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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Kaleidoscopic Realms Under Scrutiny

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Excerpted without permission from my as yet unwritten autobiography “The Ruminator’s Manual”, a dissertation locked away in the mental vaults.

In a strange twist of introspection, people are into full disclosure these days — or at least the auspices of it. They want to come clean and be all sparkly. It lends more credibility to their cause, particularly in an environment of discovery, sufficiently interlaced with wild paranoiac suspicion. We feel that if we can seem like we’re being true to ourselves by not leaving anything out, we’ll get closer to finding the jackpot of truth where there will be fabulous prizes.

As part of my tell-all, I must divulge that in college I used to plagiarize from entire articles for term papers. But then I would cleverly disguise them by changing all of the words. Passages from scientific journals such as: “The schemata of pure concepts of understanding are a priori time determinations and as such they are a transcendental product of the pure power of imagination” became instead: “rampant use of Paleolithic syllogism belies its direct antithesis in hegemonic serendipity for the sake of haphazard trendsetting algorithms.” Initially, no one suspected a thing. But over time, my professors started catching on to what I was doing. So then I had to start writing them in foreign languages to keep them on their toes. Unfortunately, it brought even more attention to my papers when I began handing them in in obscure dialects of Farsi, but I continually adapted and came out mostly unscathed, give or take a few emotional bruises.

Mischief begets further mischief, and so I would compensate for this wanton literary behavior of mine by sometimes plagiarizing myself. I would frequently quote things I’d said without citing the reference. I might say: “Someone famous once remarked…” and then I’d use one of my own quotes without owning up to it. I figure I should be able to sue some famous people over this if I never earn a living through normal writing. But also it’s a potential way of applying carbon imprints. The options are still open.

Now a confession about this blog. Though you might not be able to tell, I’ve been plagiarizing from Noah Webster all this time. They’re all his words, not mine. At first I thought it was a cute little joke, but then I got power hungry and it became an obsession. I’d pilfer an “elucidate” here or a “gallimaufry” there, and before you knew it, I was hoarding thousands of verbs and adjectives that didn’t rightly belong to me. I fooled myself into thinking that seldom-used terms such as “fungible”, “paucity” and “rapscallion” were my personal possessions. I became a veritable narcissistic Noah-do-well.

And* so*, to* arrive* full* circle*, I* must* give* credit* where* credit* is* due*. (*-borrowed from Webster’s 9th, 10th and 11th Collegiate Dictionaries. I promise to give them back later.) The esteemed lexicographers are the ones who deserve the accolades. This is not my beautiful house… This is not my beautiful blog… In fact, my pseudo-ghost writer has been channeling Noah Webster’s great-great-grandson for all his ideas. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was… 

And this is not to say that I might not still be hoarding a few pet terms as we speak. I am willing to fess up, but I didnt say I was rehabilitated yet. It’s hard to stop once you start, and I expect I’ll have copyright infringement cases brought against me for these discretions.

Sometimes you find you have to say more than what is asked in order to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, because surely you wouldn’t want to tell part of the falsehood and something of the falsehood. When asked for my favorite color, such as in job interviews, biographical sketches or counter-intelligence interrogations, part of me feels like asking if I have to pick only one. Maybe they’re trying to trick me into saying lavender, like my more plaintive side would be wont to do. Thus, I like to answer a question with a more valid question. What if I happen to like all the colors in equitable fashion? For all they know, I might be an equal opportunity hue aficionado. Mauve needs some love, for one. And I’m continually nostalgic for Burnt Sienna, from my early crayon days. Or Chartreuse. Also notice that I respect these colors enough to capitalize them. And then I’m kind of partial to Wisteria. Yet (and this is key) not so much that I shun the other just-as-worthy selections in the process.

It’s so hard to narrow them down, with all these good choices. When you ask me about the color scale, it’s not something I take lightly. So if you want to know which color I consider to be preeminent among all the rest, I’m going to take it personally and it’s going to require some serious introspection. Consequently, you need to be prepared for a rather involved response. (actually, I guess this is probably true of most any subject that one might ask of me, but let’s just start with colors for now)

A world without color would be rather bland. We wouldn’t know it was bland, but it would still be bland nonetheless. It would be a case of the bland leading the bland. In short, the quality of bland would not be escapable.

