Saturday, December 01, 2018

The One.

The One.

Ken Mogi




The urban forest is wide and deep, biologically versatile, inhabited by many rare species that have become long extinct in the outside world.
Deep in the heart of the forest, resides the One. He has been dwelling in the Deep Forest residence in the capacity of being the One for the last few decades of his mature adulthood, leading a life filled with tranquility, paramount duties and prayers.
Every dawn, as the awareness of his own existence arises, the One finds himself again in the familiar setting. He gets up from bed, trying not to disturb the surroundings. He goes to wash his face, gentle and slow. The towel he uses to wipe his face is made from the finest cloth available in the land. And yet, the appearance of it could not be more modest and humble, because he strictly wishes every item in his domicile to be so. 
As the One goes through the protocols, he often reflects on his own stream of consciousness, just like any human being. He secretly smiles, to himself, how his existence has changed, especially since he has assumed the office of the One.
The One used to be a quite boisterous child, just like any typical boy. When he was a teen, he even ventured off into the middle of the bright lights of the metropolitan night life, with his fellow pupils. Such an act of carelessness is impossible now. Even at that time, it resulted a massive recruitment of the metropolitan police, as his unusual outing became known to the officials.  
Over the years, the maintenance of the peace of mind has become his first priority, a life’s art that the One has improved upon and perfected over the years, while breathing the air of the Deep Forest. 
Except for days the One travels around in the country, and on rare occasions, abroad, he leads a simple life in his private domicile and office quarters in the Deep Forest, consummating his duties. He makes a point of carrying out services to the greater community, every second of his life. His spacious rooms are not meant to impress, but only to give the impressions of a serene atmosphere to everything he does, and for those who visits there. In a sense, his very existence itself has become the ultimate ministration of office.
Breakfast is always simple and adequate. The kitchen staff know the One’s preferences in and out, and never make the slightest mistake. It is not that it would be made obvious and sunk in when the staff make a mistake. The One would pass it as if nothing has happened, so as not to embarrass anyone.  
The actions of the One are ordinary, but the context in which these actions are taken is far from the ordinary. It has been perhaps a happy coincidence that his actions have been conducted in peaceful circumstances over the years. There were times when the One would have been forced to do otherwise. In fact, he has been witness to such times, when, as a boy, he was forced to evacuate from the Deep Forest due to difficult circumstances. 
The capital was frequently on fire, some of them calamitous. 
Since then, peace has been his main concern, from the depth of his existence. Every morning, he wishes happiness and equanimity for all his people and far beyond, knowing peace is hard to come by and maintain. 
At 9 in the morning, an official meets the One in the office. The official hands several papers for him to sign. His signings are conducted in the traditional way, with a specially designed seal reserved only for the One. It is a constitutional duty, designated for the One, as the Symbol of the land.
The One prides himself in conducting his duty conscientiously, even when it involves signing papers whose purpose is solely ceremonial.
At 10, he receives Mr. A, who is currently in charge, for audience. The One has been receiving Mr. A ever since he has become the person in charge. The One listens to the affairs of the land as put forward by Mr. A. The One never says anything, except for very neutral comments, since it is not in the nature of the One to make a remark on things of such essence.
In the brief free moments before Mr. A arrives, there is a reverie, in which the One happily indulges himself. (The protocols require that the One never walks into the room before anyone, not even Mr. A. It is always the case that the guest is in the room, and then awaits for the One’s arrival. There is, however, a private room in which the One resides, next to the audience room, in which the One could spend a few moments of private reflections before assuming a more public facade.)
This morning, the One remembers the days when he received private educations from an American lady. The lady was a writer, a charming person, but rather strict in her principles. Some of her prescripts would have come from the civilization that she represented: Others would have originated from her own individuality. The One was young then, and absorbed the lessons like a sponge in the rain. 
It was a time when the land was in great turmoil, but full of hope for a new era. There was the Old One still in residence, and the One did not have to assume quite so much public duties. The One remembers, with a slight embarrassment, how, on arrival of the American lady, he thanked her for the candies that she had sent, forgetting the proper protocols lectured by the officials.
These were the carefree days of his life, long gone.
The head ceremonial master informs the One that Mr. A has arrived. The One nods in acknowledgement, and slowly walks into the audience room. The hushed silence feels like it fills the entire universe at such moments, as the One tiptoes into his next public duty.
