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I Have Become Java, Destroyer of Words

Everything happens for a reason.

It’s not my place to ask why.

I take the sheets as they come to me, one at a time, and make my marks in pencil, two along each edge. I join the marks to create a frame. I measure 5mm from the bottom of each line and then 2mm above that and mark them off as well. I place a ruler along the first line and cut along its edge with an Xacto knife, mindful of the Target.

Sometimes, the Target is easy to spot. If it’s a letter with an ascender or descender, p for instance, it catches my eye like a little hook. I lift the knife before I reach it, skip over it, and then continue cutting. But some Targets like to hide. They play tricks on the eye. H is a gregarious Target; it mingles easily with commoners such as t and e and hangs on the words of sophisticates like g and p. Such a Target is smooth to the eye, like a polished pebble. Even when I read the line to myself I sometimes miss it. Such a Target is trouble.

It’s ok to miss a Target once. Each Target is held by strips running along its top and bottom. Once I’ve cut both, then I turn the page on its side and make short cuts along the edges and around the target, lifting out the freed bits carefully with the point of the Xacto and storing them in a bag. One never knows when one might need a letter. If I miss a Target twice, top and bottom, and it is cut free, that is a Bug and there is nothing I can do but start over.

At first, the process was novel and filled with discovery. I learned to score the paper before cutting it and, inspired by Adam Smith and Frederick Taylor, I sought to divide my tasks by type—scanning, measuring, marking, cutting, vertical, horizontal—and thereby increase my efficiency. This, however, proved so boring that I lost interest and quickly found my work infested with Bugs. I returned to the original loop: measure, mark, cut, turn, cut, free, and repeat.

I worked for 23 hours, so you might think that I could recite the words I was cutting around by heart. The truth is that not once did I read what I was working on. I actually couldn’t tell you what the text I was reading was about or even if it was a text at all. All I can tell you is that when I found a Target, I cut around it.

Intention lives outside of the ALgorithm.


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