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Posts Tagged ‘reading’

The Symbolic Theft

Shove all of the patterns and symbols into my head, whatever this head is, so that they might mix and match and sort and simmer.   Take these chapters – with their paragraphs and their sentences and their words and their letters and their strokes – all in. Ideas. Voices. Stories. Characters. Facts. Fictions.   Paint, o my minds brush, the landscape these words demand in their conflicted synchronization.

That which we call science and pagan folk mythology and mathematical logic of an intellectual minority and old short stories and poorly edited blog posts and every other means of description form the alternative reality of our reality.  We are at war.   We are in a dance.   Reality will not succumb.   Reality will always demand this love/war.

Symbols

Shout TRUTH! do peddlers of all these ideas.  Truth is always a future away.  Belief in that truth is always two futures and another book away.

The Truth Shall Set You Free.   They once wrote. They once said.  They once transcribed.  They once prescribed.   They never defined that truth.   The ancient scribes of pagan turned Christian history.

They.  Generations of idea burglars.  You are one too!  You thief of stories and ideas and biases.

But.

You will also give generously, gravely, gallantly every letter you steal as you inadvertently blather on your story of stories.   In your email I’ll read a Twain idea.   In an update out will come Buddha.   In a #hashtag, Kurt Cobain.   In that silly “Things Remembered” flask you’ll engrave a Steve Jobs quote.   Sometimes credit will be given, when the creditor is known and adds credibility.  Most times the debt goes unpaid and probably the originator will be all the more happy to not be associated with the missed context.

I read to never be myself.   I read to be everyone else.   I read for you.  I read about you.  I read because I am not you.   I read because I have no ideas of my own.

Ideas only emerge.   They emerge from the interaction of symbols exchanged between people.  Exchange is story.    Story is exchange.

Meaning isn’t in a thing, it’s beside a thing.   Meaning is the exchange of story sold down the river as it shouts to the banks of the onlookers.  What Is This?! They cry.

Pictures are symbols.   Letters are symbols.   Pictures are letters, letter are pictures.   While there is always this war of ideas and the promise that words are dead and pictures won, the word birthed the picture, the picture birthed the word. The songbird and the larynx and the hand birthed them both.  The mind them all.

Or wait.

The body in relation birthed the mind birthed the rest of it.   I thought Darwin explained this all.

Or was it Wittgenstein.

Suit the word to the action, the action to the word.  The bard of bards once might have said, written, drawn, acted.   And so we do.

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eBooks and eReaders are purely functional at this point.  They lack the aesthetics that fine paper, solid bindings, great typesets and full color printing provides.  I love to read aestheticly and functionally.  I love my Kindle 2 AND I love physical books.  No doubt in my mind that eReaders will continue to chip away at physical book sales.  That’s why I’m stocking up now.  Unlike music or newspapers, I think the physicality of the book improves understanding of the content and I need the physical book until eReaders can provide a full sensory experience. (yes, all books SMELL the same on a Kindle!  I know that seems weird, but humans remember things by all senses and smell is one of the most powerful senses involved in memory.  So much of my long term knowledge coming from books is based on remembering the exact reading environment.)

Anyhoo.  Great weekend.  I leave it with an image on one of my favorite finds this weekend:

From So Simple A Beginning

From So Simple A Beginning

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From AC Grayling:

My final question is about the way we’re going to be reading, communicating and reflecting in the future. At the moment, we’re all very interested to know about the future in these respects. Not the future of the book specifically, although it has traditionally been one major focus for the reflective life – sustaining it, enabling communication between participants in it – because already we see the trend that there are different ways in which written content can be delivered to people who want it. Rather I mean the practice of reading, the practice of reflection, themselves; I mean the nature of what underlies our ability to be good conversationalists with one another, to be reflective and informed, to have a good knowledge of the classics, but also to be open to new ideas and new work across all the disciplines — history, the sciences, philosophy, and the literary arts. How are people going to relate to these things in the future, given that in the past this centrally involved reading and reflecting?

This is an interesting question because in the past our culture has been one that depends tremendously on the written word, on literature in all its forms. If the way that the written word gets to people changes in ways that make people use it less, and this is a phenomenon becoming more widespread now — formulating ideas and communicating them in very compressed forms, as in text messages for example — that kind of phenomenon might make a difference to our cultural sensibility.

Read the whole conversation.

This conversation covers a lot of ground from reflection, scientific progress, tabloid culture and civil liberties.  Time to read and reflect.

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