The audience with Mr. A proceeds smoothly. It is always a solemn duty to hear what concerns the heart of the person in charge, as matters of the land is of the foremost corporeity for the One.
After the audience, back in private quarters, the One is joined by the Loved One, who has been conducting separate duties, giving audience to the general public who volunteered to do some maintenance and cleaning works within the Deep Forest.
The One met the Loved One in the tennis court, several decades ago. At the time, the episode was widely reported, as it was the first time a commoner would marry someone in line to be the One. 
The memories of the romance of the century are perhaps faint in the zeitgeist of the land, as are the sparkle of new awareness that seized the imagination of people in the years after the calamity, when the young One received lessons from the American lady. The remnant fire of the romance is still felt, however, between the One and the Loved One, as they are indeed still deeply in mutual affection. 
Much in question is whether the post-calamity awareness of freedom and individuality still shines in the land today. This, of course, is not matters to be judged by the One. It is, ultimately to be formulated by the general perception, and currently the office of Mr. A. It is certainly the case, however, that the spirit of the teaching of the American lady very much thrives in the One, to this day.
Lunch today is a rather formal affair, with the British ambassador and his wife making a visit, to say goodbye to the One, nearing his stay in the land.
“Did you enjoy staying in our land?” The One asks, with a smile on his face, like rays of reflected sunshine on the water canals surrounding the Deep Forest.
“Very much, thank you, your majesty,” answers the ambassador.
“I still cherish the memory of coming here, to pay respect to your majesty, a few days after my arrival. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom.” 
“Yes, it was certainly so, wasn’t it?”
The Loved One nods, in recognition.
Conversation then flows like a nectar from the boughs swinging to and fro in the Deep Forest. 
The One speaks fluent English, and discusses many aspects of science and culture. There are implicated familial ties with England, too. The Son of the One, and the Lovely One married to the Son, both have studied at Oxford. 
The conversations, though, never touches on recent political issues, such as the exit of the UK from the European Union, because it is not in the nature of the One to deliberate on such issues.
The British ambassador finally exclaims “O my, I must excuse myself, it is already half past”. The time flows differently in the Deep Forest, and it is perhaps to the compliments for the household agency serving the One, that guests sometimes indeed forget that their assigned time has been over.
As the ambassador shakes hands in farewell, he ventures to mention to the One: “I would miss the sushi restaurants dearly. It has been really a privilege to visit these fabulous places where it all started.”
The One smiles enigmatically. The ambassador remembers, that it is simply not possible for the One to visit the establishments that the he himself came to know and love. 
There are hundreds of excellent sushi restaurants in the capital, but the One never visits any of them. It is not in the nature of the One to make such private visits. 
The ambassador, leaving the Deep Forest, thinks to himself again, that the One is perhaps leading the most restricted life in the world today. Not even the Queen, nor the Pope, is enduring such restriction of private actions, of breathing space. A strange mixture of compassion and respect for the One surges in the heart of the ambassador, as he gets the last glimpse of the One, as the One and the Loved One stand to see the car of the ambassador and his wife off. 
While driven out of the Deep Forest, the ambassador wonders, how in the frivolous atmosphere of the contemporary world such a self-sacrifice is possible.
After the British ambassador leaves, there is some moments of tranquil transition for the One and the Loved One. 
As they walk back to their private quarters, the One asks the Loved One, passingly, but passionately. 
“Do you sometimes wish, that we had been an ordinary couple?”
The Loved One, who has been trailing slightly behind the One, as custom requires, answers, without a hesitation in her voice.
“But we are an ordinary couple between us, aren’t we?”
The One straightens, and corrects himself. 
“Quite so, Love, I am sorry.”
The Loved One bows and smiles.
“Sorry I am, to say such things to your majesty.”
The One and the Loved One walk in silent harmony.
Silence befalls on the private domicile of the One. The One is 82 years old now. It is not possible, or desirable, to carry out the daily duties without taking a great care of his body and soul. 
Sitting on the chair designated for the One, he goes into another reverie.
The One remembers, how, as he was a little boy, he looked up to the Old One. The Old One held the same position as the One holds now. But the times were completely different. 
The One often imagines, had he been in the position of the Old One in that difficult period, would he have done things any differently from the way the Old One did. The Old One was later reproached, almost to the full abandonment of the venerable tradition. The One finds himself in serious doubt. The One does not feel, that he could have done things any differently from ways the Old One did.
