across time and space until they reach you, somehow, somewhere, some time.
It’s all only to say this: don’t let the conversation stop. The moment letters end is the moment when chaos gains the upper hand, when the battle against entropy is surely lost forever, it’s when our chances to unravel the mysteries of this unfathomable riddle blink out of existence forever. Endeavour with me, my friend, in this impossible quest, and I will endeavor with you, for you.
Yours – actually,
Lucilius looked up from the book. He flipped back to the cover to look at the title again: Volume One. He opened to the first page, pressing a thumb to the thick edge of pages and curled the pressure until they began to release themselves, flipping out to rest on the other side of the open book. They landed softly on one another as the cache of pages under his thumb dwindled, letters and drawings flicking to life in the light and fading as they were once again pressed between pages. It was as though the past when these pages were written had collapsed into something smaller, something that ran out faster, and just as he neared the end, Lucilius remembered what he’d read and overcome by the strange absurdity of it, he stopped reading.
Lucilius looked up from the book. He flipped back to the cover to look at the title again: Volume Two. He did not need to read any further, having a good notion now of what the book might hold in promise.
He stopped a moment, just holding the book, while standing in the bookshop, thinking about that idea. ‘A promise is something that’s decided, agreed upon beforehand’, he heard his mind say in that silent space of the head. ‘A promise is really a hope to make the future certain in the minds of two different people, is it not?’ The question washed over him, warmly. He looked back down at the book and closed it.
He walked to the front of the bookstore where an old mechanical cash register stood on a cluttered desk full of books. Behind a dingy curtain he heard a woman’s voice, hushed, as though in reverence, as one would have at a library. Lucilius delicately pressed the small metal button of a bell and the tone rolled out through the soft air of the bookshop. There was delight in the woman’s voice, a giggle. An old man emerged from the parting curtains, smiling. He raised his head too high too see Lucilius, looking down at him through low-slung glasses.
“Well hello there,” the old man said.
“Hello to you too,” Lucilius said.
“Feel like reading today?” the old man asked.
“Sure seems like it,” Lucilius said. The old man looked at the book that Lucilius slid forward on the desk. The old man picked it up.
“Oh yea,” the old man said with a wider smile. “this stuff. Not bad.”
Lucilius chuckled to himself.