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The Logic Institute: An Odyssey

 

Labyrinth

 

A garden graced the entrance to the Institute,

but some ambiguously troubling attribute

about the place disturbed me. It was getting late,

and second thoughts were causing me to vacillate.

But on the gate appeared a pleasantly discreet

and well-intentioned sign directing me. Retreat

was now unthinkable, I thought, for this display,

utilitarian upon the entranceway,

despite the quite forbidding hedgerows just beyond

(whose barbed demeanor recommended I abscond),

was reassuring: "Destination just ahead,

8 units" -- blithely stated, that was all it said,

and all I had to know, if truth be summoned forth,

for I had quite conglomerated south and north,

and I was relegated to maneuverings

that would depend upon precise foretokenings --

although the oddish 'unit' terminology

was infelicitously undefined to me.

So turning right, beyond the gateway, I commenced

my pilgrimage along a narrow pathway fenced

by brambly thickets and obscured by pending night,

and minutes later there appeared, to my delight,

another sign with little fuss or rigmarole,

reporting I was 7 units from my goal.

Now turning to my left -- for no alternative

existed -- the trajectories began to give

me confidence when dual turns, one left, one right,

were duly marked (though certainly to expedite

the whole itinerary planters of the hedge

elaboration could have been more cutting-edge

in garden planning). Nonetheless, as I traversed

the lengthy path in front of me I was immersed

in my immediate responsibility,

to reach my goal with minimum complexity.

To this effect, I left the lengthy straightaway

upon a left-directing sign (the whole array

of paths had some alternatives, but I'd obey

the signs, of course). I couldn't stifle a display

of merriment upon encountering the sign

"3 units, left," and then a surge of borderline

euphoria upon "2 units, left," and then

an unrestrained exuberance when yet again

directed to my much anticipated goal:

"1 unit, to the right"! But then, as if the whole

botanic grounds were groomed for whimsy, I approached

a sign whose stomach-wrenching sentiment encroached

on every modicum of tolerance and trust

within my mind, and spurred emotions of disgust

and ridicule, for "Destination just ahead,

in zero units" stood amidst an endless bed

of hedges, in a disconcerting cul-de-sac

apparently devised by some demoniac

or deviant; and in the quite distinctive rage

that gathers from the cramping edges of a cage

I hurried to retrace my steps: a left instead

of right, and after that a right, and just ahead

a second right, the two of them to compensate

for prior lefts; but now I'm forced to hesitate --

what happened just before? Recalling first a right

to reach the straightaway, and then a left, my plight

was readily resolved -- for now I would invert

the flow, first left and then a right -- and such alert

renavigation of the convoluted path

should bring me back to start, and in the aftermath

of goals achieved through logical ability

I'd simply choose another course or strategy.

I watched the unit signs: a 5, and then a 6 --

before too long this network built by lunatics

would greet the past! I passed a 7. Unit 8,

in line with my capacity to calibrate

a careful course reversal, should propitiously

return me to the gate. But unexpectedly,

and most alarmingly, the sign at Unit 8

was evidently only there to designate

another turn -- the everpresent hedges blocked

the passageway in all but one direction. Shocked

by this eventuality, I hurried past

the corner, and while vainly trying to recast

the circuit in my mind, the inexplicable

occurred -- for there in front of me, in pitiful

and pithy words, was "Destination just ahead,

9 units." Madness would direct me now, instead

of reason. In a strangely reoccurring rage

I cursed unseen antagonists and tried to gauge

my misdirection: for indeed in these opaque

surroundings it was rather easy to mistake

the sequencing despite a well-developed skill

with logic. Prospects of confinement sent a chill

throughout my body. Lacking minimal restraint

amidst a screaming need for calm, and feeling faint

and hyperactive simultaneously, I

began a reckless effort to demystify

the labyrinth: a left, a right, another right,

a left, another left, while trying to recite

the patterns in my head; a right and then a left,

a pair of rights, a pair of lefts, until bereft

of compass sense I found myself again marooned

against a zero-distance corner nook festooned

with hedges here and there; so back and forth I go

for many cycles, helter skelter, to and fro,

a right, a left, I'm turning and I'm going straight;

on every pass I go beyond a Unit 8

and then a 9, or even 10, and then I'm back

to zero, shaking like a dipsomaniac,

and when at last I stand eleven units from

my destination, my exhausted body numb

with fury, fever, and frustration, I collapse,

and as I fall, before a moment can elapse

I feel the need for sleep, and while I'm lying there

I see a dome of glass suspended in the air

with smudges that resemble, in the final hints

of daylight, extra-human sets of fingerprints.