At times of such musings, the One feels that an individual is after all what the system makes of him or her. The One feels an awe at the fact that the succession of the position of the One has been repeated, with occasional turmoils, 125 times until the present. 
The One wonders, how it has been possible. There must have been difficult times: However, the Ancestors somehow persevered. 
It is at such times that the One feels that if he is a pivot of the system, as indeed he is actually likely to be, he would gladly serve the purpose of perpetuating the succession, even if that means compromising his private life on this earth.
At half past three, the Son arrives from the East Forest, where he resides with the Lovely One. The Lovely One does not accompany him. 
The Lovely One has been having difficulties since joining the order of the Deep Forest, especially as regards some traditional ceremonies that the One and his family perform and enshrine. 
“I am sorry, majesty”. On arrival in the Deep Forest, the Son apologizes for the absence of the Lovely One.
“That’s quite all right,” the One answers, with a reassuring smile all over his gentle face.
“These things take time,” the One says, ruminating. 
The One remembers, how the Loved One used to have difficulties after marriage, when she tried to adapt to the often mysterious traditions of the Deep Forest. The Loved One has overcome these difficulties, and is now enjoying being in service to the land, every second of her life.
The One and the Son sit together. Time as this is quite valuable, as the succession of the spirit of the One could be only relayed from a living person to another.
A small talk is initiated, if there could indeed be a such in the Deep Forest. The Son mentions to the One a particularly terrible incident of terror that recently took place in one of the cosmopolitan cities in a remote continent. The Son knows that the One is always concerned with peace, and that those mischances that demolish the very foundations of harmonious existence always saddens the One. 
The One sighs, and says, in an intimate voice, like father to son. 
“You know, I never suspected that the world would come to this. I always hoped, and was convinced, that enlightenment and better judgment would become the norm for humanity, especially after the terrible wars that we experienced. I would have thought that we would learn the lesson.”
The One could see that the Son was wishing that the Lovely One could have been here, at such moments. The Lovely One has worked in the foreign office, and is knowledgeable about the world affairs. It has been the hope that a great era of Deep Forest diplomacy will be brought about through the marriage. 
“Things never get to what we expect them to be, don’t they?”
The Son says to the One, with a profound feeling of resignation. The One senses it, and sees that it could not hurt, because, after all, it is a sense of resignation that makes life sustainable, in the turmoil of this imperfect world. 
The chief master of ceremony enters the room, and informs about the special ceremony that is about to take place. It was for this ceremony that the Son has come to the Deep Forest from the East Forest residence this evening.
The special service today is for the 1200th anniversary of a Respected Ancestor of the One. Almost every day in the year, there would be a special service commemorating one of the ancestors. It is no wonder that the ceremonial calendar is rather crowded, when the One is the 125th in the succession line. 
The One, the Loved One, and the Son line up in the periphery of the sacred area, and pray.
After most intensive minutes of silence, the forest musicians and dancers emerge and initiate their performances.
Music is made, which is more than 1000 years old. Some of the dancers wear traditional masks, with enigmatic patterns painted all over the place.
The music and dance would have been originally formed under the influences of other neighboring lands and beyond. In the passage of time, like many other things, they have been perfected and made unique, so that they now felt like the land’s own.
The One listens to the music, and thinks over times gone and lost, well beyond his own life.
The Son whispers to the One. 
“Listening to the music, one feels that one’s soul would go far away, even beyond heaven.”
The One nods and whispers.
“It is all about the dead.” 
The One muses, silently to himself.
“At this moment, our hearts are given to the many millions of people, that lived, and went, before us. Our prayers must be dedicated to their souls, who have now become gods.”
The sun sets, and darkness befalls. The protocol officials gently indicates to the One that it is now time to leave the ceremony. The One inclines, and starts to walk slowly. The Loved One and the Son follow.
The musicians continue to make music, and the dancers dance, even after the One has left, for a long time, late into the night. There is no audience, not even the protocol officials, except for the musicians and dancers themselves. It does not make any difference, according to tradition.  By making these exquisite music, they believe, the souls of Respected Ancestors would gently descend from the heavens, to join their earthly companions for the enjoyment of music and dance. 
It is about the dead.
The many millions of people, that lived, and went before. The music, dance, and prayers must be dedicated to their souls, who are now in heaven, and perhaps beyond.

