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A Short Introduction To Syllogismatics

7 min

How (not) to make fateful decisions effectively.

This story is my submission to the Soaring Twenties Social Club's Symposium on the topic of “Regret".

Dear wanderer,

This story has quite a sporadic origin and sprouted from some recent personal observations, musings, and journal entries, as well as an overheard sentence in one YouTube video about weird discrepancies in the various translations of the last sentence in the 4th story of the 7th day in Boccaccio's Decameron. Although the video has no relation to the story whatsoever, I considered it important to mention why the story you're about to read even exists. The overheard sentence, completely taken out of context, goes like this, translated to English:

"...I was happy, but only in the way a person is happy who, after struggling with packing for a journey to a place they don't want to go at all, returns home without even reaching the station and unpacks their suitcases..."

The meaning of it has little to do with my story, but it sparked an idea for the setting, which aligned well with my ongoing urge to write everything about Tulubaika, a small village in the middle of nowhere in Russia, a quasi-place with strange events surrounding it, its residents, and those who want to go there. Yesterday, late in the evening, I sat down to write something shorter for the "Regret" Symposium instead of the bigger story I had already been working on, so I could focus on editing my next book and use that first story for the next one (because it fits better). Thus, this piece was born.

I hope you like it and I hope it's a great addition to the collection of my other Tulubaika stories.

For the curious: Here's the original Russian version. It was meant as a draft, so read at your own risk.

And the accompanying music for advance experience:

Virtual hugs,

One of Ivan Wyschnegradsky's chromatic drawings representing music through colour (courtesy of the Wyschnegradsky Association)

