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Thursday, May 20, 2004

You should read the whole thing

Whittled severely from the original, which I can't remember exactly where I saved it. Read it anyways...

I think that abstract thought just developed as part of a group-cooperation adaptation. No big deal. Just the capacity for one more degree higher of metaphorical representation than we'd have without the good old cortex. Nothing much more than a hall of mirrors which we then proceeded, forgivably enough, to get lost within.

Why are we lost in the hall? the nature of mirrors being a lovely metaphor for rational thought, as they are slices of accuracy. Confusing, misleadingly restrictive, accuracy. Like the blind men and the elephant, words may capture and pinion just the very thing to the writer, but it's only one or a few aspects of the real experience. It can never be the whole. No two people's experience of a whole is ever the same; our sensory impressions resonate in innately different chambers.

No two people's experiences of a word are the same, either, but through extensive experience and the shared intention and emotional need to communicate, we have a pretty good idea of what each other's trying to say. It is, after all, humanly evolved - I mean, we made up language out of the basic noises our bodies make, so it stands to reason its nonsense can be easy enough to get fluid and actually practical with.

So then, with all this understanding, we are stunned when one of us says one experience was surprising and refreshing, when another thought of it as staid and pedantic. We might share a similar experience of those adjectives, but clearly our experience - the same sensory input, the same sequence of events - was very different.

It reminds me of studies about the inaccuracy of eyewitness testimony. People will swear up and down they saw such completely different events, and memory gets fucked with by leading questions and subsequent associations. With fuzzy grey mushboxes like these, it's a wonder we can operate elevators, much less program computers, and spell. In line with this amazing line of reasoning, to employ clean clear logic is to impose right angles and geometrically perfect parallel lines on a nature that has no such things. We are all parkinson's patients trying to grasp experience; all cute fwagile widdle butterfwies who'd believe our crayola paper wings to be stained glass.

I had a friend once who thought herself into a deep depression for at least a month over the fact that nature contains no so-called perfect geometric shapes; that the human intellect has invented that malarky and imposed it on a roundish, lumpy, formerly happy world, and it's the root of all that's wrong with us.

We're not built to think clearly, though we seem to be born with an understanding (the curse of knowing too much?) of what clear logic and "perfect" "ideal" reasoning are like. Our reach there is certainly greater than our grasp; our eyes, bigger than what we can really stomach. Our impressions, our unruly little id, our impulsive desires all squashed under the square-edged cookie-cutter matrix of logic. Meanwhile, we'd rather be stretching or sleeping, really. When your shiniest toy is a hammer, everything casts the reflection of a nail.

The logical Form has no margin for the fitful impulses of the animal self. Strunk and White have no allowance for those of us who bang on the keyboard as a means of expressing frustration, even though it sure gets the job done.