Author's note. "The One" was written in the summer of 2016. 







When the intelligent becomes timid.



Review of Markus Gabriel's "Why the world does not exist".

Five stars out of Five.



I read this audacious book with great interest. The spice was when the author attacked the intellectual giants of the day with harsh words. It was both amusing and revealing, as it was clear where the intuition and emotion of the author was leading us.
It is one of the enigmas of human history that at any given time, a particular system of beliefs seems to occupy a religious status, only to be superseded by another in later days. In recent years, physicalism and evolutionary biology, supported by statistical reasonings, would have seemed to occupy that special status. What would supersede them?
As someone who has been interested in the mind-brain problem, or how the self, qualia, and intentionality (supposedly) arise from the neural activities in the brain, it always seemed self-evident that physicalism was not the whole picture. However, as the author points out, the powers that be in the intellectual world always seemed to be rather timid in enlarging our world view.
It is a strange tango when the popular media make saints out of the intellectual giants, accompanied by a numbness not to seek something completely different. I don't necessarily think it is a generation thing, but it is fair, and somehow overdue, to suggest alternative possibilities, as brilliantly done by Markus Gabriel.
The new realism, perhaps the central issue of this book, is still hazy in some parts but quite interesting. It appears intuitively promising, and for the lack of better words, sound. The greatest merit of this book, at least for this reviewer, was this alarm call to consider the new realism seriously.
I was a little bemused and puzzled towards the end when the author seemed to depict the tv dramas as the saviour. I must confess that I actually love most of the programs that the author cited (especially Seinfeld and Curb your Enthusiasm). Whether the relevance of the metaphor would extend beyond that of favuoritism slip or curious sidelines remains to be seen. 
The most moving part of the book for me was when the author revealed how he came to write this book:

The second question occurred to me when all of a sudden I realized that time passes, and that I could identify completely different situations with the world "now". At that moment I came upon the idea that the world does not exist. I have needed a good twenty years to penetrate this idea philosophically and to differentiate it from the idea that everything is only an illusion, or that life is nothing but a dream.


When I came to this passage, I immediately felt that I could trust this author. It was a new realism for me. 



Tuesday, November 20, 2018

One Thousand and Four Letters

 

