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MindScape[Addition] Georgios Makridis

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An architecture of the sequence of experiences, MindScape relies on the theoretical bases of biology, information technology and maths to suggest a system through which humans perceive and understand events in their everyday lives. The critical assumption is that people experience life through the mental occupation of sequences of nodes that only have a capacity of some seconds of event time. Human sensory system triggers the areas of the brain as soon as it is fully aware of an experience and right before it continues to analyse the next. Mental images are created through that process. As a satellite project to Matter Matters, MindScape develops the path connecting information and practical wisdom in a more systematic manner. Addition, the fictional prose that connects the two, is the link through which the one feeds back to the other and vice-versa. Both works adopt the notion that wisdoms (in plural) are an infinite arrangement of moments, rather than (one single) wisdom being an end in itself. The latter position champions the importance of the journey rather than the destination, as it makes the latter an element of the first. Georgios Makridis, May 2011

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Event and Scale

Definition of scale for urban events.

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MindScape

Nautilus shell. Sketch.

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Event and Scale

“... processes that ‘go around in circles’ have great depth even though the tremendous amounts of information discarded have not really had any effect on the result.” [Tor Norretranders. 1999. The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size. USA: Penguin. 86.]

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MindScape

Tree trunk. Age and growth can be calculated by considering the relationship between the geometric qualities of cross section.

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Event and Scale

Nautilus shell. The Natural Logarithm governs growth and shape.

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MindScape

Human fingerprint. Skin evolves the way natural organisms evolve.

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Event and Scale

Vortex sequence on top of Atlantic Ocean. Wind.

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MindScape

Milky Way. The galaxy that planet Earth is situated has also been developed following the shape of natural evolution. It is no surprise that throughout all known natural organisms patterns equals to diagram and vice-versa.

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Event and Scale

An explosion of matter is argued among scientists to have triggered life as it is known today.

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MindScape

Natural development confined into lineal space.

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Development Sketches

Labyrinths based on expansion from a central area.

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MindScape

Coexistence of natural and built patterns.

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Development Sketches

Interconnection of units.

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MindScape

Consideration of depth.

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Development Sketches

Arrangement of meandric planar units to create a series of interconnected units.

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MindScape

Meanders. Detail.

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Development Sketches

Development of levels.

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MindScape

Connection between levels. Assumption of jig-saw relationship.

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Development Sketches

Stack of layers, interconnected in three axes.

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MindScape

Variation of meander. Shapes and relationships.

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Development Sketches

Variations of meander. Shapes and relationships.

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MindScape

Variation of interconnected meandric units.

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Development Sketches

Variation of interconnected meandric units. Detail.

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MindScape

Variations of meander. Shapes and relationships.

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Development Sketches

Experiences leading to practical wisdom. Sketch diagram.

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MindScape

Order of practical wisdoms.

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Development Sketches

Order of practical wisdoms. Variation.

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MindScape

Order of practical wisdoms. Variations.

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Development Sketches

Order of practical wisdoms. Variation.

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MindScape

Order of practical wisdoms. Variations.

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Development Sketches

Order of practical wisdoms. Variation.

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MindScape

Order of practical wisdoms. Variations.

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Development Sketches

Order of practical wisdoms. Variation.

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MindScape

Order of practical wisdoms. Variations.

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Development Sketches

Order of practical wisdoms. Variation.

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MindScape

Order of practical wisdoms. Variations.

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Order of Wisdoms

“Though the world is described in simple formulae that look just as comprehensible as the examples in our textbooks, these formulae turned out – now that we had finally done the calculations – to contain an enormous complexity”. [Tor Norretranders. 1999. The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size. USA: Penguin. 73.]

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MindScape

Path from information to wisdom described in Matter Matters. Wisdoms in Cartesian and Polar arrangement.

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Order of Wisdoms

Order of practical Wisdoms. Diagram.

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MindScape

Order of Wisdoms. Variation.

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Order of Wisdoms

Order of Wisdoms. Variation.

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MindScape

Order of Wisdoms. Variation.

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Order of Wisdoms

Order of Wisdoms. Variation.

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MindScape

Order of Wisdoms. Variation.

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Order of Wisdoms

Order of Wisdoms. Variation.

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MindScape

Order of Wisdoms. Variation.

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Order of Wisdoms

Order of Wisdoms. Variation.

