Metamechanica by Lisa Sagrati

     We are strolling post-prandially through the old-fashioned town center. One of the homeless guys is approaching, the one who wears braces on his sore-riddled legs and whose shopping cart sports a bumper sticker declaring "I served in Vietnam." Morris says he doesn't look old enough.

     "But being homeless must age a person prematurely."

     "That doesn't make any sense."

     We nod at him as we pass. He is, after all, our neighbor, and in many respects less obnoxious than the tourists who fill this town with their bad driving and false car alarms and screaming children and petulant demands for weak, watery coffee.

     The alleged veteran stops and says, "There's a machine in my head, that thinks my thoughts for me." He is gazing off to the side of us, either because he is distracted by internal clicks and whirs or because he doesn't expect us to listen, doesn't want to invest too much hope that we will hear him.

     "I'm sorry," I say.

     He darts a glance at me, then stares off at the courthouse square again. "It's so loud I can't hear my own thoughts."

     Morris is interested now. Perhaps the guy is someone he could get all quantum-philosophical, all perhaps-the-laws-of-physics-are-really-the-metaphysics-of-psyche with, unlike his wife, who takes existence and consciousness at face value. "Is the machine thinking its own thoughts? Because you began by saying it was thinking your thoughts."

     But first he's got to get his pedantry on. So the guy doesn't express himself precisely, so what? It's damn hard to think straight with a machine in your head.

     The man looks unwaveringly at Morris. "It's been thinking machine thoughts for so long, I think they're my own thoughts. That's what the machine
wants me to think." He takes a few moments to scratch an oozing knee-scab, then speaks hesitantly. "But I think my own thoughts would be happy thoughts. Not like the thoughts the machine thinks."

     Good for him. Most of us don't have the guts to complain. We just meekly tolerate the machines in our heads thinking our thoughts for us, until the day we die of regret for never having taken back our own minds.

     "Perhaps you refer to Jung's conception of 'mass-mindedness?'" Morris inquires. "In which individual perception is invaded by the reigning representations of being and value of a society, that is, conceptual norms are imposed upon us in order to obliterate and thus control the extremes of individuality? So that these unhappy thoughts you mention are the projections the weakly defended individual psyche absorbs from a society dedicated to capital accumulation within a scientific-materialist framework, rather than the pursuit of spiritual realization."

     "Um, yeah, I guess."

     "Maybe you could throw a wrench into the machine," I say.

     His face softens and glows with astonishment. "Yeah -- yeah! That's what I could do -- throw a wrench into the machine!"

     "Have a good night," we say, edging away.

About the Author:
Lisa Sagrati has published short stories and essays in Taking the Lane and on She currently lives in Arizona and is writing a novel set in her former home of Portland, Oregon.