One Thousand and Four Letters 

Ken Mogi

When Jane was elected Prime Minister a few days after the surprise resignation of her predecessor, there was naturally a lot of press coverage, although not so much about the novelty of gender. People no longer cared to count how many women have made it to the top job. 
So much for the political maturity of the nation. Jane was quite aware, more than anybody else, that there were many serious problems with the union. She was prepared to use iron hands, if necessary. 
Foremost in the agenda for Jane was the exit of the nation from the Community. It was not particularly Jane’s cup of tea: Actually, she campaigned against the exit. However, once the public opinion had been made, there was no other choice than to guide the herd in that direction. In other words, Jane was very aware of the principles of democracy.
"Welcome to No.10," said Sir James, who was the cabinet secretary. While Jane was putting her things on the desk, Sir James went on.
"As you may be well aware, King George offered this residence to Sir Robert Walpole, in 1732. Sir Walpole, however, did not consider the gift as private, and mentioned that the gift should go with the position, rather than the person."
"Selflessness has been the hallmark of this office," said June, to the nodding approval of Sir James. 
In the next few minutes, Jane was asked by Sir James to write letters.
"Four letters, Prime Minister. Four identical letters."
"Four?" exclaimed Jane.
"Yes, four exactly identical letters."
"Why four?"
Sir James, who could never miss an opportunity to lecture someone, a new prime minister in particular, smiled. Rather like a devil, Jane thought.
"There are four submarines, and you’ve got to write four identical letters for each of them."
In an instant, Jane realized what these letters were for. Her face might have become rather pale.
Jane, as a young girl, used to be quite naive. She used to believe that peace could be realized by means of good will alone. Jane was not a simpleton now, ceased to be one long before she became a member of the parliament.
Jane was prepared to kill hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, if it was necessary, as she famously said during a discussion in the House of Commons. 
The whole premise of nuclear deterrent rested on a firm will expressed in her four letters, she understood.
Sir James explained the four basic options: Retaliate, do nothing, use your own judgment, or enter under the command of friendly nations such as the United States and Australia. These options were to be carried out by the captains of the submarines, in case both Jane the PM and her deputy became incapacitated, the destruction of the nation to be verified by the absence of BBC radio 4 broadcast. Jane’s letter was thus to instruct the last official action of her Majesty’s government.
No particular thoughts went through Jane’s mind, as she penned the letters. Sir James was at the window, looking out into the garden. 
"I am finished," said Jane to Sir James.
"Very good, I would seal the envelopes now," said Sir James. 
Justin Hawks, the assistant secretary, brought a red box, into which Sir James put the four sealed envelopes. 
"What happens to them?"
Jane asked.
"They will be flown straight to Faslane."
Jane watched as Justin carried the red box out of the office. 
"Don’t you want to know what I wrote in the letter?" asked Jane.
"O, no," said Sir James.
"But they are very important. Perhaps the most important four letters in the nation," said Jane.
"No doubt," affirmed Sir James. 
"Therefore nobody is to know what is inside."
"What happens when I am no longer the Prime Minister?" asked Jane.
"The letters would be destroyed, without being opened," assured Sir James.
"What if I have written some nonsense?" asked Jane.
Sir James only smiled.
The writing of the four letters, and Jane’s comments about deterrent in the House, were widely reported by the press. 
A few days later, Jane was busy preparing for her first major speech about the exit when Sir James notified her of the arrival of the Japanese ambassador.
"The Japanese ambassador?" asked Jane blankly.
"Yes, about the funding of the Hinkley Project," whispered Sir James.
"O, yes," faltered Jane.
"So I've got to meet with the ambassador?" asked Jane.
Sir James nodded with his eyes.
At the end of a brief, but quite efficient meeting, the Japanese ambassador took out something small out of his briefcase, and handed it to Jane.
"I know it is quite irregular, but this is a gift from my wife. She insisted that I present it to you today. You know how wives are…" the Japanese ambassador closed his mouth without finishing the sentence, realizing that he was speaking to a woman.
