Posts tagged ‘metacognition’

27 September, 2011

Metaphor = APORIA

I try to limit the amount of super dense crap I put up on the internet, but this is too beautiful an analysis of the nature of metaphor to pass up sharing.

The rhetoric of metaphor is, after all, grounded in aporia. Metaphor, like its extension, allegory, is resorted to when the proper term is deemed inappropriate or unavailable and a non-proper term is inserted in its place–to the effect of a hovering validity which is held in suspense by the knowledge that the term is not the proper one. The paradox of the wrong term being the only appropriate or possible one accounts for the precariousness of metaphoric speech.

Hofmann, Klaus. “Keats’s Ode to a Grecian Urn.” Studies in Romanticism 45.2. Boston: 2006.

LOVE IT. I love the idea that the effectiveness of metaphor is the very knowledge that the image created through comparison is disparate from the object. It is the paradox of needing to draw weird comparisons to understand what is already understood that just screams Socratic aporia.

Aporia, incidentally, is not understood simply as the definition in the dictionary– an irresolvable internal contradiction in a text or argument– but also as the poignant Greek literal meaning: to be in a state of loss. Aporia is what the Socratic method reduces its “victims” to. A weird logical limbo, where the old understandings of a thing have been torn down. It is, literally, to “be at a loss.” Slack-jawed.

Metaphor as a state of aporia. LOVE. SO. MUCH.

 

Advertisements
18 September, 2011

Week two, check; Heraclitus and Big Brother and the Holding Company

Briefly, this week I attended part of a hermeneutics conference. Being that my knowledge of Gadamer is zilch, however, I respectfully bowed out after the first lecture. There was a salient crumb from the hour and a half I spent there, however– I was reminded of Heraclitus.

Heraclitus is remembered for his interest in logos— the word, reason, plan which drives and unites the universe, and for his doctrine of flux. All is in flux, ever changing– each instant we are in a different universe.

πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει” καὶ “δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης”
Panta chōrei kai ouden menei … kai … dis es ton auton potamon ouk an embaies
“Everything changes and nothing remains still …. and … you cannot step twice into the same stream”

–Heraclitus 402a, qtd. from wikipedia (because I don’t feel like cracking my ancient Greek philosophy books.)

In each moment the world is changed. Flux is constant; action now is different from action even a millisecond from now. Nothing is ever repeated. It’s a terrible beauty.

 

September 12: I found this beautiful oddity tacked to a telephone pole while attempting to find the grocery store (I realized about five seconds after snapping this that I was in fact walking the wrong way).

 

September 13: The leaves are starting to turn on campus and in the parks. This is outside of Gasson– expect indoor shots of the beautiful Gasson Hall later next week. There’s a poetry reading in there that’ll take me back in there in the coming days.

September 14: This week I embarked on the sacred quest for a Most Excellent Used Books Purveyor. I haven’t found a good, grungy one with dirt cheap books yet, but I did find Brookline Booksellers, which is wonderful, filled with books, knick-knacks, and all sorts of charming things. Like magnets. They also have the Jesus Shaves/Saves mug, which I NEEEEEEED.

Also, in the used book cellar, the far wall is “Mystery, Mystery, Mystery, More Mystery and Still More Mystery.”

September 15: My studies force me to have hermit days every so often, so here’s a tableau of hermit day #1 in this set: my book, and my snack bowl. It’s a beautiful green glass beauty that I got at a garage sale this summer for a dollar. Also, my proliferation of flags, which pretty much make flagging pages useless, given their overwhelming number.

 

September 16: There’s a beautiful patch of sunflowers on my walk to the T. I snapped this just as a car was zooming past. Flowers in motion.

September 17: I left the Copley library on Saturday needing coffee. Found this tri-corner wearing Godzilla demanding that I pahk the caaah in a  Starbucks. Love it, and Bostonians’ acute awareness that they talk silly. Because so many people who live here are college transplants like myself, however, you rarely hear the Boston accent.

This is in the Copley library. Each section of the hall I was sitting in had the name of a great thinker, artist, or writer carved and gilded below the coffered barrel vault ceiling (fear my art history jargon). WITHOUT LOOKING, I sat myself under Socrates. This is the kind of stuff that happens to me. Things chase me. Socrates is one of them.