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MindScape

Order of Wisdoms. Variation.

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Link

“There is a terrain between order and chaos: a vast undiscovered continent – the continent of complexity. The precondition for discovering it is that we learn to steer between the two poles of our worldview – order and randomness, supervision and surprise, map and terrain, science and our everyday lives”. [Tor Norretranders. 1999. The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size. USA: Penguin. 75.]

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MindScape

Consideration of spatial node with six approaches. Carbon. Hexagon. Hexahedron.

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Link

Organisation of link between wisdoms. Diagram.

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MindScape

Cross section of link between wisdoms.

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Link

Link. Detail.

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MindScape

Link. Detail.

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Link

Link. Detail.

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MindScape

Link. Detail.

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Link

“Physical systems are computationally irreducible too: We do not know where they end or even if they end until we have computed them on the premises of the physical systems themselves�. [Tor Norretranders. 1999. The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size. USA: Penguin. 74.]

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MindScape

Event-based variation on link.

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Link

Event-based variation on link.

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MindScape

Event-based variation on link.

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Link

Event-based variation on link.

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MindScape

Six approaches in two dimensions. Diagram.

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Theoretical Approach

“The idealists argue that the hexagonal rooms are a necessary form of absolute space or, at least, or our intuition of space. They reason that a triangular or a pentagonal room is inconceivable.” [Jorge Luis Borges. 2000/1941. “The Library of Babel”. Labyrinths. London: Penguin. 79.]

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MindScape

Assumption of 3-axis system to describe spatial occurences.

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Theoretical Approach

Definition of horizontal plane.

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MindScape

Plane on Cartesian coordinates.

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Theoretical Approach

Polar coordinates juxtaposed to Cartesian coordinates.

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MindScape

Definition of unit according to neighbouring units.

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Theoretical Approach

Example: Habitation of unit with urban spatial arrangements. Top right: North Oxford. Bottom Left: Central London (Covent Garden).

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MindScape

“... logical depth is the number of steps in the deductive or causal path connecting a thing with its plausible origin”. [Charles Bennet. “How to Define Complexity in Physics, and Why” in Zurek. Complexity, Entropy and the Physics of Information. 137148.]

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Theoretical Approach

“The notion of logical depth is [...] perpendicular to information content”. [Tor Norretranders. 1999. The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size. USA: Penguin. 79.]

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MindScape

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Theoretical Approach

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MindScape

“The longer the time, the greater the depth of the system”. [Tor Norretranders. 1999. The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size. USA: Penguin. 80.]

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Assuming Plane

A series of experience instances which rely on the prior to feed the next.

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MindScape

Sequence of interconnected diagrams.

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Assuming Plane

Sequence of interconnected diagrams. Detail.

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MindScape

“... complexity must lie somewhere between order and disorder, and could therefore not be measured as algorithmic complexity or information�. [Tor Norretranders. 1999. The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size. USA: Penguin. 77.]

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Computer as Opposed to Human Brain

A cellular automaton is the procedure that silicon computers use to perform functions. The computations are based on lineal assumptions which are executed one after another.

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MindScape

Cellular automaton: Stand-by nodes describe the possible directions for the next bit. Five different directions (plus one, i.e. the origin) are prescribed by the geometric qualities of the system unit.

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Computer as Opposed to Human Brain

Cellular automaton: Linear applications.

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MindScape

[1] Brained beings can walk and chew gum and learn at the same time; silicon digital computers can’t. [2] Brains are unpredictable, but conventional computing is obsessed with control. [3] Brains are not structurally programmable the way computers are. [4] Brains compute physically, not logically or symbolically. [5]Brains are made of carbon, not silicon.

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Computer as Opposed to Human Brain

[6] Brains compute in massive parallel; computers use linear processing. [7] Neurons are sophisticated computers, not simple switches. [8] Brains are equipped to evolve by using side effects. Computers must freeze out all side effects. [Janine M. Benyus. 1997. Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. USA: William Morrow & Company. 189-202.]

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MindScape

Variation of planar sequence.

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Planar Exploration

Variation of planar sequence. Detail.

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MindScape

Cross-connection of sequences between the experiences of one individual: The process of visiting adjacent nodes to define preferable course.

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Planar Exproration

Cross-connection of sequences between two individuals.

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MindScape

Considerations on spatial manifestation of node.

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Node

The node is the fundamental unit of the sequence of experiences.

