I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up.
Henry David Thoreau
April 21, 2000
A REMINDER: WHO AM I? WHAT AM I DOING HERE?
In case you’ve never read the quote under the crowing rooster, let me call your attention to it anew: I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up. Henry David Thoreau wrote these words in his back-to-nature exposition, Walden.
“Chanticleer” refers to the French word derived from the Latin root for “rooster”. For you city folk, legend has it that roosters wake people up in the country.
I like to think I’m making a feeble metaphorical effort to … Wake .. [clap].. YOU up!
How? By pounding home the point that “This Is Not That” … differences matter!
What makes an expert an expert? The ability to make fine distinctions that the rest of us can’t make. In other words they’re ‘experts’ in the differences that matter. That’s what this newsletter and this site are about – making finer differentiations. It’s about developing your ‘taste’ (again, think metaphorically) beyond recognizing a white from a red wine – it’s about learning to tell a Cabernet from a Chablis from a Merlot. And sometimes, it’s about recognizing that what you think/believe to be a ‘red’, might not be.
What you experience is different from what happens; what you hear is different from what is said; what you infer is different from what is implied; what you believe is different from what you call a ‘fact’; what you assume is different from what you ‘know’. The word is different from the thing. The map is different from the territory.
So is any of this important?
Well, it only affects how you experience and respond to what goes on around you …
You make the call.
TIME-BINDING, or “COOPERATING AND GRADUATING” BY ANOTHER NAME
At the Air Force Academy, we had a saying about helping each other out … to “cooperate and graduate.” Literally, the objective, the prize, the end of the rainbow, was Graduation Day. However, the saying also applied more generally such that “to graduate” might also mean “to succeed,” “to accomplish,” “to advance,” etc. (You well-informed cynics with elephant memories might also snidely suggest the phrase could serve as a veiled euphemism for “cheating” … Your Honor, I plead the Fifth.)
Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950) coined a term for this type of cooperation amongst the species – time-binding. Rather than accept the centuries-old definition of “Man is a rational animal,” Korzybski formulated an operational description what differentiates humans from other life. He observed that only humans have the ability to build on the knowledge of their ancestors, forebears and predecessors – to bind time.
A child born in 2000 has access to the accumulated aggregation of thousands of years of human advancement; literally, he/she won’t have to “re-invent the wheel”, or microscope, or telescope, or discover that blood flows throughout the body, etc. (This is one clear rebuttal to the myth that someone can become a “self-made man”. Each of us owes too much to too many.)
The tool, or the means, which allows humans to accumulate and pass on this virtually-undefineable amount of knowledge – in other words, time-binding – is language (specifically) and our associated abilities to manipulate symbols (generally). If one takes his/her role as a time-binder seriously (I do), then one accepts an obligation and responsibility to promote and attempt to further time-binding.
For starters … by teaching, sharing, conveying, relating, telling, informing, writing, documenting, etc., things like lessons learned, experiences, recipes, parables, stories, solutions, formulas, plans, etc., from which someone else might benefit.
With that, I offer the following.
Every now and then, something happens to me that makes me think, “I wish I could make this stuff up!” Oh, to be so creative and imaginative.
One such moment occurred the other night.
CAUTION: THE FOLLOWING PERSONAL ANECDOTE PERTAINS TO A SUBJECT THAT SOME REGULAR FOLKS MIGHT OBJECT TO
On the topic of “regular”, and to some extent, “binding” …
For reasons known only to my digestive system, I have recently experienced some discomfort. Actually, quite a bit of discomfort having to do with, if you will, having the urge absent the means, if you get my drift. It reached a point (or, didn’t reach a point) where I decided some type of extraordinary ‘facilitation’ was required.
I pondered the available options, from the more simple solutions (drinking lots and lots of water, eating more fiber, fruits and vegetables, etc.) to more radical remedies (to be revealed later). Actually, if you know me, eating more fruits and vegetables constitutes a pretty damn radical remedy.
I decided the internal approach wasn’t feasible, seeing how it was the internal workings that weren’t, you know, working. I turned to one of the more radical remedies. Even I must maintain some meager modicum of modesty, so I won’t specifically mention the specific means I chose.
However, I will offer this hint – there aren’t too many words that rhyme with “Texas School Book Depository.”
So, armed with the extraordinary facilitation means, I prepared to execute the remedy. Not knowing for sure what timeline I was looking at for the means to take effect, I plopped a CD of miscellaneous tunes from the ’80s into the stereo, made sure the speakers were on in the room necessary for the execution of the remedy, entered the necessary room, and proceeded to implement the plan.
