An Exercise in Patience

This is going to be an exercise in patience. Yours, not mine. I’m going to hold a book and you’re going to quote the book without reading it. You will gaze at the book in my hand and I will stare somewhere between the deft cleft of your chin and the chiseled protuberance of your pectorals beneath your snug shirt.

You will see the size, the shape, the dimensions of the book. Clues to its essence and identity are there for discovering. But I will not give everything away. Statistically this drill is impossible, similar to me showing you a grain of sand from a random beach and asking you to tell me, within a carpenter’s square foot, the longitude and latitude of where exactly the grain of sand came from.

And I’m not asking you to quote at random from the book I hold. You must quote the final line. It is critical you know how this book ends.

Your patience will be tested.

Now I’m holding the book, standing in front of you, showing you enough but not enough. Your first reaction is frustration. Quickly, more scattered than lemmings presented with mirrors, your mind presents and discards every book you ever remember reading, which under the nervy circumstances is considerably shorter than you had hoped.

Here’s the catch, you must not speak the title. Only its end line. You must know, decide, before speaking, what book I hold and then, after knowing what book I hold, you must quote the final line.

What happens to a mind faced by the impossible? What happens to our muscles?

I could methodically tell you what book I do not hold, undergoing the bloated process of elimination but really, this would only place cues in your mind. I could be terribly misleading and I would never want to make the impossible even more impossible if that is even logically possible.

Think hard. Every book you know or have ever heard of. One at a time. What are their last lines? Now which book do I hold? What if you’ve never heard of the book I hold? Never dreamed of the author who penned such a masterpiece, never considered the possibility of this book’s authorship. Sometimes the English language’s penchant for infinity is called into question when you consider the mass of printed words swamping the globe. Words ride the airwaves. Words are transmitted by satellite. Words infiltrate your mind and you aren’t even aware.

You’re probably wondering if this exercise is worth it, being impossible. That’s not for me to say.

Any ideas? Guesses? Are you ready to give up? And if not, why? Faced with the futility of this project, why even try? What do you have to prove? No one will know of your failure besides you. Is this why people try? To live with themselves? When do we find time to live with each other?

I’m holding the book and waiting for you. My patience remains. But does yours?

Don’t consider the fairness of this exercise. Of course this isn’t fair.

I’m holding the book and things are running through your head, many of them completely unrelated to this task. Faced with the impossible, your mind barely concentrates on the task, siphoning its powers into other arenas where time spent thinking isn’t useless.

The brain will ponder love in all its forms endlessly.

The brain will filet itself over regrets and worries and fears endlessly.

If you let it.

Will you let it concentrate on quoting the end of this book?

Would you like a hint?

How will your own book end?


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