"Thank you, and what is it?" Jane asked, out of pure curiosity.
"It is an origami crane. I am sorry there is only one. I should have brought you one thousand, to wish you good luck in your office."
"One thousand?" exclaimed June.
"That would be too much!"
At that moment, Justin came in, stood there smiling, effectively telling the ambassador there was absolutely no time left for the meeting.
That night, back home, Jane googled "origami crane" and "one thousand". Consequently Jane came to know the story of the Japanese girl Sadako Sasaki, who, suffering from leukemia caused by the atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima, made one thousand paper cranes, believing the legend that one’s wishes would then come true.
Jane’s husband was already in bed. Alone at her night desk, Jane took a good look at the tiny paper crane that the Japanese ambassador brought her. She remembered the days when she was a little girl like Sadako Sasaki. Jane felt a sudden closeness of heart.
The first few weeks in Jane’s tenure as PM was hectic. She had to give a speech outlining her plan for the exit from the Community. She went through the ordeal of the first question time as PM. She needed to make some tough decisions on immigration. She had to attend the official party for the state visit of dignitaries from the Middle East.
In addition to all these political activities, needless to say, Jane had to do her paper work.
Every morning, when she arrived at No.10, Justin brought the red boxes. In it were heaps of papers, presented for the perusal and judgment of Jane. Some of the papers needed to be signed. Some were personal correspondences, filtered by the staff beforehand. Jane needed to concentrate for quite a while to properly handle all these papers.
One weekend, after a brief stay at the Chequers, Jane found herself in the constituency. There was not such a thing as privacy now that she was the PM, but Jane did have a brief moment of relaxed stroll in her home town.
Jane came to her church, and went in. The vicar was there. The vicar invited to have a chat in the corner. Jane signaled the secret services to keep a respected distance. 
The vicar asked Jane how she was doing as PM. She was enjoying the job, Jane said. That was great, the vicar said. Then, out of the blue, Jane mentioned the paper crane. "The paper crane?" the vicar inquired. Jane explained briefly what happened when the Japanese ambassador visited her at No.10. Jane and the vicar went on to exchange a few more words. Jane mentioned her sleep problems.
Jane’s visit to the local church lasted 5 minutes, at the most. It was covered briefly in local and national news. Nobody had a clue what the vicar and Jane talked about. It was generally assumed that she would have just said hello and discussed the weather.
On Monday, Justin noticed, when opening the red box, that there was an envelope on top of the papers. It was addressed to the PM, from the PM. Apparently, it was written by Jane.
At first Justin regarded the letter as some draft. Then Justin had second thoughts. There was a "private" stamp on the envelope. Although it was not that Justin would have opened the envelope otherwise, he thought that he need to handle the letter carefully. Therefore, he put the envelope in the "Festivities" holder, which was usually reserved for Christmas and the Queen’s birthday. 
On Tuesday, there was another letter at the top of the red box papers. On Wednesday, there was yet another. Justin found it slightly embarrassing to keep quiet, and asked the PM, in a rather timid voice.
"Allow me to ask you a strange question, Prime Minister. But what are these envelopes in the red box?"
"Ah," answered Jane, as if what Justin asked was nothing of material. 
"They are letters to me, written by me, each day" said Jane.
"I understand," said Justin.
"What should I do with them, if I may ask?"
"Please file them," answered Jane, as if that was the only sensible thing to do.
"All right, then," said Justin, bowed, and retreated from the office.
Later that evening, Justin discussed the PM’s strange new customs with Sir James.
"Hmm," reflected Sir James.
"Maybe she wants to write a memoir," was Sir James’s bemused judgment.
Jane enjoyed a relatively high approval rate, helped in part by the inner turmoils of the opposition party. When the exit talks with the Community came to a seeming deadlock, Jane called for a snap general election. A slightly increased majority in the House of Commons meant that Jane now had a clear mandate as Prime Minister.
Jane went on to make a series of tough decisions, some of which proved unpopular.