My concentration on the task at hand (ahem) was such that I honestly didn’t pay any attention to what was playing on the stereo until I had, uh, you know, implemented the means. However, once the means (actually, singular in this case) had been implemented, with nothing to do but wait, I noted the silence that precedes a new selection and prepared to listen to the next song while waiting for the mean to clean, so to speak.
Now, here’s the part that I couldn’t begin to make up. Because if I tried to create a scene like this from my imagination and assign an appropriate ‘soundtrack’ to this situation, I would probably fall victim to the cliché and obvious.
For example, what’s the first song that might come to mind to play in this situation?
Sure, the Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out”. Obviously. Or if you’re more easy listening and optimistic, maybe the Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun.” But you know, this isn’t really a “We” situation. A little less direct, yet still suggestive, lyric might lead me to select “Tush” from ZZ Top.
But the song that actually played, the lyrics that actually sang from my necessary room speakers while I was actually positioned, waiting … was Billy Ocean. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going …“
I don’t know if it was the effectiveness of the means, or the effusiveness of my laughing so hard I almost banged my head on the, uh, anyway. I can’t say for sure what gets the credit, but I’m happy to report that, just like in fairy tails, in the end, everything came out all right.
SLOUCHING TOWARDS THE 20TH CENTURY
from the Dallas Morning News
April 8, 2000 Weleetka High School in Oklahoma held its first-ever prom. For 85 years, the townsfolk believed that the deed to the donated land on which the school was built banned dancing.
“No one knew for sure why dancing was banned, and no one questioned it.”
Last fall, half of the girls in the junior class decided to challenge the issue. They checked county records. They discovered that the land, thought to be donated, was actually purchased and no such deed restriction was documented.
85 years. “Generation after generation …. passed down the legend since the school was built in 1915.”
And Galileo chuckles with a tear in his eye.
April 8, 2000 The music of Richard Wagner may now be performed in Israel. The “musical establishment” in Israel has for 50 years “made an informal pact to ignore Wagner, the Nazis’ favorite composer, so as not to offend the Holocaust victims.”
Ehud Gross, director-general of the Israel Symphony Orchestra of Rishon Lezeion, made this distinction: “The time is ripe to distinguish between art and ideology. The idea is not to be provocative. It is to give Israeli audiences a chance to experience something that is part of the world culture. We can despise Wagner as a man but appreciate him as a musician.”
Laudable progress, indeed. But while some Israelis continue to condemn “Wagner as a man”, they might remember that Wagner died in 1883. Hitler was born in 1889.
AND FINALLY – What a difference a Safire makes!
Regular readers may remember way back two weeks ago when I mentioned that ThisIsNotThat.com would be mentioned in the April 9th column by William Safire, nationally syndicated columnist for the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Sure enough, it was, albeit in a misspelled form – thisisnothat.com. “Pretty darn amazing,” might describe the aftermath.
From mid-October through April 7th (about 170 days), my site welcomed about 1,550 visitors (roughly 9 per day). From April 8th, when the early edition of the Sunday New York Times hit the news stands, through April 20th (a lucky 13 days), I’ve welcomed an additional 3,114 trespassers (about 239 per day). I’ve received about a dozen very complimentary emails from people around the country who read Safire’s column, figured out the misspelling, and found my site. These 13 days may represent just the first wave of visitors. Safire’s syndication reach is about 300 newspapers around the world, so it will continue to be printed as local newspapers pick it up. I’ve received over 400 referrals from http://www.memepool.com . They read the Safire column, looked over my site, and liked it so much they prominently featured a link to it. Check them out so I can reciprocate some of their favor.
While I must admit I did not hear the sermon given by Rev. Bob Nichols, I would venture to guess you might have misrepresented his statement “Nothing but good could come from this.” I SUSPECT his reference was specifically relating to the church structure and the congregation; NOT the entire city of Ft. Worth and those who lost their lives. BUT, those who do Believe in a higher power, God for instance, also recognize there are tragedies that occur in our human state, and the joy of that is their souls return to God. Just some food for thought on the “other side” of the coin. – in Plano
California just passed a law that says that marriage only means marriage if it’s between a man and a woman, because that’s the way we think it’s right. Uh-huh. And marriage is sacred. Uh-huh. Marriage is a blessed union. Uh-huh. Marriage forms family units and that means it must carry the promise of procreation. Uh-huh.
One month before this law was voted into the land, there was a very interesting gameshow on TV. Called “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire” one lucky guy got to select his new bride from a bevy of starlets. They were married on the spot and sent off on their honeymoon. They were “annulled” the instant they got back to LA, as the tabloids went berserk with allegations and discoveries and the show was canceled.
Once it took the pope himself to annul a marriage.
Sacred, blessed union vs. Love and commitment. Which one do we really want? Which one’s winning? – KG