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MindScape

“Complexity must be a function of the process – the assembly routine – that brought the object into existence. If physical complexity is a measure of the process or set of processes whereby a set of initial states evolves into a final state, then seven bulls need not be much more complex than one bull. It took billions of years for the earth to evolve one bull; but one bull and a few compliant cows will produce seven bulls relatively speedily.” [Seth Lloyd & Heinz Pagels. “Complexity as Thermodynamic Depth.” Annals of physics 188 (1988). 186-213. 187.]

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Node

Node sequence.

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MindScape

Sequence of nodes: Non-activated units in grey, activated units in red and stand-by units for the next part of the sequence in red outline with grey body.

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Node

“... a highly ordered system does not possess much depth...” [Tor Norretranders. 1999. The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size. USA: Penguin. 85.]

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MindScape

Single direction curvature on node sequence.

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Node

Single direction oscillation on node sequence.

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MindScape

Sequence variation of activated, stand-by and non-activated nodes.

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Node

Node section (cutting plane on y-z and/ or x-z).

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MindScape

Sketch representation of the spaces within node.

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Node

Synapse between nodes.

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MindScape

Mathematics consider Parabolic and Hyperbolic geometry, as opposed to Platonic geometry, to define the properties of dimensions beyond the ones of the Cartesian Space. The assumption allows for the analysis of data matrices that exceed the limitations of the three-dimentional convention.

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Node

Exploded isometric diagram depicting the parts that constitute the node.

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MindScape

Sectional diagram of experience node: Presence inside a node lasts from a moment to several seconds according to the emmision frequency of stimuli.

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Node

“To be aware of an experience means that it has passed.” [Tor Norretranders. 1999. The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size. USA: Penguin. 128.]

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MindScape

Guide: Location of stimuli reaction in human perception.

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Guide

Constructive components describing the experience of a visit to the city market.

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MindScape

Covered Market, Oxford: Experiential representation

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Addition

Driven by the first droplet that fell from the sky, ValĂŠrie walked into the covered market. Inside, elder couples having breakfast in the quaint little cafĂŠs, young mothers strolling side by side, pleasantly obstructing the passing of solitary visitors, students in the rush to their meeting taking a short-cut through, and merchants willingly exposing their commodities were the actors of the Saturday morning animation in the corridors. Although clearly in a place of discomfort, she kept a slow pace toward the central square, lazily observing the food and the artefacts on display. In her mid-twenties she had never really appreciated crafts, neither had she considered herself as a person that would do so in the future. The self-reassurance for that came a while after she had spent a couple of minutes staring at a low bedside table with a drawer. It was seemingly well-crafted, fulfilled an obvious necessity given her recent moving into a college studio that contained a bed, closet, and desk along with an office chair. It came with a price she could afford. Nevertheless, she walked away, since the object that had her attention for several moments was scrutinised with interest by a more possible buyer. She would not get between the furniture and the peculiar man; after all, there was no logic behind the specific choice. As soon as she reached the market atrium, she took a right turn, leaving behind her the local florist, and then a left turn, to head to the cafĂŠ at the end of the far corridor. Flowers were not her predilection, but she could not help noticing the vivid yellow of the lilies that dominated the space with their simplistic aromatic palette. Whilst in the queue to get a cup of coffee she saluted a joyful triad of her peers at the School of Mathematics, pretended to check her mobile phone for new emails, and got off to the opposite direction in which they went. She had asked for a couple of ice cubes in her boiling-hot coffee so that she could start drinking it right away. Sipping her chosen beverage greedily her path brought her, once again, in front of the bed-side

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MindScape

table; the one with the drawer, which she was looking at moments ago. The adjacent litter bin facilitated the process as it enabled her to free her left hand from the paper cup. Valérie gave to the salesman the amount that the ticket read, and with her hands afresh occupied with the bed-side table, left the market – as she frequented – from the opening that she entered it. It was not till very late at night, after she had unpacked her suitcase, and tidied her clothes in the order she preferred in the closet, that she noticed her new possession. Tired as she was, she pushed it gently next to her bed. Then, she aligned it with the wall and took the price tag off. Valérie turned off the light from the string hanging over her head, and while lying on the bed, set the alarm clock on her mobile phone, and placed it in the drawer. The hollow sound of the alarm signified the wake-up time several hours later. Valérie opened the drawer with her left hand, took out the disturbing device and silenced it. As she sat on her bed to better look around for the bathroom – she always needed a couple of days to get used to a new studio – she noticed a neatly folded piece of paper inside the still-open drawer. With a half grace she took the piece of paper out and unfolded it. The printed letters read; ADDITION I do not question whether I am happy or unhappy. Yet there is one thing that I keep gladly in mind – that in the great addition (their addition that I abhor) that has so many numbers, I am not one of the many units there. In the final sum I have not been calculated. And this joy suffices me. Constantine P. Cavafy, 1897 A note in the margin stated, Uncalculated exist so many other ‘’units’’ and it might just need their sum – that you so much abhor – to turn