"Iron lady" "ruthless," "hawkish," "cold-blooded," and "woman wolf" were some of the colorful descriptions that the press used to describe the PM.
Jane’s media advisor indicated that her public image had probably been tarnished because of that infamous remark in the House. Would she consider rephrasing the "prepared to kill hundreds of thousands of men, women and children" statement, he asked. Jane was adamant in her denial. 
"No, I wouldn’t," said Jane. 
"Deterrent means deterrent."
Sir James was mildly surprised when the tenure of Jane as PM passed the one year line. He could not contain his wonderment when her office went into the third year. Although Sir James admired Jane’s personal traits, he was of the opinion that the difficulty surrounding the union would curtail any Prime Ministerial career, even one as excellent as this one. Perhaps Jane’s hawkish image, bolstered by the woman card, worked miracles as chemistry to make her premiership both tangible and believable. 
Jane’s strange habit of authoring one letter a day continued. Each day, Justin found yet another envelope inside the returned red box, on the very top. The custom seemed to continue even when the PM was in foreign travel, with envelopes matching the number of days spent abroad put inside the red box, on Jane’s return to No. 10.
Justin filed the envelopes conscientiously, and soon the "Festivities" holder became full. He had to create "Festivities 2" holder, and then "Festivities 3."
It was again nearing Christmas. It was felt that people were getting used to the idea of Jane being the PM. There surely were some hiccups, but then, Jane was doing her job, or so it seemed. Jane was getting steady with the people.
One day, Jane told Sir James that she would be holding a press conference. 
"What for," asked Sir James. 
"It is about the letters," declared Jane.
"Letters? How fascinating!"
Evidently Sir James thought it was about the promotion of the Royal Mail in the run-up to Christmas. Great was Sir James’s surprise, therefore, when, on the morning of the press conference, he was told that the title of the PM’s talk was "One thousand and four letters."
"One thousand and four?" exclaimed Sir James. Such an enigma was something that he had never encountered, in his career as a civil servant.
It was only when Jane showed Sir James the self-written script of the projected speech that he understood the meaning. Sir James thought it was a good Christmas maneuver. There was a smile on his face.
In the press conference, Jane told how, after writing the four letters on her first day as PM, she had qualms of conscience about the decision that she would be obliged to make, while being the PM. She told the vicar of her old church about it, and mentioned the strong impression of the paper crane presented by the Japanese ambassador's wife, and the legend of one thousand paper cranes.
After a brief silence, the vicar suggested something. She should write a letter to herself each day, reflecting on her actions and thoughts. By doing that, she would be able to be a good person.  
"I had to keep making tough decisions, as Prime Minister." Jane said. 
"I could not conceive of doing otherwise. I wanted to do what I deemed was best for the union, whether it was the exit, immigration, or economic policy," Jane said.
"As a balancing act, I have been writing letters to myself, each day, reflecting on the sometimes tough decisions that I have had to make on the previous day." 
There were flashes coming from the press trying to capture Jane’s face as she spoke.
"Today marks the one thousandth day of my work as the Prime Minister, after I visited my vicar. That means, I have been writing one thousand letters to myself."
"How do you feel now?" asked one reporter.
"Well, as the vicar said, I hope I am a good person, even if my wishes did not come true," Jane answered.
There were a spontaneous wave of applause, which was rare in a press conference.
That evening, Jane reflected on her days as the Prime Minister, and went through, in her memory, the one thousand and four letters that she has written over this time. Jane did not recall the details of the letters. She did, however, remember the flows of emotion, ups and downs, conflicts, and few brilliant moments.
The face of the vicar briefly flashed in her mind.
Jane went on to write one thousand three hundred and six letters as Prime Minister. She resigned after successfully completing the exit process. 
The red box letters are now filed in a series of "Festivities" holders in a corner of Jane’s private house. The vicar actually glanced at the holders as he was having tea on his visit. The four submarine letters were destroyed on the day of Jane’s resignation, and nobody knows what were in those envelopes.

