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June 21st, 2020
Lucilius was on the floor, looking at a set of instructions. They weren’t clear, and he was having trouble figuring out exactly what the next step involved. It’s the fatal flaw with all instructions, Lucilius thought, they are always written by people who know how it’s supposed to go. He flipped the instructions around and pointed out the spot he didn’t understand to the little boy he was watching over for the day. The boy tilted his head at the picture and then looked at Lucilius’ progress. He picked up model and then looked at the pieces strewn between the two of them. Then he quickly gathered a few of them and put them together and snapped the combination onto Lucilius’ model.
“There,” the boy said, handing Lucilius back the model.
“How’d you do that?”
The boy shrugged his shoulders. “I dunno,” he said as his attention drew back into his own project.
“Wait, wait,” Lucilius said. He turned the model in his hands. “That piece,” he said, “how did you know that one was in there? You can’t see it from the angle of the picture in the instructions.”
The boy glanced at the piece Lucilius was pointing out. “I dunno, how else would you make it that shape?”
Lucilius pondered the model and looked at the instructions again. “Well, yes, of course you’re right, but there’s no way you could have figured that out while looking at the instructions, it doesn’t show that step.”
“Why did you think it would show you every step?” The boy asked.
“Well, they’re instructions, that’s the whole point. They show you each step.”
“Really?” the boy said. He was genuinely curious with Lucilius’ description. “I thought they were just to show you if you were on the right track or not while you figure it out.”
“Well yea,” Lucilius said, “that too. But what good are they if they leave steps out?”
The boy was busy again, working on his own mode. “But then where’s the fun? What are you supposed to figure out?”
Lucilius mulled over the boy’s words, looking at his model and the steps in the instructions. “And besides,” the boy said, “if you think the instructions are always supposed to show you every step then you’re definitely going to get stuck, and then you won’t know what to do because you don’t realize there’s something to figure out. You just think there’s something wrong with the instructions.”
“So I’ve been thinking about instructions all wrong?”
“I think so,” said the boy.
“I guess there should be instructions for the instructions.”
The boy stopped with his tinkering and looked at Lucilius. “Doesn’t that miss the point?”
Lucilius laughed, “yea, I guess. Go figure.”
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