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Addition

your momentary joy into happiness. This margin is too narrow for me to explain – Che fece... il gran rifiuto. The sheet carried a page number in the middle of the bottom of the page on each side and had the marks of the book binding on one edge. It had a yellowish hue and although the linear marks from the folding had the minimum of consequences on its quality, it was evident that the specific page was turned back and forward several times. Although the note was written in pencil, there were traces of ink on the edge of the page opposite the binding side, possibly from a stamp. Valérie was astonished by every possible bit of information that the sheet carried. She carefully folded it back to the way she had found it, and while getting dressed consciously repeated the words of the prose, and the words of the comment; the first because they described in detail her current feelings, and the latter because they provided a presumable altera pars, of which she could not think. There was another reason related to the repetitive mumbling of the commentary. The statement that was used by the commentator to excuse his or her inadequacy for explanation was used some centuries ago by her beloved mathematician Pierre de Fermat. She was exploring his number theory for her doctorate diploma. The marks, the hue, the page numbers, the Latin phrase – or maybe signature – she would eagerly devote her spare time to explore.

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MindScape

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Addition

Her favourite pair of jeans laid half on the bed and half on the side of it. Resting on the carefully straightened quilt, neatly arrayed were her underwear and tights. On top of the trousers, the freshly ironed off-white shirt concluded her outfit choice for the day. Right where the jeans ended, a pair of beige bow trimmed ballet flats were neatly waiting for Valérie to finish the Sunday morning shower. Although nothing odd took place during her morning routine, she noticed a faint smile in the mirror while observing herself. The surprise was not the good mood; after all the free day could easily explain that. It was not the smile, either; often enough she caught herself doing that very expression. But looking at herself in the mirror was definitely something that was not happening frequently. During the walk toward the café, where she enjoyed having breakfast, a sudden thought made her force her pace slightly into the University bookshop she used to buy mathematics books at when she was studying for the bachelor degree. A few words and a visit to the till later, she became the owner of the first poetry collection she had ever bought: The Selected Poems of Cavafy. The edition was less worn, and definitely newer to the one of which she possessed just one poem. Its reading took her through morning to lunchtime, and to the evening, leaving the café table occupied for several hours and Valérie enchanted throughout the pages. The sense of dignity and the forbidden joys in the prose, the casual irony and self-critique of the poet, and the ghost of the chance to track down the mysterious commentator with whom she already felt that she shared a lot activated the mechanisms of her brain with unprecedented exuberance. As a mathematics researcher she felt perfectly capable of constructing a method leading to the solution. The notions she dealt with on an everyday basis were much more vague. A memory of her childhood kept appearing in her mind. Her father used to say that no matter how

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MindScape

small the possibility might seem, there is always a way toward it, on the presumption that the will and the reason behind the chase both exist. The smell of the house in which she grew up returned to her. She always used to make that same connection between her childhood memories and the smells that were around back then. It filled her with confidence. The will to analyse the facts, come up with an approach, source the additional information that she would need and combine everything into the appropriate result to finally get what she wanted was strong. The reason was much simpler. It was intrigue.

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Addition

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MindScape

Some hundreds of thousands of search results appeared on the laptop computer screen. ValĂŠrie scrolled through the numerous web pages with astonishment. The poetry of Cavafy held a high position in the preferences of the public. Given his origin, the language in that he wrote the poems, the sexual background, and the fact that he died some seventy-five years ago, his reputation was high; perhaps a lot higher than she could foresee. Patiently, she kept organised notes on what she read and kept on her computer hard disk anything that could prove useful.