September 18: another academic hermit day. This, by the way, is the view out my window into part of the playground/park/field that I live next to. I took a nap face-down in these pillows today instead of reading about reception history.

And, to round out a completely disjointed set of images and thoughts, Janis and Big Brother Caterpillering. ❤

 

6 July, 2011

Visiting Old Ghosts

It’s hard to go backwards in time. Memory is an evil, evil thing, and if you’re like me, your memory has the added caveat of not being very good. I remember faces, places, and bits of conversation, but I forget big things. I forget, years later, about the important conversations, the things that changed the world. The funny thing is, I can remember where we were when we had these tremendous conversations, but the content is often lost.

I remember romantically. I wish I had better control over it, and a lot of the writing I do is designed to help me see the whole picture, especially when it’s about something that I know I’m going to gloss over, or ignore altogether, ten years from now.

When I was a sixth grader, I remember the strange sense I had that people were larger than life, existed somehow outside of space and time. They were all powerful. I now see how tenuous control can be, and why it turns certain people into monsters, and others into mice.

I remember the tennis courts, and wailing on the tennis ball as hard as I could, missing half of the time, usually for the specific purpose of getting it over the 15-foot chain link fence.

I remember the library– the book displays are the same, even ten years later.

I remember the couch in my 6th grade teacher’s room, and the trolls and the castle she had in one corner, and the time metal vases that made me want to go to Greece for the very first time. She was the person that put the first spark of Greece in my brain.

Every day is a microcosm. Everything is a big deal. And no one gets it. And everyone is annoying. And bullying is everywhere, and you don’t know what to do about it. Weird thing is, a lot of those things feel the same way on the other side, as a teacher. This becomes your life.

1 May, 2011

Partisan

One of the questions I do battle with frequently is “Why read? Why study literature?

My answers vary depending on the day from a deplorable ‘I don’t know, best keep going so I can find out‘ to the self-indulgent ‘Life is short, best do what you enjoy‘ to the slightly less navel-gazing notion that ‘It’s a useful lens to view the world through‘ to what is currently my best answer– ‘It reminds me that there is a world outside partisan beliefs. There is something universal, and you are a part of it.

It is disconcertingly easy to get ensnared by the us-versus-them mentality that’s everywhere. Sometimes as Americans we think we’re the special snowflakes who have more opinions and chosen-sides than others, but in reality I’m pretty sure partisanism is pandemic.

I’m not above being partisan, mind you, far from it. I am, however, conscious of three things: (1) that I am partisan, for deliberate, researched reasons; (2) the “other side” is rarely composed of morons– they, too, are thinking, researching people, who frequently are separated from me by their priorities and beliefs; (3) these “sides” are often artificial– they are gross simplifications, and very rarely does the world fit neatly into two or even three “sides” of thought or action.

The second realization is especially important. It is easy to pick sides, and even easier to denigrate the worth of the other side. It is essential that we resist the temptation to do so. So much of our world could be improved by respect for differing perspectives. So much could be improved just by moderating ourselves.

You don’t have to agree. You just have to strive to be respectful– something I fear is becoming a more and more distant, abstract concept in digital culture.

Though the second is arguably the most important point, I think the third is the one that gets the most frequently ignored– it’s too easy to fall into the mythos of us versus them, too easy to buy into the oversimplification. I believe that most people, myself included, have to actively fight partisan thinking in order to see around it at all.

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. ”

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

19 March, 2011

This is Water

I think sometimes it is just as important to hear an author speak as it is to read their words in print. This is why I love David Sedaris’s involvement with NPR, and why I love when authors (again, like Sedaris, and also Neil Gaiman) read their own works. It’s fantastic.

Here’s David Foster Wallace, giving a commencement speech that is about consciousness, essentially. One of my professors brought it to my attention via Facebook.

It’s long. It is also worth your while. Take some time and just listen. You probably owe yourself a break, anyway.

Also, for your pleasure:

David Sedaris on Easter, in Grammatically Unstable French.

12 March, 2011

Memento Mori

I think I have at least alluded to the pathetic state of my memory– it’s one of the reasons why I write. I write to remember. My brain is very, very good at forgetting. It has relegated important conversations to the space of dreams, and sometimes erased them all together.

