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 The Question of Ssshhh

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Letiger
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PostSubject: The Question of Ssshhh   6/27/2010, 7:22 am

"You know, things aren't really that different.", an associate was trying to explain to me. "We have all of these computers, all of these books at our disposal, but they're not really saying anything to me, it's a load of shit."
Being the funny man, the deadpan snarker and all-round unlovable guy who you've just got to laugh at in this act, I added, "Well, you need to read the material first." Unfortunately, he ignored my comment, and continued on with his thoughts as they poured out: "In the '20s, they had those bars. The speakeasies. Today, we have the crack vending machine on the roof, the little stone garden peppered with moss where we party every night and if the security men show up, we either cover the machine up in a rug, or welcome him in. It depends on what the looks on their faces are like, what their eyes are coloured, you know?"

"We still have the ones around that are just damned unpatriotic when it comes to the weather. Look at that, man, pure bloody England is what that is." I tried looking at England's renowned pastures, medieval castles and pleasuring cafes where a man can buy a pristine bag of jelly babies and enjoy an intellectual, yet morally questionable piece of Italian cinema from the early 1980s without the hassle of caring about the idea of public image. I couldn't see any of that, as much as my associate was beckoning me to agree with him. I only saw a force of powerful spray attacking the side of this "information centre" with splashes and splatters. When the powers above decided to rally up high for the next run, I could make out the trendy grey bars and plates filled with holes that dangled from the windows into the wet outside and someone in the car park attempting to protect themselves with a bare piece of paper that turned soggy from the jabs of the remaining raindrops and failed to protect their master.

The straight man informed me that life is about learning from things like this. You love what you can, and then learn from what you do. You do what you do and learn from what you love. He was getting metaphysical with me, and I enjoyed it. Metaphysics run me out of a job because they can answer quick remarks by relating it all back to me being unaware with everything real. Thankfully, they're not for everyone, sometimes they get booed off stage by the audience. "Learning is realistic." he was telling me, "We'll never know everything, so it's a realistic goal for everyone. We know there's not going to be a Heaven, so we may as well learn things now, just to get them out of the way." Then he went on to the metaphysical side of governmental policy, and I'll admit that he lost me. I'm not sure, but I think the Metaphysics were lost too. They should've brought a map.

Two thoughts grabbed me after our discussion. One was the (homespun) idea of repeating things over my head, once I'm dead, rotting in the ground, for some test I have to take. I could imagine, being so close to remembering what soft, healthy skin felt like, but biology was never a strong point for me, and I'd have forgotten most of it by then. I don't think biology is a strong point for many rotting corpses actually. Lack of interest.

The other thought was living to learn. That got me excited again, and started to consider that maybe, we don't just live to learn, but we die to learn, and learn to die and everything else in between. I sipped on some coffee in the library, and began to think: what if I died right now, and was taken to a very similar place?

***

The council could only afford to keep two libraries open in the afterlife. This was a better deal than you might think, since both libraries had everything in existence inside. Which library you visited depended on two factors: the bus routes in operation, and the Library Master's decision. The Library Master would read all about you, grabbing biographical details, compiling critical essays and taking quotes from the most extensive letters outside existence. While the Library Master only touched the world through paper, he knew it better than anyone else, and that's not because paper is infallible, but because there's enough of it and the printed text it holds to go around. What's more is that he was always aware that it was all recyclable, and if he ever made the choice to recycle everything in existence, he reassured everyone he loved that it was not out of hatred, but out of him wanting to do some good to the world he had put so much effort into guiding and chronicling from his strange-smelling room at the back of the old building.

Mr. Peterson, now past his prime, was given permission to enter the Manor Library, the most efficient and comfortable place to learn in my abstract world. Mr. Peterson, the quiet sort of chap he was this far into life, decided to visit his own personal collection, filled with books he'd read over ten times before and magazines following the deceptively not mundane, at least in the eyes of Mr. Peterson. On his first days, one could barely see his eyes. He sat back in his average sized chair, put his old hunter's cap on the table to his left, showed a big toothy grin and let his pupils swing back into his head, only the pearly white balls showing. He looked as adorable as the rest of Manor Library, and saliva dribbled down his chin.