She could nearly read the series of letters on her face, accurately described by the little squares of the keyboard; a little bit of Q on the side of her nose, then R-T-Y on her right cheekbone, S and F loosely on her cheek, and the upper left angle of the space bar next to her lips. Her laptop keyboard deliberately carried the relief of each letter, to facilitate her working late at night, sometimes with really minimal lighting, and sometimes solely with the light of the screen, but she had never had the imprints of those relieves on her face before. She had usually resisted her exhaustion to fight off sleep at when she was working on her graph modelling, so her sleeping on the keyboard was another thing that was happening for the first time, one of the many she had experienced during that weekend. The good thing was that all the bits of information that she had retrieved previously that morning were there intact: analyses over analyses of the work of Cavafy, dozens of biographic references, notes of the prevailing themes in the poems, images of him, and Alexandria, even a series of paintings on his poems by a renowned English artist. The bad thing was that she had to run to get to the office on time. She closed the laptop screen, quickly collected her hand-written notes, put everything in her bag and headed to the door. In a moment of hesitation, ValĂŠrie remembered the piece of paper she kept all the user-names and passwords she had been using to enter

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Addition

several poetry fora the previous night, picked it up from the desk and ran to her office. She was late. Valérie spent her nights trying to find information on Cavafy and his poetry. During the day, she would devote herself in research about number theory. She shared an office with three colleagues studying other areas of mathematics. Diane was about the same age as Valérie. She was good-looking and interested in all kinds of activities. It would not be rare to see her rushing to Latin dance sessions, right after she had finished rowing practice. Christian was equally energetic. In fact, most of the times they would spend hours with Diane in participating into every party or special day that the university colleges would organise. He was a member of numerous committees and extremely popular among peers. Alexandre was the most mysterious member of the triad. Quiet and polite, he divided his time between mathematics research and cultural happenings. He preferred a vintage style for his outfit, so Christian used to call him by the names of historic persons. The three of them had never gone out with Valérie, regardless of them inviting her often to join them. Their most usual meeting outside the office was taking place randomly outside of a café, or in the street. That day was not an exemption from the rule. As soon as it was time for them to leave the office, each one went toward a different way. Valérie was eager to continue the routine she had put herself into. Cavafy, poetry and the quest for the unknown commentator were targets she would not easily quit looking for. She could see the circles around her eyes bolder every day due to the lack of sleep, but she was determined to solve the mystery.

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MindScape

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Addition

Valérie felt that everything that could possibly be found on the Internet about Cavafy and his poetry, she had found during her late-night searches. Most of them she had saved on her laptop computer hard drive. For some, she would write organised notes in a notebook she kept for this purpose. She occasionally reread the poetry book she had bought the previous weekend, in an attempt to visualise how the unknown commentator would look, what were his thoughts when writing the note, and the reasons behind leaving it in the forgotten drawer. The aim had been shifted. It was not about the poetry as such anymore. It was clearly about the identity of the author behind the note. That was the reason she had gone on the web-page of the university library and asked for copies of poetry books that had Cavafy’s Addition inside. The poetry librarian asked questions. Valérie provided answers. The librarian arranged that she would consult the books that Friday morning. The truth was that all she was looking for was a book that was missing a specific page. Had she found it, she would ask for the list of people who had looked at it before. She was hoping that if she found the book and the list, the latter would have not been that long. Then, the task would be to go backwards in time on the list, and find that for which she was looking. While walking toward the library, she avoided thinking about her next step in the event everything did not work out the way she wanted it. Instead, she kept a slow pace and had an eye on the contents of each shop display she was passing by. At first it was a central bookshop that got her attention with its colourful array of popular reading matter. Books of all sizes and on every possible subject were on display. Recipes, biographies of semi-famous people, the latest best-sellers, even devices on which one could read digital pages flickered in front of her eyes. A faint smile appeared on her lips. She thought of how impressive it was that people were buying books about themes that up until a moment before were not in their interest just because the cover was of a vivid

