Sunday, January 28, 2007

Avoiding Hardening of the Categories

Comedian Steven Wright was confronted by a friend saying "Your socks don't match!"

Steven responded "Yes they do. I was going by thickness."

When my current partner, an composer/artist, came to live with me, he immediately started challenging my hardened categories.

One day I opened the kitchen cabinet to take out a glass. Jim had evidently put the clean dishes away earlier in the day. As a person who "likes" things in the Right Place, I had to stifle an annoyed complaint--the glasses and cups were "all mixed up."

However, as a person in love, I wanted to find a cautious, friendly way to make my complaint. So I looked closer, to ascertain the difference between his way and The Right Way, which involved function, not form--I keep mugs and cups on the left, glasses on the right, aligned by use, juice glasses first, then milk glasses, then tall tea glasses. This clearly represents the "natural order" for such implements. So where, I asked myself, had Jim gone so wrong?

At that point, I realized that he had used his artist's eye to group the items by color--blue glass mugs with blue drinking glasses, clear juice glasses with clear glass mugs, white coffee cups with tall white ice tea glasses. Color! He had grouped these things by color, something COMPLETELY UNRELATED to their function!

Instead of voicing my complaint, I laughed. I savored the moment, one that comes too rarely, when I come face to face with my hardened categories and have to grant their fabrication at my own hands. I took a glass, blue one, and closed the cabinet without correcting the arrangement. For the rest of the day, almost, I remembered that I could change my mind.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Mystery to History

We are healed of a suffering only by expressing it to the full.
-Marcel Proust, novelist (1871-1922)

Monday, January 01, 2007

Douglas Adams on the Big Question

" asks himself, 'If [somebody like me] made [all this], what did he make it for?' Now the real trap springs, because ... man is thinking, 'This world fits me very well. Here are all these things that support me and feed me and look after me; yes, this world fits me nicely' and he reaches the inescapable conclusion that whoever made it, made it for him.

This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in—an interesting hole I find myself in—fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for. "
-- Douglas Adams