Strange things get burned into my grey matter– I remember learning about cavities in kindergarten, and clouds in first grade. I remember being outraged at my kindergarten graduation present (Barney cookie cutters), but none of the names of my classmates. I remember learning the meaning of the middle finger, but still know the name of my first grade crush only because I wrote it down in a Lisa Frank diary with a bubblegum-dispenser-shaped lock on it. Needless to say, I broke the lock years later and devoured the memories hidden there (and then promptly forgot most of them again.)

I often wonder if there is a logic to what we remember and forget, or if the resonance is too abstract for even us to understand why some things get dutifully filed away, while so much is lost.

What will I forget, in a year? In a month? In a day? How long will it take me to forget, for example, the color of your eyes, or the incident with the cell phone? The time(s) time stopped? How long before even these obscure references don’t ring true? I leave myself these breadcrumbs back to my memories, hoping (usually in vain) that years later I’ll know. I’ll remember what I felt so strongly, what shook me to my core, and what adventures I had. Or, at least, that’s what I hope.

“Your memory is a monster; you forget—it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you—and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you.” –

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

19 February, 2011

In which we are chased by the bliss…

I love how sometimes people and things sneak their way into your life. This is a very Campbellian “Follow your bliss” kind of moment for me, so I hope you can bear with me here. Sometimes you just have to let go and let the world take you where it is going to take you, and accept the fact that your input, at this point and time, does not matter in the least.

Is this an invocation for fatalism? No. There’s a difference in not having freewill and not having control. We rarely have control. Control is collective. Right now control rests with five grad school committees, two hiring committees, and people I never have and never will meet. What I can control is myself, the number of books I read, the number of tea cups I empty, the number of walks I take, and other microscopic things.

That being said, in the dozens of touchy-feely conversations I had about life and its direction last year, all of them inevitably mentioned that the right path will seem easy– it isn’t the easiest path, but pieces fall into place. The path feels right. There’s a part of me that feels like that’s happening right now. I’m not following the bliss…it’s kind of stalking me. One of the things I continue to be is an artist, and I keep selling stuff, and showing stuff, and making stuff. Seems pretty natural, but I never intended to be a professional artist– I actually turned my back on that avenue with all the venom I could manage. Now I’m beginning to wonder if that was the right choice. If the bliss tackles me and beats my head into the pro-art direction (why not, I’m going to be poor anyway), I’ll let you know.

Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.

I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.
-Joseph Campbell

Also, Adele has been sneaking into my life for a while without me realizing it. Every time I saw the I Am Number Four trailer, I went “I like that song a lot.” I finally looked it up, and found out it was hers. Then I looked her up, and discovered that I knew five or six of her other songs, too. I’m being stalked by music! Blissful, bluesy music!

Anyway, enjoy.

Here’s the official video. It won’t let me embed it, but the official video is nice and pleasantly bizarre (there are ninjas and lots of broken white things.) I actually went through about twelve videos before I could find one that would embed. By the way, no one seems to know what she’s saying in the “lay your ???? bare” line. I’ve seen ship, shit, and sheet.

(lyrics after the cut)

read more »

3 February, 2011

The Belly of the Whale

Six years ago (woah, that feels weird) I was writing a senior thesis for AP English Literature about Campbell and the Hero.

Every hero follows the same journey, according to Campbell. There are several pit-stops in the journey. Today, as I was doing someone else’s laundry and watching a rom-com, I started thinking about the Belly of the Whale– it’s the lowest point in the cyclical hero’s journey.

The Belly is the darkest place– its where all hope seems lost. It’s name, of course, comes from the Biblical Jonah, who was swallowed not by a whale but by a giant fish (being a pseudo-classicist means I get to occasionally be fussy and split hairs like that.) What makes this agonizing literary midnight interesting, however, is the fact that the hero can’t climb out alone. He needs assistance to get out of the disastrous mess he’s in. Theseus is dead until Ariadne gives him the string to help him navigate the labyrinth; Jason is dead until Medea gives him the tools and the magic he needs to get the fleece; Psyche is dead until everything from Cupid down to the lowest ant gives that dumb butterfly the assistance she needs.