Other parts of Manor Library were not as quiet as the part Mr. Peterson had taken a liking to, but they were pleasurable nonetheless. Some areas hummed with machines that spoke softly as their human users requested everything there is to know from their databases of all. In other sections, muffled melodies could be heard if you stood close enough. The good, loved people of Manor Library frequently listened to every record in existence, with eyes closed to absorb all of the intended effect. When their lids came up for air, blessed white marbles flashed out again to all, to show that Manor Library was fulfilling what it set out to fulfil.

The Library master's least favourite occupants of his favoured creation were the debaters on the bottom floor. They required too much attention, and forced him to step in and moderate when they question the validity of this bizarre otherworld. Some were better than others at self-control, a special sort of maturity, but the Library Master found it hard to differentiate between them all and just stuck them all in a series of small rooms furnished with a table each, a set of chairs each and a white board each, with an appropriate set of pens. In an early disaster, the Library Master had not ordered enough packets of pens, forcing at least twenty discussion groups to hold seminars on the question of who had taken the pens, and upon learning their distrust of each other had been a worthless exercise, someone had to bring up nuclear weapons, the suffering in third world nations of their respective times, and what particular forum moderators have for breakfast, in one sentence, and everything kicked off again.

Still, the best debaters weren't the worst library users in the world, since there is still Sunnyside Learning Institute to examine. The occupants of this building were not disliked by the Library Master, but he deemed it a necessary destination for the journeys of some. Sunnyside was, without saying really, less desirable than Manor Library. The material was all there, but the users tended to find the books they were looking for were recently taken out. Alvy, a newcomer, had found this out while reading about how to re-attach pieces of your finger to the main body (this defect was the Library Master's main concern about Alvy, and it was his main concern of Alvy's intense father, but that's hopefully not another story). He got five pages in to his relevant section, before getting confused and tired, putting the book back on the shelf. When he returned the next day, the top of his pinkie hanging loose from using his halfway knowledge, and with horror, he realised that the book he had used was nowhere to be found. He pleaded to the library assistant behind the entrance desk for any information on the book, only to be told, "I'm sorry sir, I'm afraid it was taken out yesterday. It will be available in a month.", before turning into a horror film demon for a split second, and then plunging into some more of Sunnyside's never-ending paper work. It was not the last time Alvy heard that line. In Sunnyside, you didn't learn things technically, but you drilled whatever pathetic, useless, and uninteresting (in your eyes) fact you could find right into your skull and call yourself learned.

And the rolling stack was an annoyance. Sunnyside held copies of every journal in existence, with historical records and newspapers and some artwork. There was an area set out for this, with comfortable cotton sofas and coffee machines, and areas suitable for both the sociable reader and the not-so-sociable reader. Only readers were allowed in there. No one ever went in there. The rolling stack was inoperable in Sunnyside, not because of a mechanical failure (the Library Master has a blessed engineering team), but because a young lady stood in an aisle examining its one set of journals: critical evaluations of Roland Barthes. She stood in shadow. She took her time.

And the potential readers of every journal in existence were unable to make her move on. She was taken away with her reading. The listings of all the journals winked at the would-be readers, and the numbers scanned all the way down the coffee-stained pages. "I want to read!" a man yelled, "Please madam! I waited my whole life to be able to read Literature/Film Quarterly on a regular basis!"
Another man wept, "I was once published in Writer's Forum, it was touching, a memento of my last few months!"
"Let's close her in!" a younger man exclaimed, "Spin the wheels! Engulf yourself in knowledge! Squish her guts! She's not real, none of this library is at all real!" and he tried to turn the wheel in order to open the rolling stack.

But it was no good. The object was locked in place somewhere. Every man and woman sobbed again and again. They had forgotten they had attended this ceremony several hundred thousand times already, and in a day, they'd probably forget again, and they'd cry and one of the younger residents would try to be brave again. Drying his blotched and colourful eyes, one resident, once noted for his apathetic nature in life, looked up at the ceiling. He found up there on the stale, custard-coloured wall, that someone had scratched a phrase in somehow. It read "Thou hast forsaken thy mind.", and the man took comfort in learning this.
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PostSubject: Re: The Question of Ssshhh   6/27/2010, 12:52 pm

Shhhhhhhh

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PostSubject: Re: The Question of Ssshhh   6/28/2010, 12:45 am

Oh you.
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