Author’s note on 20th November 2018: I finished this short story on 10th August 2016. I decided to put it on the blog rather than keeping it or hoping to publish otherwise.



Sunday, September 02, 2018

Visiting Horace Barlow.



I was getting a little worried. Horace had been always quick in his e-mail correspondences. However, after exchanging a few emails about my U.K. visit, the answers did not arrive. Then one day, Miranda sent me an SMS, saying that Horace was in good health.
Once in the U.K., I sent Miranda an SMS. She said in response that it was fine to meet with Horace on Thursday. I wrote perhaps I should go to the house, considering Horace’s health. Miranda said Horace suggested Trinity.
Miranda wrote that I should ring Horace once I was in the Porter’s Lodge, informing that I was on my way to the Parlour. Arriving at the Great Gate, I realized that there were some ambiguities in what was meant by Miranda’s message. I called Horace’s mobile number, which had been used by Miranda to exchange SMS. There was no answer.
A kind porter escorted me, trying to find where Horace was. The Parlour was being refurbished, so there was another room functioning temporarily as the Parlour. On the way, the porter and I carried on with some conversations.
“Do you know Professor Barlow for a long time?”
“Yes, I did postdoc with him some years ago.”
“Have you been to Trinity recently?”
“Well, a few years ago.”
“I think Professor Barlow might be here.”
The porter led me into a room, where several people were seated. Some of them were reading the papers. The porter cleared his throat, and asked “Has anybody seen Professor Barlow?” A gentleman with spectacles looked up, and said “I haven’t seen Horace for a while.”
The porter said he would ask if somebody had seen Professor Barlow’s car. I tried Horace’s mobile again, and this time, Miranda answered.
“Hi, Ken, Horace was a bit late driving to Trinity. He should be there in a few minutes.”
At about the same time, the porter received through his wireless communication devise the information that somebody had seen Horace’s car. Brightening up, the porter led me into the green square between the dining room and the river. “Professor Barlow should be coming this way,” said the porter.
The moment I saw Horace walking into the green square, I was relieved. He was apparently in good health. His walking was slow, but his face was vividly smiling as ever.
“Hello Horace,” I said.
“Hello Ken,” Horace said, and we shook hands.
Horace led me into the dining room. 
I saw several familiar faces around the high table. Among them were professors Brian Josephson and Martin Rees.
It was Horace’s kind manners to read out what was available on the menu. We both had soup, and then Horace had a crab. I had some salad.
As we sat at the table, and Horace introduced me to professor Ian Glynn, and we exchanged a few words. Professor Glynn mentioned his visit to some colleagues in Japan with warm words. Horace was fond of the apple juice in a nicely designed bottle. He had several glassfuls, and I helped pour the juice into his glass.
It was the manner of Horace to go straight into scientific conversations. He was of the opinion that the exploration of redundancy was very important in understanding the cellular functions in the visual cortex, a view still underappreciated, in Horace’s opinion. We discussed some issues about artificial and natural intelligence. When we were finished, Horace suggested coffee. As the Parlour was closed for the moment, Horace suggested we go to his house to have coffee.
It was inspiring to see a 96 years old person drive a car (Horace was born on 8thDecember 1921). As we went over the river, Horace mentioned a sculpture by Antony Gormley recently installed in Trinity. “Pop out and see it!” said Horace. I popped out and saw the figure, which, according to Horace, was representing Isaac Newton admiring the Wren library.
Once on the road, Horace drove the car very smoothly. “You seem to be driving without any problems” I mentioned. “Well,” said Horace, “I feel much safer in the car.” Then Horace went on, jokingly, “I think I am much safer to other people while in the car, too.”
We arrived at his house. I could already hear the dog barking. I had seen the dog before, but forgot the name. It carried a tag around the neck. However, since the dog was barking, it was difficult to see the name.
Horace told me how to make the coffee. I ground the beans accordingly. Horace then took the spoon and cleared the powder into the coffee filter. The meticulous and careful way Horace used the spoon to put every bit of powder into the filter reminded me of the fact that Horace did physiological experiments in his youth.
Once, when I was having a chat with Horace in the laboratory, I asked Horace why he was not doing experiments any more. Horace laughed and said, “that’s because I have to sleep at night now.”
The coffee was made, and we sat on the table. Miranda came in, and we said hello. Miranda told Horace that she would take the dog for a walk. It was such a fine day. The dog stopped barking.
When Miranda was gone, we sat at the table. Horace said he should have made the coffee stronger. I felt it was just fine. Talking with Horace over the coffee in his house, it was like the old tea time was coming back again.
When I was doing postdoc in Horace’s lab, it was customary to go to the Physiology tea room in the morning and the afternoon. It would be at those times that Horace said things really interesting, some of which I remember to this day.
Horace’s strong intuition about the brain’s central function always impressed me, and the impression was renewed. The relevance of Horace’s belief that the job of the brain was to detect possible coincidences in the environment would go beyond the visual and sensory cortex, and would have possible contributions to the general computational principles of the cortex. The conversation shifted towards intelligence again. Horace said that the “is” questions, such as “what is intelligence,” were not very helpful. Horace suggested that we should instead ask what were the things that intelligence made it possible for the brain to perform. Horace remained silent for a few seconds, and then started to speak. There was a twinkle in his eye. 
“I suppose intelligence makes it possible to carry out intelligent conversations. Without intelligence, we cannot discuss things of interest in such a way!”
We were finished with the coffee. As I stood up, there was a mixture of joy, relief, and a deep sense of inspiration in my heart.
“I hope to see you again soon,” I said to Horace, and shook hands.
“I hope to see you, Ken”, said Horace.
As I stepped into the bright evening air, my steps were light. The sun would not set yet for quite a while. 
It was still summer.