I often wonder if there’s any parallel in real life. If mythology is a functional understanding of the world, surely its mimetic qualities are myriad. Sure, strip away the minotaurs and the Argo, but underneath, a lot of things hold true– team work, jealousy, interdependence, complicated family dynamics, angry mothers, chutzpah, fearlessness, and most importantly, the ability to take that hand up when you need it.

Maybe that’s what mythology’s most important lesson is– you can’t do this shit alone, and that’s okay. To any of you hanging out down here in the dark with me, it’s okay to accept help– if thousands of stories and, if the shared wisdom of the human race is any indication, you’ll need it in order to move onto what comes next.

2 February, 2011

Groundhog’s Day; Stubbornness

There are several blogs I read, for the sake of preventing my brain from turning to mush, for the sake of happiness, and for the sake of just blind indulgence.

The Worst Professor Ever has a brilliant observation or six about Groundhog’s Day (the movie). {x}

 

Sometimes things get hard. A lot of people live with regrets. I try not to. That doesn’t mean that I don’t– it mostly means that those regrets get compressed and tucked neatly into the back broom closet in my brain, waiting for the day when they are shafted, like remains of the dead, and forgotten for good. I am very good at forgetting. I am also very good at hiding. These are survival traits, pure and simple.

Hope is stubborn, though. Helplessly stubborn. Despite how many boxes and closets you put hope in, it worms through the cracks, back up to the forefront, like some bolded, triple-underlined, size-256 flashing neon sign behind your eyelids.

Hope is painful. It flies in the face of what we know is most likely true. It stares down fact and empirical observation and just snorts and giggles like it heard a hilarious fart joke. Hope is the death of a realist.

I wish I didn’t have hope; I have no reason to, and yet there it is– snorting and giggling, flashing in neon, despite my best efforts to remain firmly grounded.

Stupid people always dismiss as untrue anything that happens only seldom, or anything that their minds cannot readily grasp; yet when these things are carefully inquired into they are often found not only possible but probable.

Apuleius, The Golden Ass

 

Enjoy your days, friends. You don’t know how many of them you get, and hope is a terrifying buoy.

8 January, 2011

Hmmm… transience

I am not promising a revival of this outlet, but I think there is something to be noted about the transience of time and, in related news, of my personality from time to time. (Please note the two year gap between entries…)

There is something inherently vagabond about my body, mind, and personality. I grew up knowing, more or less, that my people have no problem picking up and moving– across town, across states, across countries. I also grew up knowing what it was like to stare dramatically out of the back window of a car as you drove away from home for the last time. Over time I’ve grown to be better about accepting that “leaving feeling”– I can keep my stiff English upper-lip in front of others, then drive away screaming where no one can see me. I swear that’s better, really.

There are other forms of transience, too, though. Several of my friends are familiar with the odd habit I have of literally dropping things. It’s as if my hands are bored of holding onto something, so they let go. They move on– except, hmm, we weren’t supposed to let go yet. This happens a lot with pens. I have the need to walk around with pens in my hand (yes, sometimes more than one), especially while I’m lecturing or teaching.

Where jobs are concerned, I will say I tend to be good at what I do. I will also say I tend to not do what I do for more than a few months at a time. This kind of transience will probably have to end soon, which is regrettable. I’ve had a bizarre, wonderful variety in jobs– I’ve worked for a city historian, a zoo, a college admissions office, a professor as her personal assistant, a design studio, a library, three different schools, an art institute, a crisis hotline, and now a literary publisher. I learn wonderful things, I meet wonderful people.

In another way, I am anchored down, at least until June, waiting for the next plot point on my meandering life’s journey. In the mean time, friends are scattering to the wind– California, Las Vegas, Indiana, Massachusetts, Colorado, Sweden, England, Zambia… on one hand, it’s comforting to know that my friends are going brilliant places, seeing wonderful things, and spreading out to find their own niches. On the other hand, who will I eat Korean/Indian/Thai/Vietnamese/Moroccan food with?!

More and more, I’m accepting, I have little to say in the direction of the world. I can throw a rock, but with aim like mine there’s no telling what it’s going to hit.

They made us suffer for learning. That’s the way they wanted it.

-B.S. Johnson The Unfortunates.