It’s curious to consider that Web pages support such an ambitious dose of 16 million colors. Sounds cool to say that. Because that would be a lot, and stuff. However, upon further review, it’s rather nonsensical, in that our eyes can’t really differentiate anywhere near that many colors anyway. We would be just as well off with a few thousand, but then it wouldn’t sound as impressive. Sometimes less is more. Or usually. High definition to creatures with relatively poor vision is much worse than hindsight. I read that on a matchbook once. In a dream. While unconscious. So don’t quote me on that.

When I used to color, going way back to my school days at Willits High, we got by nicely with a box of just 64 color crayons, thank you very much. If a person didn’t want yellow but didn’t want green either… voila! there was yellow-green to come in and save the day. If we were really in a bind, we’d make up colors, such as “skin color”, the informal color pushed by adolescents across the world. These were the epitome of shade convenience, within the glorious rainbowic confines of a waxed writing instrument. 
As we vacillate between life’s assorted tints, many billions of people have been desperately in a search for the truth, or something to tell them they don’t need to look. We’re in a perpetual existential hunt for that perfect color array, which causes me to think that if anyone had found it and were able to systematically convey his or her precise methodology and results, everybody else would have a firm grasp on it too. That not being the case, no one has honed in on a truth which they can adequately convey in a definitive way that is believable in a fully public sense, because people aren’t like that. There is no science to art, and we are a painting. Which then means that at least up till now, the only feasible method of apprehending the truth is through introspection, very personally, each person making the ultimate discovery on his or her own. Souls can be guided to the precipice, but if they are pushed off without intending to jump, they discover nothing. They have to make the leap on their own accord. So for those who have consciously made the leap, we’re on our way down into the mysterious canyon enjoying the scenery and the ride together. Hang on! Anyway, much better than endlessly deliberating up at the top.

Life is a strange tapestry of highs and lows, ins and outs. And when you think you’ve got things figured out, another layer unravels. There’s no end to the nuances, the flavors, the angles, the struggles, the surprises, the monotony, the bright spots, the revelations, the moments when you connect with something or someone, and the places your imagination will let you soar. A plethora, even.

As with any other inquiry in the didactic realm, this can lead into another discussion of free will vs. determinism, with the oddsmakers placing determinism as a 6-point underdog. The game is on determinism’s home field this year, and the home crowd is pretty raucous, but that still doesn’t help all that much, as their team is without many skill players, not to mention the coach is always forcing the players to do things against their own volition.

Free will means having real options, at least some of the time, or in some situations. Not necessarily always. Determinism means having no options, ever. For this reason, determinists shouldn’t be allowed to vote. On anything. After all, they think that the decision is already made for them, so what’s the difference to them if that’s what they truly believe? To be a determinist is to self-contradict oneself all of your life. They believe in determinism enough to pay it allegiance, yet not enough to give it back the reins.

Then why are there questions? No really, why are there any questions? Why do we ask things? What is the nature of questions? Are there other things we could ask besides questions? If I keep asking more and more questions, does it give you the impression that I might know the answers to them? I didn’t think so.

I like how much of news these days is posed in the form of a question to draw attention to it, to tease, and to generate discussion. Questions apparently are more exciting than mere statements on the same topics. Compare: “Is there life on other planets?” with the less dramatic “It’s unknown if there’s life on other planets.” With the question, it leaves it open-ended, as if someone might swoop in at the last minute and give a definitive answer while nobody’s looking.

But ultimately this means that I just so happen to know the answer to every question, which is: “It’s unknown.” Can the Yankees hold off Baltimore? It’s unknown. Was Miley Cyrus really in a nightclub fight? It’s unknown. How have these celebrities aged? It’s unknown. Where are the best travel destinations? It’s unknown. What are the movies to see this weekend? It’s unknown. What’s the plot of Desperate Housewives? It’s unknown. Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? It’s unknown. Nobody knows, and everybody’s guessing. But they’re willing to throw the question out there for argument’s sake, and then pretend that they hold the solution. That’s what being provocative is all about. The question provokes interest.

And then ever notice how “for the sake of argument” likewise translates into “it’s unknown”? See, I told you it’s a fun game to know ahead of time what the answer is going to be. If somebody ever uses the qualifier “arguably” in a statement, that’s also code for “it’s unknown.” See how easy it all is? Oops, sorry for asking it. You don’t see how easy it is. You can’t know the magnitude of how easy a process is. And it’s likewise unknown if these are in fact the exact droids you’re so patently obsessed with finding. Move right along…

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