Thursday, August 26, 2010


Sitting in a streetside café in Berkeley, I watch a man go by who has a large silver ring in his nose.  Also, he is slightly cross-eyed.  For a fraction of a second, my mind associates these two aspects, and for an even tinier fraction of a second, speculates whether the ring and the cross-eyedness somehow “fit together” to make a whole fact.  Is it somehow more likely that a slightly cross-eyed man will choose to get a nose-ring, or is this not true?  At a higher level of rationality, I reject the association as fallacious, then, with an anxiety which is the watchdog of presumption, I ponder for a moment the possible relationship between genetic variation and wayward acts.  Is cross-eyedness associated with any other mental traits?  Would a cross-eyed person, by virtue of the way he sees the world, be more likely to challenge authority, and/or the conventions of appearance?  Are such thoughts an embarrassment?  Is to admit having had them unacceptable?  Are they a waste of time?  Is life a waste of time?  Is it scientific, or unscientific, to question an apparent coincidence, which may be nothing more than the chaotic variation of experience?  This half-hearted train of thought begins to decay as a slight wind blows, moving the maple leaves just above the café awning, the afternoon declines.  In the time I wrote this, at least 25 more people have passed by, I have noticed them all.  The numbers of different individuals is not infinite, but the constant mutations to which the code is subject, insures that—twinning aside—we will never have the opportunity of grasping the breadth of human variation, no matter how sophisticated our instruments become. Thought itself seems subject to a similar kind of mutation, too, and seems to possess an equivalent, though less precise, degree of variation.  Given the relative brevity of a single life, each momentary meditation seems grandiose, and baffling in its implications.  Would it be possible to live a life in which one never saw the same person twice?—a life of inexhaustible ennui.   


Kirby Olson said...

It's especially fun to look at the lengths of pants, and how they fit waists. Because machines continue to pump out pumps that don't fit anyone but mannikins, real people struggle along trying to maintain dignity even though their pants don't fit, and everyone including them knows it.

It's funny, or tragic, or melodramatic, or meaningless, or something that no one should notice, perhaps, but I do.

When you see someone whose pants actually fit, and who has a real style, and it works, it's very strange. Does this mean the person necessarily has a high IQ?

I'd suggest that it doesn't. But I don't know what other implications you can find. One thing for sure, they are going to be thin, and their hair will be well-coiffed, too.

It's always fun to make up new Platonic patterns, and then to see who fits into them, and if you can make other notions up, and see if you can get the facts to fit, then it's just like getting clothes to fit.

What does this pattern-finding systematic thinking say about you, especially when you are trying out entirely new sociological theories?

One thing: you've got time on your hands. This is often a good thing.

Curtis Faville said...

Baggy pants came in...when? About the time that America started emulating prisoners instead of Boy Scouts?

Maybe we're all destined to wear bright green prisoner orange. That way, everyone is class free, with a plug-in identity that erases all character and personality.

Brave new world.

Kirby Olson said...

That would be a brave new world, indeed.

Do Language poets wear shorts?