Even having weighed the arguments beforehand, measured the facts with a ruler across and along, laid out before you all the "cons" and "pros" in two piles, or perhaps three, four, or many—for you never know if there will be discrepancies, paradoxes, or some other undefined hodgepodge in your logic, you'll still arrive at the conclusion that the anticipation of regret can be far worse than the regret itself and have existential, practically eschatological consequences, destructive to your psyche, but extremely profitable for your psychotherapist, because the decision hasn't yet been made, the i's haven't yet been dotted, and everything can still be changed ten times over with a snap of the fingers, by simply deciding not to go anywhere, neither to Tulubaika nor from Tulubaika nor anywhere else, and either just stand still and think, think, think, fiddle with the premises, devise new justifications, find confirmations for your judgments, and then refute them yourself, or ride around in a cab circling from point A to point B, and from point B to point A (you can even veer to point C along the way, why the devil not), until you become nauseous, your head starts spinning, you collapse into a swoon, sleep for twelve hours, see a cluster of bittersweet nightmares about what an abominable muck Tulubaika is this time of year, but what a beauty those red, fiery rowan alleys are, and it's a soulful delight to gaze at them and stroll around, if, of course, you don't look under your feet and if you plug your ears with your thumbs, or otherwise you might inadvertently go bonkers from the squelching of boots and the snarling of stray dogs, and all your considerations will cease to self-consider and self-justify themselves, and you'll forget about fishing in the shallows, about the first day of school, about your first love, be it for games on the Sega, mind games, game theory or girls, about the first unlearned poem and the first skipped physics lesson, where you got a fat, parent-repelling blot of the first F, and about how on a dare with the lads you stuffed your mouth with baneberry, after which your stomach twisted, your face paled, you nearly perished, terminally-tragically, at a tender age, spent a fortnight in the hospital, but regretted nothing, not even that you cavorted with all sorts of rapscallions and ruffians, scrapped with them, played football, traded Pokémon cards, bartered May beetles on the Beatles tapes, and now, catching sight of those acquaintances on the street, you turn your face away, because God forbid they recognise you and start nattering with questions like "how are you?", "how's life?", and then answers like "all's peachy keen!", "better than yours!", "and ours is better than yours, too!", which ultimately, if it's not a zero-sum game, of course, makes each and every one of them chuffed owners of a good life, because if everyone's is better than each other's, then it means that either no one's is better, or everyone's is hunky-dory, and there's no need to regret about the future or regret the past, although in my case, in the case of regretting the future, it's much more complicated, because, if you mull it over, the past only has one version, the one that's already happened, and there won't be another one, ergo, regretting it has a negative energy conversion efficiency η (unless you have a time machine, of course), while the future has infinitely many versions (and what versions!—a whole fan of fab events), and, if we take as an initial condition the presence of free will in the subject without any evaluation of its strength (the formula for it has not yet been derived) and the absence of an entity modestly called "Fate" pecking at the subject's nape, then it becomes apparent that regretting the future not only has an emotional meaning (including a divorce with the past and nervousness due to the gnawing importance of the decision being made), a philosophical one (awareness of the finiteness of life, the infinity of outcomes and the unpredictable nature of existence), but also an applied one, because everything depends on it, on the decision being made, and where you will be (be it in Tulubaika or outside of it), and who you will be (because opportunities are different everywhere), and who you will be with (people are also different everywhere, although occasionally, it seems that they are only outwardly different), and in general, the whole future, which, like dominoes lined up in an endless row, from one light push with the pinky can take and fold up lightly jingling and fall with a thunderous crash, after which you won't have plays on the West End, but a cigarette-smelling Tulubaika cinema, where there's no popcorn, yet there are rice and egg pasties, chebureks, rowan jelly, rowan compote and kvass (rye, not rowan), instead of twelve-year-old Macallan and vintage Coca-Cola Zero, about the existence of which in Tulubaika you can only learn from the telly, if they are still shown on one of the two TV channels, and it's unclear whether you will walk hand in hand with a beautiful woman through nighttime Rome, or help the neighbour besiege a broken tractor or time-lost Carthage for weeks, or ramble through the mud on a rototiller or a topless Mustang through California with a topless lover, or listen to singing on the Day of the Dead in Mexico or to singing of the funeral service of Uncle Vanya, who died from a drunken walloping of his head with a rebar on a clear day, on which it's not half bad to hang oneself, or drink tea with Tibetan monks to a state of tea intoxication and lush, peacock-like opening of chakras, or drink shots of hawthorn tincture, hand sanitizer, surgical spirit in pairs with local boozehounds, however, to the same drunken opening of chakras wide open with eyes wide shut, when it might have been easier to decide, and you wouldn't have had to lie in insomnia, squeezing your eyelids, hoping to stop scrolling through the feed to distract your brain from scrolling through that situation, where you, a young engineer, a great inventor, did get to the Truth with your mathematical mind, shod a louse, taught a jellyfish to sing, found what cannot be found, and invented a time machine to get to the future and ask yourself, a little old chap, grey, with a cane on his knees peacefully sitting in the park on a bench, on the back of which there is a plaque with the name of your favourite teacher, looking at the birds dancing in flocks under the beeches and remembering the passionate burning of rowan alleys, rowan punch in the stomach and the will to live in his heart, approach him and stammer to ask if he regrets anything in his long life, and if so, what, not that case, by any chance, when he was riding in a cab to the airport or train or in the opposite direction or in a circle early in the morning, when he was silent and mumbled a homogeneous "uh-huh" in response to the conversational enthusiasm of the driver, who has a business in Moscow, a son is studying in London, and a castle from a Nigerian prince as an inheritance, and, listening to the otherworldly 24 préludes of Ivan Wyschnegradsky, melancholically stared out the window, massaging his temporal muscles, building up wrinkles on his forehead, which, by the way, will later be a good place to stockpile regrets (it's not for nothing that they only hatch with age), and watched the same, but still so soulful, landscapes or their grey absence unfurl around him, and could not decide whether to ask the cabbie to stop and turn around, dash back down the one-way road at one hundred and twenty, collecting potholes and boldly looking lorry drivers in the face, or to make a couple more circles round the area, because just a little more time and the reptilian brain will derive a formula for the optimal position of the "I" in space and time, the essence of which lies in a simple binary opposition: either where it, this very "I", is, or where it, this very "I", is not.



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