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MindScape

fuchsia, or the proportions of their dimensions were irregular. Her thoughts were interrupted by the acute smell coming out of the adjacent sandwich shop. Freshly baked baguettes had been in an olfactory dance with the brewing of the coffee. All her smell sensors focused on that combination. She almost tasted melting butter on the bread, followed by a brief sip of espresso to conclude the morning gastronomic symphony. She forced her pace, only to discover that there was music coming out of the classical music shop. Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird added an almost dramatic amatory tone to her day. So ecstatic was she about the piece that she nearly tripped on the homeless man who frequented that corner. Nevertheless, she was not affected by this. On the contrary, as soon as she touched the rough stone to prevent from falling, she could not help returning to the moment of her first kiss outside the door of that very college. She would have stopped and started her ordinary day-dreaming about the night she would never forget but the library entrance was only a few steps away and her unexpectedly brisk walk had by now brought her into the main foyer. Valérie showed her library card to the receptionist and walked into the building. She made a right turn and headed toward the Languages Reading Room, where she had arranged to meet the librarian. He was waiting for her, next to a low pile of books. After the proofing of her identity card, he granted her the freedom to look at the books. She went to the same page, volume after volume. No page was missing out of any book. She spotted the edition of the book that the page she possessed was part of. She started reading the poem. There was no comment at the bottom of the page. Valérie sighed. At least she knew that it was a relatively new publication. That meant that her quest would not go beyond a certain time in the past. She got up from the chair in which she was sitting. Her breath became deeper, almost as if she wanted to inhale the air of the Reading Room, in case that would help her make the right decision on

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Addition

how to move forward. The librarian came. Valérie asked him whether those were all the books in the university libraries that she could have access to. He replied affirmatively. There was something about that man. Not only had he shown a special interest in finding what she had asked him to look for but he seemed willing to further help her with anything she needed. Alas, Valérie did not ask for anything else. She thanked him and made her way to the door; the one she had used to enter a few minutes earlier. “There is always the Poetry Library in London if you want to check there for whatever it is that you are looking for”, the librarian said in a rather loud tone. “Thank you for that”, Valérie replied. A joyful grin formed on her face once again. A phonecall to the office and a bus ticket purchase later, she was on the bus on her way to London.

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MindScape

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Addition

She showed her return ticket to the driver, and made herself comfortable to the seat. Most seats were empty. It was well after peak hour. Most people were already at home. Only a few needed to use the bus at that time. Valérie was looking forward to returning to her room. A day that started with optimism and continued with hope ended with great disappointment. The words of the librarian were still swirling in her head; “We only focus on poetry published in the Isles, dear”. How could she not find that out before going there? She had not found the courage to stay for a while. She did not leave the building from the same door that she entered it either. There was no need for stupid superstition anymore. She started walking in the city with no apparent destination. Having the river on her left hand side, she kept going till she found the first bridge and crossed it. Her pace was slow and uncertain. Valérie had only a dull image of the streets she was trying to lose herself in. The poem returned to her. How could she possibly fall for something like this? She blamed her simple mind for not keeping the promise she gave to herself. “I will never-ever believe that a premonition will change my life.” That came after she had broken up with her last boyfriend. He might have been the one responsible for the kiss outside that college door and for many other moments that she would never forget. Yet, leaving her for someone else with the excuse that his dreams did not match hers was something she would never forgive. What did he know about her dreams, anyway? Maybe that was the problem, after all. She repeated the promise once more. The path she followed brought her to Covent Garden. She adored that place. She could get lost in the shops, hunting for curiosities and spent hours there. Then she would have lunch to the sounds of a street musician. She would definitely have a coffee afterwards; perhaps a desert, as well. But she did none of these. She stayed for a while, went around the square, felt that her mood did not fit in the place and left. It is doubtful

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whether she would ever be able to trace her path, but, somehow, she arrived somewhere between Chinatown and Soho. She noticed that it was the time when everybody had finished work and started the weekend. The smell of beer and food coming out of the pubs did not disgust her this time as they used to. It was easier for Valérie to keep going forward when nobody was paying attention to her. On the other hand, she would love to join in, meet people, eat and drink with them and then leave. But she did none of these. She was more confused than in need of socialising. Some hours after her initial departure from the poetry library she was on the bus heading home. She opened her laptop and the screen woke to the webpage that she was looking at when she arrived in London early in the afternoon. It was the home page of the library she visited. She clicked on an online application which was meant to be used by people who wanted to write a poem on the Internet. Valérie started picking the words that were available in the application and put them in the right order. She had managed to finish the poem just before the bus arrived to her destination. It was not that she wrote something on her own. She spent her time looking in the application for the particular words that Cavafy used for one of his poems, which she memorised eagerly. As soon as she clicked on “Done” the application asked for a list of recipients for the poem. She chose to send it to her colleagues, whose email addresses she could remember by heart. A minute before she got off the bus, the sent email read, THE CITY You said, “I will go to another land, I will go to another sea. Another city will be found, better than this. Every effort of mine is condemned by fate; and my heart is -- like a corpse -- buried. How long in this wasteland will my mind remain. Wherever I turn my eyes, wherever I may look I see the black ruins of my life here,

