Kaleidoscope minds

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 17 Jun 2022


As I was writing the second part on my novel 'Pandemica' yesterday, I chanced upon an image to describe what might be going on in a fifteen-year-old girl's head who's just been told by a boy, (Ron) that he loves her. She's walking away from the hospital bed he's confined to with a shoulder wound after a gunfight. The protagonist of the novel is with with her, her guardian and father figure.

"She didn’t look back or reply but had a hint of a smile on her lips as I glanced down at her.

"I wondered at that Mona Lisa smile. Perhaps she was basking in the sunshine of her first conquest. But then, it could have been a thousand other thoughts. I’d never know. It was her private affair, her secret life at play and no one’s business to enquire, not even Ron’s. It was the subterfuge of inscrutable womanhood, shrouded in the mannerisms and trappings of her sex, like a burka, hinting something but revealing nothing.

"I don’t think there’s any human gesture so puzzling as a half-smile. And on a woman’s face it’s ten times the mystery, as far as motives go. There are so many. It’s like a word barely begun to be uttered then cut short, so we don’t know what was meant. But we don’t ask, knowing some deep well of emotion froze the tongue, with a strange embarrassment on both sides.

"But it is lovely and surely some budding or half-formed thought engendered it. It’s as captivating as looking into a kaleidoscope and seeing the brightly-colored ever-changing symmetries, knowing it’s the trick of mirrors, and never knowing the shapes of the pieces of glass that rattle within. They’re not much to look at when one breaks the tube, little misshapen lumps, pebbles, some bright, some glazed and cloudy in their hues, hardly worth keeping. It’s the sunlight and mirrors that make the wonder.

"Yet this matched the young girl’s mind, full of pebbles picked-up along the way, but also full of mirrors, casting myriad reflections, forming complex arrays lit up from the beams of consciousness and forming endless webs of prismatic patterns."

Consciousness is impossible to explain. It's a combination of our physical reality and our feelings. But it hand-picks only parts of the reality and infuses them with the moods and hopes and memories of the moment, constantly changing in kaleidoscopic patterns.

The beams of sunlight are the glimmerings of our mind at work, that focus a spotlight on our current interest or concern. The mirrors are the arrays of thousands of synapses that fire as we think, some called for and others quite unexpected in the thoughts and images and moods they cast. But I do think it's accurate to describe the brain as a hall full of mirrors, of every shape and size, most of them not flat, bouncing shapes back and forth, distorting them with each relay, while the mind attempts to produce a composite picture of the pieces, a conclusion. The term 'reflection' supports me in this analogy.

I remember when I was seven that I once took an old kaleidoscope apart out of curiosity, (a young Charles Darwin in embryo) and was surprised to see how common and worthless the pieces of glass that poured out and which were made to produce such wonderful patterns. I threw them away with the tube. Perhaps I was expecting diamonds.

All thinking is filled with detours and surprises, but especially in children just learning how to understand the world.

A friend of mine worked at a day care center briefly. He was walking a group of four-year-olds across a city street on a hot day. It had recently been repaved and some black tar was still wet near the curb. As one boy stepped over it he pointed down and blurted out: "traffic jam" as if he'd just had an epiphany. He'd never understood that term and now he did. Wet tar was like jam and it was on a busy street, full of traffic.

The connections we make at that age are pure poetry. With age and experience the world undeceives us and ushers us into a much more grey and mundane existence. But for a short while, we are all tiny poets.   

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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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