I encountered this fragment by Stanislaw Lem that resonates with many things I have been reading recently, now helped by Lem’s clarity and humour. It is from the short story “Jak Mikromił i Gigacyan ucieczkę mgławic wszczęli ?” which translates as “How did Mikromił and Gigacyan launch the nebulae ?”, and it first appeared in 1964 in the original Polish in the collection “Bajki robotów” (“Robots’ Fables”). In 1977 it was published in English as “How Microx and Gigant Made the Universe Expand” as part of the collection “Mortal Engines”.
The fragment goes as follows:
‘I can assemble anything that enters my head,’ said Microx. ‘But on the other hand not everything enters it. This limits me, as it does you—for we are unable to think of everything there is to think of, and it may well be that some other thing, not the thing which we think up and which we make, is worthier of execution! What say you to this?’
‘You are right, of course,’ Gigant replied. ‘Yet what can we do about it?’
‘Whatever we create, we create from matter,’ answered Microx, ‘and in it are contained all possibilities. If we contemplate a house, we build a house, if a crystal palace—then a palace we fashion, if a thinking star, we design a brain of flame—and this too we are able to construct. However there are more possibilities in matter than in our heads; the thing to do, then, is provide matter with a mouth, that it may tell us itself what else can be created from it, which would never cross our minds!’