26 June, 2006

Read a book!

One of the problems with being poorly-read is that the occasional flashes of insight you might have on any particular subject are fragmented and disconnected, and at best represent pinpoints of understanding in what is most probably a vast corpus that has been explored and assembled into a huge body of knowledge and theory by hundreds of people, most of whom were far more clever than you are.

Exemplis gratia: I was about to write something for myself relating to something else* when it occurred to me that there's really no mode of writing or speech that allows you to actually write to yourself. You're always writing to an imagined audience, maybe of a necessity since the whole enterprise of speech and writing involves communication, and one can't very well communicate something to one's self without a touch of dissociative identity disorder.

I thought this was a clever bit of insight, and I was about to congratulate myself on it and explore it further when it occurred to me that someone else had probably thought of it sometime in the fifteenth century and written a treatise on the subject. This was so disheartening that I immediately gave up thinking about it. Most of my interesting trains of thought are wrecked in this fashion.

* No, you can't know what.


when writing to myself, i get rid of most pronouns. point of view doesn't really need to be clear so i toss it. it ends up a transdimensional broccoli with florets on more than one stem. there's no more need for hedging either because everything is already proven false by virtue of being written in a particular form. scope in general becomes much less important because honesty only requires that you change scope openly when you might otherwise be gaming the crowd. stay within the lines if it's important otherwise, no. 

Posted by hibiscus

Most of my interesting trains of thought are wrecked in this fashion.

The answer to this problem is to loudly accuse those responsible of anticipatory plagiarism.

Posted by Jon

Damnit! Even this fucking post is a rehash of yours. I should be allowed to think! 

Posted by saurabh

This is actually one of the tangential values of certain kinds of religious training. In some traditions, there is an innate value placed on the student (or teacher or writer) apparently rehashing and reworking an "old" idea in a conscientious, dedicated, sort of inspired state of mind. There's such an appreciation for being a witness (even if a temporally displaced one) to the very act of reconsideration and realization that the sequence of thoughts doesn't have to be original so much as sincere and honestly felt, and everyone who is truly involved enjoys it.

This of course stems from the notion that act of realization is itself somehow sacred for each soul, and each soul's realization is important, as opposed to some kindof historical accomplishment on behalf of all souls. Clearly this requires some idea of holiness in the first place and would work less well for forensic discussions, as among lawyers. But if you've participated in this kind of discussion a lot, either as a speaker or an eavesdropper, then I think it can  make you more of a present, attentive listener/reader, one who is always attuned to whatever tiny resonance is unique and special in the specific speaker or writer at hand.

Wow, I tried to write that in as generic and inoffensive a way as possible, and it didn't work very well.

There's also the notion that thoughts you don't write down are thoughts you lose. The annals of history, at some level, pale in comparison to the record of your mind. To some extent, and this is more relevant to blogging, that applies to your friend cicle and reader circle. I'm not going to go look up this topic in a 15th century omnibus, but I'm interested in what you, Saurabh, have to say about it--if sometimes only because you, Saurabh, are saying it. 

Posted by Saheli

What Saheli refers to sounds identical to the notions that we have embedded in our workplace and diplomas. We all begin as "apprentices" who do nothing but copy the work of those who came before. At some point we try to break out on our own, and do so in a stilted way. After struggling and constantly returning to apprenticeship, we can become masters of one small discipline or another. There is a reason that we have a "masters" degree. Of course, when I got mine, it made me giggle to think that anyone considered me a master of anything. I know I'm still an apprentice 99% of the time. As in this post, which is based on the teaching of the sharp thinker Oba T'Shaka. 

Posted by hedgehog

I might repeat to myself, slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound; if I can remember any of the damned things. 
(dorothy parker) 

Posted by hibiscus

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