The Ancient Modern
The Ongoing Debate / Joshua Alan Sturgill
Very early this morning, I was awakened by the sound of arguing voices. It seemed like the argument had been going on for quite a long time. Either the mood had escalated or the voices grew louder, because the conversation I had been overhearing suddenly became very clear.
—clear and loud enough that I was compelled to go investigate the source of the commotion. I was a bit upset that these whoever-they-were were not respecting my rest or the tender time of day. But when I followed the sound of the voices to their source, my frustration turned into surprise.
I got up, put on my bathrobe and stepped out of my bedroom into the main part of the house. Three people were there, seated at my dining room table, engaged in a heated debate. I recognized them immediately once they came into view: they were Memory, Reason and Imagination.
I wanted to tell them to shut up and let me go back to sleep, but two things held me back. First, simple curiosity. I wanted to hear what they were so passionately discussing. Second, as I said, the impression I had was that this argument had been going on a long time, and it suddenly occurred to me to wonder, how long?
As their words became distinct, I understood they were arguing about who should be in charge.
“I know what was,” Memory was saying. “I have hard facts about things that happened. And if it happened before it will happen again. This is a solid base for making decisions. So I should take the lead.”
“But I know what must be,” Reason retorted. “I’ve done the calculations. I’ve measured and compared and I know the way things work. Who can argue with me? I should take the lead.”
“Well, I know what could be,” said Imagination. “I can see all the possibilities. I’m the one who can adapt and create. I’m the visionary and I can come up with a variety of solutions. I should be in charge.”
As I was listening, they all began pounding the table and interrupting each other, making boasts and threatening to leave the group if the others didn’t give way. But though they fought and insulted each other, they stayed in their seats. So I leaned in a little more closely.
I saw that under the table their feet were all bound together with a heavy chain. If one tried to get up, the others would pull him back to his seat. They seemed completely unaware of this predicament. This made me wonder, how can each of them make such bold claims for independence and comprehension, when they don’t even know how closely they are connected?
“If there is a source of real knowledge,” I thought, “that’s who should be in charge.” And vaguely, I wondered what that source might be. I grew annoyed by the whole situation. I think my curiosity was a bit disappointed, and I realized, too, that since the argument had been going on for a long while, it was’t likely to end soon. So I decided to find somewhere peaceful and quiet.
I shut the door on the arguing voices, and I went upstairs. I recalled one particular window up there that has an exceptionally good view of the sunrise.