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September 6th, 2020
During his wandering life, Lucilius once found himself employed as an art teacher, tasked with the frenetic education of young broods of boisterous children and teenagers. A new set of classes were starting and the professors he worked for decided to warn him.
“We honestly just don’t know what to do with her?”
“What do you mean?” Lucilius asked.
A frustrated and sad shake of the head was the response.
“Every class she’s in just dissolves into chaos,” the other professors said. “We just don’t know how to control her, soy can give it a shot, but we won’t hold it against you if nothing much gets done in that class.”
“What’s her name?”
“Lilith - well - everyone calls her Lili.”
“I’ll give it a shot,” Lucilius said.
While the older students he taught were trained in classical draftsmanship, oil painting and sculpture, the younger classes he taught were given activities like papier-mâché, and in this case, it was origami.
Lucilius had prepared about a dozen simple origami pieces in preparation of the first few classes, unknowing how quickly the students might move through the material. His first class ended up going quite well. All the kids made it through the first piece of origami and Lucilius managed to begin the basic instruction for the next piece before parents began to arrive and pick up their children.
His next class, however, was the one with Lili, and Lucilius grew a bit nervous as the children began filtering in, some having planned to take the class together and chatting. Lucilius knew enough of them from previous classes to give a guess as to which one Lili was.
“Anyone know who I am?”
A couple of kids called out his name.”Yep, and now everyone knows, but let’s all take a piece of paper, fold it once down the middle to prop it up and write your name on it so we can all see and forget each other’s names.
Lucilius watched Lilith scribble her name quick and turn it around, looking around at the other kids with a smile while they finished. Then Lucilius showed them a finished piece of origami that they were going to make together. It was a simple boat. Lucilius showed them the first few steps and then let the kids all take a shot at it. He watched, and helped a couple, showing them again, specifically how to match up their corners and draw the edges flat to a crease. One boy whose dexterity wasn’t quite as developed as the others needed a bit more help though the was concentrating as well as any kid, his tongue clamped to a side. Lucilius was hunkered down next to the boy helping him with each of the folds, lost momentarily watching the boy work through with effort when he realized how loud the little class had suddenly become. He stood up, amazed how all the children were now giggling and screaming, as though they were in hysterics.
It took Lucilius more than a few minutes to settle the class down with that delicate balance of stern tone and patient request. And by the time the kids were settled parents were already arriving.
Afterwards, Lucilius walked home, puzzled by the whole experience. It had happened precisely as he’d been warned. But at least he knew the likely cause.
The next week he started the class with just one mission. He got the kids restarted on their first unfinished project and then simply sat back and watched. It took almost fifteen minutes but there was a moment he noticed when Lili looked up from her piece of origami, having finished all the steps that Lucilius had shown them. Lucilius couldn’t hear her, but she leaned toward a classmate on the adjoining side of the table and whispered something. She got a giggle, and two other kids overheard. One furrowed their brow, announcing “ew!” while the other also giggled. Then Lili turned to another kid and whispered something else, and within a minute, the little class was lost, the hollers and hysterics of the kids talking over one another grew to a pitch. Lucilius let them be to have their fun, and simply contemplated what he’d seen. When the class was over he sat still longer, wondering what Lili had said to the other kids, and as he wondered, he noticed her piece of origami sitting in a cubby hole. He got up and fished it out. It was crumpled and far from perfect, but all the correct folds were there. She’d actually finished, where all the other kids were barely half done. She’d worked through the piece much faster than the rest, and being done, she’d had nothing else to do. This sparked an idea in Lucilius mind and he got up and hurriedly started walking home to put his plan into action.
The following week, Lucilius started the class as normal, but once he’d finished giving his opening instruction, he asked Lili to take a step away from the class with him. The girl’s face instantly fell, and it was clear to Lucilius that she was already well accustomed to being singled out and castigated.
He took Lili to the other side of the class room and revealed to her a finished piece of origami that was far more complex than anything the kids had seen.
“I want you to make one of these,” Lucilius said.
The girl looked at him, suddenly unsure, but curious.
“And I’m not going to show you how to do it,” Lucilius added.
The girl was suddenly suspicious. What was this adult pulling on her?
“It’s ok if you don’t succeed,” Lucilius said, “but, I think you can give it a good shot.”
“But how am I supposed to do it?” Lili asked.
Lucilius placed the piece of origami in her hands.
“Take it apart,” Lucilius directed. She gave him another nervous, unsure look. “No really, I mean it, take it apart, gently, without ripping it.”
Lili slowly began to tug gently at the different edges until it began to fall apart.
“What can you tell me about these pieces?”
“They are all the same,” Lili said.
“That’s right, this is what’s called ‘modular origami’, and since they are all the same, I can take away all of them but one, and now you really just have to figure out how to make this one, so pull it apart.”
Lili followed his instruction and pulled the one piece apart until it was just a crinkled square of paper.
“See, now you can figure out how to make one of these. You can see how it starts with a center fold like what we did with the boat, and how these other folds are then folded to the center. And then you have the other 5 pieces to figure out exactly how each piece should be when it’s done. And then….”
Lucilius revealed another hidden piece of origami which was identical to the one that he’d had Lili pull apart. “You can then use this one to figure out how each piece fits into the other to create the whole thing. And like I said, it’s ok if you can’t do it, but I’d like you to try.”
Lili was already folding her first sheet of paper as Lucilius finished. He left her to it, and went back to the class and guided them through the next and hopefully final steps of the little boats they were making. He went around the class, fixing little mistakes kids were making, and as they made progress, Lucilius forgot about Lili.
Soon enough, with clockwork, the parents began to arrive and filter back out with their children. Lucilius was busy saying goodbye and sharing casual chitchat with parents when he felt a tap at his elbow. He turned around to find Lili holding her own complete piece, cupped in her hands, the smile on her face, tremendous.
Lucilius squatted down to talk to her at her own height. “Look what you did,” he said, “You didn’t just make this, you taught yourself how to do it.”
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