I have been leant a couple of books lately; this one was given to me after a conversation about my work with Kristy Trinier, a discussion about my particular interests in little details and daily rituals. But it is taking me a surprising time to read.
I am not in the habit of reading from books. I think it is a skill that I lost in university, probably during a course on early 20th-century British literature that was the least enjoyable of the English courses that I took, although I periodically think about revisiting the texts that I didn’t pay enough attention to. It was a trade I made subconsciously as I learned about my abilities to talk about things I didn’t actually know about. I wrote part of the final on a book I had not read (The Well of Loneliness) and got a reasonable grade for it, probably a B+.
This means that when I am putting my day together, this book doesn’t immediately spring to mind. Nonetheless, when I picked it up today, on a quiet and slightly hazy summer evening after a couple of loud ones, feeling a somewhat tired but positive kind of specificity about myself, I was really happy to remember with an incredible clarity the words that I had left off on. Without even remembering the page number, I found my way to the end of the right chapter, just by the last sentence of:
Will the universe of all possible things I could be reminded of ever be mostly an adult universe? I hope so—indeed, if I could locate the precise moment in my past when I conclusively became an adult, a few simple calculations would determine how many years it will be before I reach this new stage of life: the end of the rule of nostalgia, the beginning of my true Majority. And, luckily, I can remember the very day that my life as an adult began.
Less expected, although foreshadowed in an earlier chapter, was that chapter seven would explain how this occurred on the day that the narrator learned that it was possible to apply deodorant without taking off his shirt. The chapter ends with him getting a cup of coffee from the really good place on his way to work (to go though, I don’t hold with that).
The other reason that I am reading this slowly is because I have a very strong tendency to stop in these places. I feel that I am understanding the point of chapters better than I ever had before. Here we are with the coffee only a few minutes later and I look forward to enjoying this moment of simultaneous completeness and continuity for maybe several days before I read the next chapter.
But the Tamarians’ version of allegory, if that’s indeed the right name for it, cuts both ways. On the one hand, it fetishizes myth in the manner of allegory, but on the other hand it musters that myth in the interest of serious sociopolitical action, as evidenced by Dathon’s willingness literally to die in the name of myth. So Benjamin’s concerns about the abandonment of the present don’t seem to apply to the Tamarian situation, offering further doubt that allegory is the best way to describe their communication process.
In one fascinating episode, Star Trek: The Next Generation traced the limits of human communication as we know it—and suggested a new, truer way of talking about the universe.
A very cool piece on Darmok!
This is pretty great.
This week I had a few conversations about how I understand ritual to function, kinds of magic, especially swearing of oaths. I think this is close in some ways, and also is close to the reasons I love games.