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where I spent so many years, and ruined and wasted.� New lands you will not find, you will not find other seas. The city will follow you. You will roam the same streets. And you will age in the same neighbourhoods; in these same houses you will grow grey. Always you will arrive in this city. To another land -- do not hope -there is no ship for you, there is no road. As you have ruined your life here in this little corner, you have destroyed it in the whole world. Constantine P. Cavafy ,1910

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Alexandre was walking to the office in a rather upbeat mood for a Monday. The coffee in one hand and his bag on the opposite shoulder did not make his pace slower. Although he knew that he had a long day ahead, he was happy. The fact that he had just got a message from Christian saying that Diane and him would not show up at the office, made him more relaxed. It was not that he did not like them. On the contrary, he would go out with them at least a couple of times each week. But they would go to bars or restaurants or concerts. He did not have a problem when speaking there. In the office, there was no music or noise. He was not good with chatting. With Valérie it was different. She was also from abroad, so whenever they were talking together none of them would notice any odd phrases. It was not that the others would pick on that. He was just feeling uncomfortable. Yet, that Monday was different. He had even arrived five minutes earlier than usual. The door was open. “Good morning, Valérie. Aren’t you a bit early today?” “Good morning. I wanted to do a bit of the work I had left behind on Friday, and delete some e-mails I sent to everybody.” “What e-mails?” “You ‘ll see. You arrived before I started deleting them.” “Write-a-Rhyme app? Have you been to the poetry library?” “Yes.” “Do you want me to delete it without reading it?” “No, it’s fine. Everybody else will see it anyway.” Alexandre read the poem word by word. He looked like he was indulging in every line. He even nodded while reading. Valérie laughed. “What?” “Sorry Alexandre, it is you that should be the one laughing.” “Why?”

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“I feel a little bit embarrassed.” “... Are you into Cavafy?” “Do you know about him?” “A bit.” “I see.” “There’s a poetry night tonight, and I’m attending. I think they are reading Cavafy, among others. Would you like to join me?” “Where?” “Does it matter?” “What time?” “Does it matter?” “Not really, I was just taking the time to think about it.” “It’s at the Roehampton Chess. It starts at eight.” “Isn’t that the weird chess centre in the university campus?” “Yes, the poetry event is in the Queen’s theatre.” “So, we can be on time if we leave at our regular time. Good. I wouldn’t like to work any fewer hours today. Friday off was enough.” “Are you coming then?” “Yes.” “Great! Back to work now, I don’t want to make you feel more guilty.” Valérie smiled; Alexandre as well. The rest of the day went without noticing, except for the lunch break when he was a little more attentive than usual. He blamed her joining him for the first time for that. She really felt comfortable with him. Around six o’clock, they were on their way to the train station. Valérie took a seat opposite Alexandre in the bus, just as she had done on the train. He said that it was a short journey to the campus and that they would use the south east entrance, as it was the most beautiful in terms of the surroundings. She certainly understood what he meant as soon as they approached it. Nature was overwhelming. It was starting to get darker and all

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she could see were the gentle shapes of the trees and the little lights appearing from the quaint buildings. They went through a garden to a small lake in which the reflection of the surroundings was starting to merge with the dark colour of the water. None of them spoke a word. Alexandre had his usual thoughtful expression and seemed calm to her. Valérie pretended to pay attention to the spectacular shadows in the lake, yet he was almost sure that she was nervous about something. He thought that perhaps her not being used to such events made her anxious about it. When it was time to go, he started wandering slowly towards the Chess. She followed him with a smile, as if she was approving his decision to go. Valérie was a remarkable chess player according to her father, who had been her constant and only opponent. Her anxiety about the place was partially because of the memory of her slow vacation days when they used to play with her father in the back yard. She thought that it would be nice to go back for a couple of days to see her parents and her sister. Maybe she would arrange it for the next weekend. The smell of their kitchen at the house she grew up returned to her once again. The path that lead to the building interrupted her mind travel. Made completely out of a plastic material, the skin of Chess blended with the path towards it, with no clear definition of shape, neither a specific determination of what was a wall, and what was the roof. Valérie imagined the pieces sliding from corner to corner in a choreography of moves that lead toward a definite checkmate. She asked Alexandre to take a picture with her using her mobile phone. “Beautiful.” “Indeed.” “Have you been here before Alexandre?” “A couple of weeks ago. Another poetry night.” “You are into it then,” she smiled. “... Do you want to see the King’s theatre? It’s double

