Revisiting: Symbol Confusion

Every third Saturday of the month I intend to re-post something I wrote for one of my assorted old blogs or tumblogs. Today I am sharing “Symbol Confusion” from The Thinking Grounds, in which I consider the way certain common symbols don’t work for me.

a black and white photograph of a dog in the fog

Source: ArTeTeTrA at flic.kr/p/qMJTcZ


Symbol Confusion

When I visited my (first) alma mater a season after graduating, I had tea with some of the staff from my old fellowship, and one of them told me he thought of the recent-grad situation as being rather like a swamp. I think he was trying to say that people tended to get lost in that time period, perhaps even stuck, without knowing which way to go; maybe he was trying to evoke unstable ground, and general lack civilization or guideposts. But I had to shrug and say, “You know, I’ve always liked swamps.” Continue reading

Reliable, Therefore Real

[Content warning specific to section III: discussion of gender, sex which remains (I think) in the spirit of social justice culture but does disagree with specific prevalent ways of articulating that spirit]

 

I.

flic_dot_kr_slash_p_slash_3QwE7K

Source: PhotoJeff at Flic.kr/p/3QwE7K

I have no interest in any definition of the word real which isn’t useful. If I cannot use the word real to distinguish between unicorns and horses, Conan the Barbarian and Conan O’Brien, Iceland and Dinotopia, then it is of no use to me. I want to say that Iceland is real while Dinotopia isn’t—or, more accurately, I want to say that I wish Dinotopia were as real as Iceland is. Therefore as I try to define this word—real—I want to make sure I can use it.

Usefulness may seem like a silly and fringe-case qualification, but it isn’t. An example that a friend recently provided for me: a physicist tried to convince him that the table they were talking over was not real. He did not tell me the details of the argument, but I can imagine them. The table is mostly empty space, with an arrangement of molecules filling out a tiny proportion of the “table”; there is no firm distinction, on the level of fundamental particles, between the table and the air around it. Even those particles are not “real,” being made up of—strings, I guess? I don’t really know.

Continue reading

Monthly Marvel: Simulacrum

On the first Saturday of each month for at least the next little while I intend to share here one of the Weekly Wonders from that previous project. This month I’m sharing the simulacrum, a difficult concept perhaps best simplified as a reproduction which does not have an original, or a fake thing that produces its own reality, though neither simplification is not quite complete.


SIMULACRUM

This week’s idea is the simulacrum.

Fireworks behind Cinderella's palace at Disney World

Source: Darrell Taylor at flic.kr/p/svXUh

Continue reading