 

The Morning After

 

Of reasons why, or methods how, I didn't know,

and queer nocturnal memories seemed absolute,

but in a rehabilitating morning glow

upon a piney bed outside the Institute

I woke relaxed and curiously unrestrained

by all the hulking hedges that had entertained

me just the night before. Renewed was my intent

to undertake the tasks for which my time was meant.

 

Touring Test

 

I'm in the hallway of the Institute,

outside a clamorous gymnasium,

with children gathering for some pursuit,

and I observing, so I won't become

some jester's sacrifice. But on the door

a sign is heralding a "Touring Test,"

for which a boy named Lodie stands before

a class prepared to play, with me as guest.

The walls are windowless and dark, all four

with openings that lead to worlds unknown.

I turn to Lodie, Puckish metaphor,

conductor of the students who intone

the pleasing sound and hypnotizing hum

of mini-sized participants; they shriek

with youthful energy as I succumb

to Lodie's plea to 'take the test'; a peek

above the openings reveals a row

of lights - all dark; and a metallic clang

accompanies a strange scenario

of interactions, with the yin and yang

of teamwork here and there, to come and go,

as Lodie plucks a basket from a hand

inside an opening, and in a flow

too curiously vague to understand

he hands the basket to a waiting child

who races to the center of the floor.

A little girl named Addie (who beguiled

me with her winning smile) assumes the chore

of transferring its contents to a bin

while keeping count of random bits inside -

small balls, it seems - and then to my chagrin

my functionality is clarified

as Lodie, having climbed upon a cart

directed toward the second opening,

cajoles and wheedles me to play the part

of driver for the group by powering

his 'tour' around the room; and in a flash

we're all proceeding at a shameless pace:

as Addie empties baskets in the cache

I hurry Lodie down the wall - a race

against the clock, it seems - for now a boy

named Biffy works the flashing row of lights,

and so a pattern forms as we deploy

the pieces of the process; tiny sprites

encourage me to hurry: move the cart,

then load a basket, run across the floor

to count it, dump it, change the lights, and start

again; then do it faster, they implore

me, faster, faster, racing to and fro

and back and forth, increasing frequency

around the circuit, in a quid pro quo

of dubious intent, a revelry

infectious yet bizarre; I have to pause -

indeed, a millisecond's pause - to sneak

a look at Biffy's lights, in search of cause,

effect, or reason for the odd technique

of alternating reds and greens, first seen

(I think) green-red green-red green-red green-red,

and then green-red green-red green-red red-green.

But my attention is returned instead

to matters relevant, at least for those

whose clocklike rigor and exactitude

demand attentiveness. So I compose

myself, resigned to the entrancing mood,

the soothing sequence, the monotony,

the push and pause and pull, the pulse and press

ahead, automatons in symphony,

till almost in position to finesse

the final opening, when like a bolt

of brawling thunder a dramatic clang

resounds, and with my senses in revolt

against the sudden torturous harangue

I'm unbenignly forced against the wall

and in an instant see the likely cause

for this aberrant bout of folderol,

as all the children uniformly pause

to watch as Biffy bellows in dismay

with eight authoritative lights of red:

"We're off by one!" his frantic cries inveigh

as one last opening remains ahead

of me and Lodie; and a fiery glow

is transferred from the lights and to the eyes

of all the youngsters in a domino

effect of scowling faces that surmise

my guilt. As smallish outlines multiply

nearby, amidst a colorful array

of naughty words - including 'crucify' -

I find an exit door and slip away.

 

Logic Class

 

Along the hall I come across a little room

with rowdy students, all meticulously crass

in their behavior, and with egos that consume

all sense of prudence. Witness, thus, the logic class.

As class convenes I gently indicate in clear

logician's diction of my eagerness to share

my disposition to determine if we're here

or there, or if instead we're neither here nor there.

