This story is a really good one, but unfortunately I have forgotten most of it — I was putting it together in my mind but then there was an emergency, my brain got rattled by adrenaline, and now here I am, trying to recollect what it was all about in tranquility, and all I have is scraps. Suggestive scraps.
One part is a character who is able to tell about a previous civilization, a much more advanced group of technological folk — our guy is a farmer — based upon the shapes of the earthworks they left behind.
A second part is about the word Busillis, which is a medieval word meaning a terribly hard puzzle, because some medieval scribe was asked to explain what “Busillis” was to the king, and he finally realized that there was no Busillis, that it was a miswriting of “dies illes” or something — these days. And in this part of the story everybody is aware that there is a cycle of civilization, that they come and go, and that each one leaves behind a few traces for the next one to perceive that stand out as things that don’t make sense, that are impossible to assimilate.
And then as I was trying to put these two pieces together I imagined a friend of mine (and this is the third part, Scrap the Third) a friend from twitter whom I have never met in real life, who has developed a way to understand literature using mathematics, and has built a machine that does this using gears and string, and that he is able to take these first two pieces — the farmer with his earthworks that are symbols of an earlier civilization and the monk with his search for Busillis that lets him realize life is a palimpest — that it is precisely those things we don’t understand that are the most real, because the fact that we don’t understand them means they are erupting from a previous sediment of reality, bursting through our methods of understanding things from deep time into now — the frisky present — and my friend (whom I have never met) was setting up his gears and his strings and getting ready to turn the switch from off to on and let me hear the story that I had almost told myself and forgotten, so I could tell you what it is, right here, right now.