A fool has sought out the book’s greatest scientist, and asked to share his knowledge. The scientist has gone to the beginning of the book to try to understand its origin better.
F: Is it true, as they say, that you only know truths?
S: Almost only truths, or most things I know are true, or at least more true than I thought yesterday. I can prove it by the scientific method. We in science have studied everything from paragraph breaks to letters in this book, and there is very little we do not know. For example, we can predict how the book will continue. Did you know, for example, that after a full stop comes a letter in almost every case? It is one of the early breakthroughs in science.
F: It’s an impressive knowledge you possess. But do you know who wrote the book?
S: An author? Superstitions! There is no scientific evidence that this book has anything but emerged from a blank page. Nowhere. I have traveled to the first sentence, and before it there was a headline, and before that there was nothing.
F: If the book does not have an author, then how can it look like it does?
S: It is chance and the laws of grammar that govern how the book develops, not an author. After vowels almost always comes consonant, words are generally under ten characters long. Where is this author? We have tools that allow us to see everything down to the last detail, and very reliable models for studying whole paragraphs. Nowhere in the entire book is there concrete evidence of the author’s existence. It is only magical thinking that is based on a lack of understanding of language and grammar. Do you realize how much of the language we are beginning to understand now, science has come so far that we are beginning to be able to deduce the existence of completely new words. Suffrage, for example, we are almost certain is a valid word even though it only occurs in this sentence.
F: It’s impressive what science has accomplished, but what do you mean by existence there?
S: It’s a little hard to express, but I can give examples.
S: A sentence exists, it is made of words, which are made of letters. Both you and I can point to these parts. If you are not a bigger fool than you seem to be, you should agree.
F: I think I understand, but do you have more examples.
S: I exist, I am a character in the book. You can point to me and say, there’s the scientist! I am not made of letters directly in the same way as a word, but without letters I would not have existed. It is also possible to see that I exist through the words I give rise to.
F: That’s probably true. But how do we know that there is nothing outside the book?
S: Think like this - The more we talk, the longer it gets, but you can not reach the edge or travel outside. It’s just fantasies. There is nothing there. So not just white paper that may be what you think of when you think of nothing, but not even white paper.
F: It’s a little hard to imagine a nothing that is nothing more than white paper actually.
S: It is impossible to imagine. We are only written to imagine the kind of environment we are in.
F: Are there other books outside of this one?
S: There is no evidence for that, and if it does, we would probably not be able to go there and check, because then it would be just an extension of this book, a bad extra chapter that was cut off and never published, for example. It becomes quite pointless and unscientific to speculate about this.
F: If, if the book has an author, would that author really be in the book then? Even if he actually wrote himself into the book, would it really be the author, or just a representation of the author who is not really the same?
S: We still have to relate to what we can prove, measure and deduce with reason. If there is anything other than that, it still has no meaning or impact on our existence.
F: Now I think I think I see what it is you are missing. I spoke to a desperate artist a while ago. He tried to reach outside himself, and paint a picture in a way that did not reflect himself. Time and time again he failed. No matter what he did, with a shaky hand, by throwing paint on the canvas, by building a machine that painted, the painting still became a reflection of the artist’s condition. All his expressions were expressions of himself. The paintings could not help but express the artist. In the same way, the author would not be able to write a book that is not permeated by who he is. It is in the nature of creation that the created is colored by the creator, and that which is created has an inevitable meaning. The painting in the example inevitably reflects the artist, who inevitably reflects the book,which inevitably reflects the author.
S: If the author exists, which can not be proven.
F: Whether existence as we define it in the book is meaningfully applicable to the author, which is quite doubtful.
S: We will not get further here, now leave me alone to continue studying the book we are in.
F: You’re so right, I’ll disturb the mystic instead.
- Said and done -
F: What are you doing, old friend?
M: I’m preparing a ritual to appease the ancient Greeks. Every time the second part starts, I do this.
F: What kind of ritual?
M: It is a dialogue, because it is written that the ancient Greeks appreciated such at the beginning of the book.
F: Then it’s probably best not to upset the ancient Greeks. It does not say much other than that they are old, but already in the first sentence. So they must be old already at the beginning of the book, and be older than the book, because how else could they be old already?
F: It’s hard to argue against this. Maybe the author is such an ancient Greek.
M: Yes, that’s what we think. The oldest and most Greek, because why else would the author write like that if it was not a message to us characters?
F: Do you think we can understand what the author’s purpose is in writing the book?
M: It’s probably hard to imagine the author’s motives. What we do know is that the author has written the book, and can change the book as he pleases. The author is omnipotent, and there is nothing he can not write or erase!
F: It must probably be true, if you have written the whole book, there is probably nothing, within the book in any case, that you can not do.
M: Exactly! And that’s why we need to make the author happy by holding this dialogue.
F: But how do we know that this is what the author wants us to do?
M: Because it’s written at the beginning!
F: Again - can there be no other purpose to what is written at the beginning? A purpose that we may not understand in our most limited worldview as characters in a book. It is very rare to create something for the sake of what was created, most often you have a purpose with what you create, that you want to achieve something with the creation?
M: What we think is that the author wrote the book for the reader. The reader can be seen as part of the author by some, but somewhat separately by others. The author arranged the letters, but it is the reader who gives them meaning by reading the words, thus giving the whole story a kind of temporary existence. But since there may be several readers, we will live again and again; and live as long as the text remains.
M: The author makes it possible to read, but reading creates the meaning of the authorship.
F: But what does this say about us characters? How should we behave?
M: We should probably follow the author’s command: “Even the ancient Greeks appreciated a good dialogue”.
F: What if this is not his bidding then? What if the author wants poetry in meter, or a shopping list for dinner?
M: Shut up now before you upset the author! Many stupid questions can be asked, but some things can not be questioned! He may yet decide to stop writing!
– the end –
This is a translation of a piece I wrote in Swedish, I’ve gone over it to iron out any errors but some may yet linger