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It had been ages since I had last been to the beach. Even more time seemed to stand between me and the last time I had interacted with a large group of people. In that experiential gap laid the anxiety of ignorance. Was there a social protocol for the beach? Should I care? What about food? Could I go a day without some form of antibacterial cleansing agent? What if I starved?
Naturally, all of my concerns fell quiet when I set foot on the beach. I was not ten anymore. My ignorance of the world did not blind me to its true beauty. I savored the rich aroma of the damp air and the thought of the innumerable suspended water molecules that gave the air its full, intriguing scent. I squeezed my toes in the sand an imagined the vast waves of silicon dioxide molecules clashing together, running between my toes, being swept up by the breeze. I looked out on the lake let the immense beauty of waves in motion—something that no physics text can adequately describe—flood my eyes and my ears. Thus are the joys of a deterministic worldview: every sensation becomes a wonder, a question to be analyzed.
I was further delighted when one of our group produced a Frisbee. For those that have never used a Frisbee, there is little chance of understanding the pure joy of hurling the disk back and forth. There is a glorious interchange of energy. The mind, the body, the sand, the Frisbee, all the world become mere facets of a larger organism, perfectly coordinated, wondrously complex yet elegant in its balance. My words cannot adequately describe it. Let it suffice to say we were consumed by our game.
Yet we are only mortals. We had to eat at some point. As our stomachs began to protest their emptiness, the Frisbee was cast to me one last time. In my meditative Frisbee-mind, I ran for the Frisbee. I jumped, having done a quick mental calculation regarding the exact projected position of the disk…and I plunged into the sand as the Frisbee glanced off of my fingers and flew off toward the water. Well…I’m not that great with a Frisbee.
As I heaved myself up, a faint glimmer in the sand before me caught my eye: a small arc of shiny metal lay in the grains. It was a ring.
I picked it up. Not notably ostentatious, the ring was a silver band, with a row of small diamonds set into its surface. Yet it seemed to glow softly, with a cold, hard beauty. It was stunning, this ring. It was elegant in its simplicity. And it was, ultimately, all mine.
As I walked back to camp, I found one of my fingers gently stroking the ring. With my next step, I couldn’t help but marvel openly at it. The world paled in comparison to the utter beauty of the ring. The sand, the water, all of the ugly, shapeless forms of nature served only to exalt the stark perfection of the ring. I was transfixed by this ring—I seemed to hear the world from beneath the lake’s surface. The laughter from our camp came only distantly. But all of that was irrelevant—the ring was all that mattered. I was complete with it; it gave me purpose.
It was a purpose that lacked longevity. I had to speak. My cursed, imperfect mouth and hands worked remotely as I approached my friends.
I raised the ring and said, “Hey, guys, look what I found in the sand.”
Fool! Put it down, hide it. My mind was ablaze, cursing this act of heresy against the ring. I tried to contrive a way to spirit the ring away safely. But the damage had been done. Someone—one of the shapeless forms that threatened the ring—commented that it looked like a wedding band. I could feel ice water seeping beneath my skin and into my bones. My heart was thundering. The ring was heavy in my grasp, as though it wished to fall, to be lost from sight. I would not lose my precious this way. I would explain that the ring was rightfully mine. Or that it should be.
But as I opened my mouth, the four words that my subconscious had feared, that had echoed in the corners of my mind, now met the air. The lost and found. I froze. Those wretched words were not my own.
Her name was Kim. Her lips had uttered those words. Her form had broken from the general morass of the world. Her hand had ripped the ring from my fingers. Her form, with two others, had rushed off to the lost and found.
Immediately every muscle in my body tensed in anticipation. She claimed altruism as her motivation. But I had seen her mind. She could not hide her intentions. She meant to keep the ring for her own. She would hide it away—she was cunning, that one. Dangerous. She must be stopped. The ring reclaimed. Defeat her guards. They both knew karate. Not a concern. I would vanquish them. I would find Kim and wrest the ring from her fingers…
I recoiled. That was not me. I am a pacifist and a nascent scientist. That emotion—that hatred, that malice—was borne of passion and…and avarice. A circle of atoms had nearly driven me to animalism. I had let myself be blinded to reality. I shivered in the newly emergent sunlight. That…thing belonged to someone. My claims of ownership were fundamentally null. Yet I willing embraced ignorance. I shivered. I had, briefly, designed to act violently to attain an end. Over a loop of silver and carbon.
Shaken, I wandered off in search of the Frisbee. And shivered.