A student with a lisp, who would have been dismissed

by any academic dean or exorcist,

got up and shook his fist, proposing to assist

by posing logic twists too cryptic to resist:

"If you were here or there then if you weren't here

you would be there, although if everybody isn't there

you'd certainly be here; but if you aren't here

and aren't there you can't be here or there - it's clear

you can't be anywhere - but if you aren't there

or aren't here you could of course be anywhere,

for then you could be here, which isn't there, or there,

which isn't here, unless you're neither here nor there."

And somewhere in the list of dictums missed amidst

this syllogistic mist there did indeed exist

a philosophic gist that no one could enlist

since common sense insisted class should be dismissed.

 

No Class

 

A little ways along the hall I almost tripped

on students rushing from a room, which like a crypt

was left in silence, with a solitary soul

in solemn muse, as if unwilling to extol

his club, affiliation, or society,

and loath, I guessed, to serving as interrogee.

But on the board were words appearing hurriedly

inscribed: "Enthusiasts for Lengthy Poetry."

 

Recursion

 

And now the hallway was deserted, dark, and still.

I made my cautious entrance through the nearest door,

encountering a little room that might instill

a sense of dread in one less willing to explore

such queer surroundings: walls, and nothing more, except

another door marked Doorway B; I moved ahead,

reflecting on the room's austerity, and stepped

inside a second tiny room, but there, instead

of some anticipated exitway, I found

another door marked Doorway B; I moved ahead

and faced the door; how odd, I thought, and turned around

to see that Doorway A now marked the aforesaid

Door B - indeed, return through A should be a B

upon reversal - but another B in front

of me was curious, and very possibly

initiating some chicanery, the brunt

of which began to overcome me on my third

encounter with a little room, for once again

the Doorway B notation greeted me. "Absurd!"

I blurted in dismay, "I can't remember when

I've seen such programmatic inefficiency!

It's better I return." But on my first attempt

to do so, Doorway A was locked. Impatiently

I turned, convinced my host had been exempt

from common sense in navigational design.

Another Doorway B, and then again a room

just like the others. "This is truly asinine,"

I muttered, and I wondered how I might exhume

myself from such an inexplicable array

of ins and outs: each A was locked, each B the same

infuriating exercise - a blind foray

through some inanity; perhaps I should exclaim

out loud, in bold and certain terms, my discontent:

but many minutes of vociferous appeal

served only to accelerate my long descent

to desperation. "Hey! Who's doing this? Reveal

your purpose!" I declared to no one in my rage.

I rushed through Doorway B, and then another B,

and then through many others, each a tiny cage

with A and then a B, and diabolically

arranged with no detectable escape in sight:

Door B, Door B, Door B, Door B, each time an A

inside the B, a B inside the A, my plight

recurring repetitiously, the same display

of walls and doorways, first in one room, then the next,

until I found myself unable to maintain

lucidity; and so, perspiring and perplexed,

I crumpled limply to the floor with an insane

desire to damage something (though except for doors

no targets were available); with gasping breath

I kicked a Doorway B, and there in metaphors

of Satan's fathoms loomed a sight defying death:

a great abyss, an endless plummet to a black

profundity that rendered me a quivering

and helpless soul; an all-consuming cul-de-sac

that forced me back against the wall and wavering

between the two extremes. Then unexpectedly

Door A was open! In a rush I bounded through -

as if the final B room had ejected me -

to find another open A, and deja vu

unblurringly embraced me as I quickly stepped

from one room to another, every Doorway A

releasing me, much faster as I fairly leapt

through blurry thresholds like a prison runaway:

Door A, Door A, Door A, Door A, each time a B

unseen to me as I converged upon the A,

my single-minded role as the evacuee

propelling me through doorways till the entranceway

that long before seduced me from the narrow hall

was safely out of sight. And in an atmosphere

of resurrecting stillness, now, I can't recall

the purpose or condition of my being here.

 

Epilogue

 

In retrospect, it's rather inexplicable

that I should be entwined in this umbilical

connection with an influential Institute,

with links to unreality so resolute.

But just as I was sentenced to this physical

and mental stress, it's even more remarkable

that sentences pronounced herein could constitute

a purpose so inane and meaning so minute.

 

 

 

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Contact:  paul@moodclash.org