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the size to the one we are going. If you are lucky enough, we’ll find people playing.” “Bien sur.” Although they took a devious inclined path that changed levels all the time, Alexandre seemed to know very well how to lead the way. They arrived at a kind of inner courtyard with several dazzling series of evolving concrete staircases. Valérie started to wonder whether she had stopped day-dreaming and the succession of voids, concrete and levels was real or not. “Are you coming? The best view is from the top row. Prepare to climb the rotating steps!” Each step was a different move, each position a different angle. She could clearly look inside the theatre now, a dedicated pair was playing. She could see the room below as well. People having a drink. She was at the last step. Alexandre touched her shoulders gently. “Are you OK? You look a bit lost.” “I’m fine. Just enjoying the place. Photo?” “Only one, it’s ten to.” “One is enough. Smile!” The way she fell into his arms was an unprecedented event for both. Alexandre did not expect her like that. She seemed so distant. Valérie did not believe that she had started liking him or that she acted this way. She used to be closer to him, than she was to the others but never thought of him in that way. “Back to the courtyard, then to the level below, then up, then down, a glass of wine for the reading time, then down, then up!” “Seriously now?...” “Oh yes.”

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Diagonal path after diagonal path, and square after square, she felt like she was participating in a chess game. If only he could... no, she would not even think about it. A dozen or a bit more had already been in the theatre. A girl was reading a poem Valérie could not understand. When she finished, people clapped. Then the next orator went to the middle of the arena. He started reading something from Baudelaire. Even though the theatre was significantly smaller on one side, it still had some of the qualities of the one they had visited briefly. Valérie thought that the more neutral the surfaces and planes, the more one could concentrate on the game or the readings by others. “It’s your turn.” “For?...” “Aren’t you reading anything tonight?” “Do I have to?” “Well, that’s the point,” Alexandre smiled. “Here, take my book. It’s your beloved Cavafy’s poetry.” She took the book from his hands and headed to the reading area. She already knew which one she would read. She noticed that she was holding a book of a relatively new edition, with an ink mark on the side. Her heart started to beat faster. She opened the book to find Addition. The page was missing. She could see the relief of the pencil note on the next page. Valérie stopped breathing for a moment. She touched the relief with her fingers, then turned the pages and started reading: CHE FECE... IL GRAN RIFIUTO A day comes to some people when they must pronounce the great Yes or the great No. It is instantly clear who has the Yes within, ready; and by uttering it, he crosses over to his honor and conviction. The one who refuses has no remorse. If asked again, he’d say no again. And yet that No — the right No — weighs him down to his life’s end.

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Constantine P. Cavafy, 1901 The rest clapped. She started walking slowly back to her seat, with her head down. “My god, you are pale!...” “No, I’m good.” “Sure?” “Is this your book?” “Yes, I gave it to you a while ago. Don’t you remember?” “I mean... How long have you had it for?” “Don’t know, a year or so. I got it from a bookshop in London. Why?” “Nothing, it’s a good edition. I like the fact that every poem has a leaf on its own, none on the back pages, you know.” “Huh?” Valérie smiled at him. They waited for the last to finish and walked to the door. She was silent all the way back home. Her eyes were looking out of the window of the train all the time. Alexandre was not very satisfied with the scene. He would expect at least a conversation. As soon as the train stopped she grabbed his hand and started walking to the exit. It was a clear night sky in the little town, of the kind they did not see often there. He would not leave her hand. He would not even make any move of his fingers. She was also enjoying the moment. Her eyes were sparkling. He would definitely walk her to her door. She unlocked the door and turned on the light. She would not leave his hand. “Where did you get that table from?” “The furniture guy in the market. Why?” “I had a similar one last year. Left it outside the flat when I left for vacation.” “You also left this inside, I think.” Valérie turned off the light.

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