Albert decides that the present isn’t just now. The present continuous stretches back to when humans first evolved and then right up to when we’ll live as almost endless computers. We’re not so significant, Albert decides, that each day has any value.
Carpe diem? Nope, Albert decides, let the day be: seize the epoch and grab the millennium by all means. Bring your ancestors, friends and descendants along for the ride. But squander some days if you wish. Because life’s too precious to worry about wasting the odd day here and there.
And with this thought Albert lets his Sunday paper fall to the ground and returns to the serious business of snoozing in the garden.
Albert sits in the park in central London enjoying the first of the spring sunshine. Albert likes parks almost as much as he likes libraries. In both places he can give himself the illusion of being amongst people but without the need to speak.
Albert watches a male pigeon clumsily strutting around a female. The female turns one way, then the other. Albert feels sorry for her. Then Albert wonders how she decides which way to go? Then he wonders if pigeons ever make decisions. It’s impossible to tell what motivates them to take a particular course of action. Unlike people, Albert thinks.
Then he thinks again. It’s also impossible to tell why people take a particular path. Our explanations are just justifications after the event, stories to tell ourselves. To what extent is the path taken genuinely chosen by any creature. No, Albert decides, intelligence has nothing to do with it. When it comes to decisions, he concludes, we may as well all be pigeons.
Except for Albert, of course, who is certain he has chosen to sit in the park to enjoy the first of the spring sunshine and watch the pigeons.
Think you know someone?
Think you have the full picture?
Nah, you just have little dots. You join them up and say – look, a person!
But think about those constellations at night. You actually see a big dipper up there? Nope, me neither.
Dots and hope: that’s all we have.
I need answers.
Was she looking for a fresh start? Was she escaping from a confusing relationship? Or yearning for greater acceptance?
Did she weigh it all up? Or was this a case of – there’s a road, let’s do this thing?
I am, you see, in a similar position myself.
Albert lies on the grass and stares up at a passing formation of geese.
Do birds get vertigo? he wonders. And how about fish – do they ever get sea sick? Well, it’s unlikely that a mole gets claustrophobia.
Perhaps, Albert decides, humans are just too complicated for their own good.
Whenever Albert starts working somewhere new he tries to re-invent himself. This time, he tells himself, I’m going to be so organised.
But within few weeks, Albert always finds himself surrounded by piles of disorganized papers.
“Turns out,” he says to himself, “that your character is your fate after all.”
They sat little Freddie down and told him the next stage. Remember how we taught you how to spell your first name? Well…today we’re going to learn how to spell your surname. How do you think we might spell Nietzsche? The boy’s small, intense eyes blinked up at them.