Archive for March, 2018

Mode of thought fans into a spectrum much like graphing the frequencies of light displays the electromagnetic spectrum. Electromagnetic waves vary by length, the distance from a defined point on a wave to the equivalent point on the next wave. The longest science has discovered and put to use are radio waves. Next comes microwaves, a requirement for any replete kitchen. Its’ neighbor groups infrared with its panoply of military applications. The visible spectrum, being the minuscule group humans can see, is illustrated by any box of Crayolas. After violet comes ultraviolet, shorter still and followed by X-rays, that spy on our bones, and finally gamma rays that irradiate food, peer through concrete to verify the integrity of constructs such as buildings and bridges, as well as making atomic bombs.
Thought may be concrete or abstract or anywhere on its’ own continuum that stretches in between. Verification of a physical object is as concrete as it gets. Courses in language start there. Le livre est sur la table: The book is on the table. Objectification comes to mind. A book is a book is a book. In being a book, it represents the concept of bookness, in the abstract. Bookness is a distillation of the essence of all that it means to embody the meaning of “book”. A book has many aspects. A book means any book will do, whereas the book points to a specific book. Only that precise book is of interest. My book asserts ownership. It is mine, all mine. Hands off!

Comparison, whether negative or positive, to a concrete object is one step toward abstraction. I can read you like a book asserts that I understand your thought process to the extent that I would if you were a book and I were reading it. Such comparisons initiate similes.

Moving another step toward abstraction, we say an object is equivalent to a concept. Now we have entered the realm of metaphor. Metaphor compacts truth carrying a big bang for its buck. “You are my sunshine.” asserts two things that are verifiably false as well as verifiably true. You aren’t sunshine. You are a person, a human. You aren’t solar radiation, but you inspire in me the same feeling that warm sun on my back in the cool of the morning inspires. And as if that weren’t enough, you aren’t just any sunshine; you are my sunshine. You belong to me in the very significant aspect of cognition that speaks to truth and love. Wow! That’s a bundle. Poetry says a lot for a little, but we are still adrift in the land of hyperbole, since no one really can claim an ownership interest in solar radiation.

Mathematics is petulant and precocious. It is impatient with the excess baggage of prosody, even with compact meaning-dense poetry, throwing overboard the frippery of pronouns, adjectives and adverbs like so much flotsam and jetsam, the detritus of abstraction. Only the essential concept is retained. In mathematical parlance, nouns and verbs are de rigeur. Everything else is conditional. Arithmetic is only preparation for actual mathematics and makes the leap of substituting “3” as a symbol for apple, apple, and apple or orange, orange, and orange, if the requirement is to represent three apples or three oranges. Algebra, in another bold concession to the abstract, substitutes a non-numerical symbol for 3 and allows us to think about and manipulate numerical concepts of any number of anythings, later substituting specific numbers of anythings whenever it suits our purpose to decide what we are actually talking about.

I love Tom or Dick or Harry. Take your pick. Harry? OK. Harry it is. I love his entire persona, his body, his puns, his quirky way of thinking, his gentle manner, his ability to understand me even when I don’t make sense. I appreciate his easy way with people and his talent for making money even when times are tough. I love the way I feel when he glances my way with that certain frisson of prurient interest. I love the way he starts right into solving a problem without trying to decide whose fault it is. I love how he holds me when I’m afraid feeling safe in his arms. I love that when I’m with him it feels good to be a woman. Harry is real, concrete, solid reality, though my love for him may flit and float, butterfly-like, a temptation to weave a net of verse and dance in circles, Harry is a real man. Human fragility aside, he belongs on the solid end of the spectrum, right along with marble and titanium.

Men is quite a different concept, a caricature of the human male animal, the one that wives complain about, always comparing their aging inamorata with twenty-two year old Hooter’s serving maids, or the one who won’t come to the dinner-table while the food is hot and still able to attest to the skill of the cook. You know him. He’s the one who tracks mud right onto that clean linoleum and never even notices. Women tend to despair of men, but they love Harry or Bob, or Tim. That’s because men is an abstraction, easy to grouse about. Bob is real. A man being real has nothing to do with preference for or against quiche; it’s purely a measure of degree of abstraction.

I am willing to concede that this useless essay doesn’t make a bit of sense, but it was fun to write. Forgive me my friends. I can’t help it if such wordplay plies its stream of consciousness through my brain. Who knows? Just maybe you might find it fun to read.

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Blood, muscle, sinew, nerve and bone, quickened with apprehension of self, cries out, “Be! Become!” The story of self is universal, a babe born with infinite inheritance, due everything, owing nothing. A god-being, nascent free-wheeling self. A baby at the breast, I break suction drooling warm milk, to smile at my mother. My only memories are of comfort, a beating pulse, movement, limbs thrusting, asserting the priority of release. My beginning is pure. I am all. Then…”The Other”. She is Mother. She is warmth, palliation of senses. Her very act of being initiates my fall from totality, in that she herself is a self, a not-me. My universe is slashed, rent into Me and Thee. Paradise is lost.

It is only now with the clarity of age that I can see my mother, Mary Opal Martin in focus. She once traveled this same path. She once too was incarnate, and now in death is but the legend of her own quest. My own positioning in the flow of the eternal is a gift from her and informed by her separate reality. That I could so dissociate the animal of my incarnation from its spirit flows from witnessing my mother’s struggle to heal the various splinters of her own psyche. I knew from almost the inception that she was adrift, and rooted my burgeoning psychology in the certainty of my own observation and intuition, a firm “not -true” ascribed to her patently incredible “not real.” Whether this resulted in a precocious separation or merely an incomplete one, I cannot say. I know only that from the beginning I embraced the empirical logic of my own thought as rational, and celebrated that knowledge as my own, individual, inviolate integrity.

Maternal imperative and psychological separation kept me isolated from the relentless influence of peers. Mother often pointed out that she was better company than those “stupid girls” who stood in our yard singing “Do-ro-thee-ee”, a tuneful demand that I come out to play. During twelve years pre-high school diploma, I attended twenty-one different public and private schools, knowing only what it meant to be the new girl. Always I beat them at their own silly game, rejecting them before they could reject me. It was safer that way, safer but lonelier, especially in the skin of an adolescent. Having set myself apart from all things maternal, I had no skill in identifying myself as one of a set of female identities. I never once opened the pages of a movie magazine. Being different was a comfort, a shield, a challenge. Human children are cruel, a fact that precludes my gushing “I just adore children” when asked if I like kids. As a youngling, I myself was no less vituperative, only more passive-aggressive. Even now, I constantly remind myself to be, at the very least, true to what is real and good. The result is a slow veering toward a proximate humanity. One thing has always been unquestioned: I do, so very much, love my children. I am scribing these confessions of human frailty and redemption for them, so they will understand how precious, how worth the struggle, is the possibility of becoming human. It was a challenge met by my mother, Mary, and by my father, Kelsey, as they made their own difficult heroic journeys. Having eviscerated my own dragons, I can now appreciate the nobility of their struggles and forgive what in them I had so callously despised. I was their child, and they loved me, even as I love my own three beautiful and heroic sons and the lives they have brought forth to grace our future.

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