Activity Being Procrastinated: facing the Great World Outside My Door
Music in My Head: Bunclody Cuckoo
Tea: Read My Lips (chocolate peppermint: David’s Teas is a vice)
Books Being Read: The Princess Bride by William Goldman; The Nimrod Flipout by Etgar Keret
Still on Cat Vigil. Not much to do but catch up on a lot of work that I’ve been meaning to do. And some other stuff that’s just more interesting than the work.
In the article Adventures of a Supernumerary, Tom Jokinen says, “I’m a meaning junkie; even better if someone else parses meaning and I can parrot it at a dinner party as my own. Maybe it’s because I can’t bear the random. A musical text, whether Strauss or Kafka, invites interpretation and digging because the alternative, the possibility that great art is as random and arbitrary as life, feels unbearable. The point of a mystery is to figure it out.”
Do you ever feel inordinately happy that there’s someone else who thinks the way you do? Suddenly, you’re not convinced you’re really the odd one out.
I’m also a meaning junkie. Sometimes it’s a matter of etymology (could the word possibly have another meaning that I don’t know about?); sometimes it’s a matter of philosophy; sometimes it’s a matter of finding a meaning I approve of ‘cause I don’t like the one that’s staring me in the face. Perhaps that’s part of my addiction to books: I’m always looking for that bit of order and control that comes with “the real meaning”. However, I don’t generally like to parrot someone else’s parsed meaning. Probably, they’re dead wrong.
ADOLESCENCE: Meaning Is My Birthright, Damn It
When I was in my teens, I looked at everything for meaning. Art, literature, words, body language and facial expressions, that banal over-the-fence conversation my mother had with the neighbours: everything had to have a “real” meaning that I just wasn’t getting. My world – small-town Eastern Ontario, the town of anti-Francophone messages scrawled on the walls in the alleyways and one Chinese restaurant that promised “real food” as well as sweet-and-sour chicken balls – could not possibly have the anima to truly understand things. I looked deep and hard for the meanings that had flown over the heads of the uncultured and uneducated. Somewhere, there was a meaning to life that these people had just obscured with Zellers slip-covers.
POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION: The Relevance of Meaning
When I went to university, and had the pleasure of immersing myself in Eastern Religion classes and Gwendolyn MacEwen’s poetry, I decided that there was no other meaning then the one that was right in front of me. A painting was just an image of whatever it portrayed. The books were nothing more than the stories the titles promised. Life had no meaning behind it at all: we were just creatures that were born, lived, procreated and died. People who looked for alternative meanings and interpretations were highly deluded. And juvenile. And clearly bored. “WHY WOULD YOU LOOK FOR METAPHORS IN LITERATURE?! WHAT WILL THAT GET YOU?! DO YOU LOOK FOR METAPHORS IN YOUR POTATO CHIPS?!” (In those days, Owen Meany sometimes got in my head. That happens when you believe you understand everything.)
MOTHERHOOD: What’s The Meaning of Sleep?
As a stay-at-home mother, I decided there had to be meanings that had passed me by. While I didn’t search them out with the same ardent passion I had fifteen years previously, I figured there was likely something hiding behind the world I could see. Though I read Where The Wild Things Are fifteen times each day, I believed there would come a time when I would understand Max’s wolf suit to be something other than a wolf suit, and the night of his very own room would be liberating and enlightening rather than four walls and a ceiling. I’m still waiting. I check the book every once in a while, just in case.
MIDDLE AGE: Maturity Learns How to Pick Its Battles
I’m a little more lax about meaning that I used to be – it’s all relative, I know. Sometimes I feel stuck in the adult world where there’s not enough time for alternate meanings. While I’m still fickle about etymology and, of course, there have to be several meanings to a novel, there’s got to be a purpose to analysing anything else. What, after all, would a new meaning get me? In the grand scheme of things – between The Big Bang and The Final Fizzle (or The Big Bang II, if Bush gets back into politics) – is an alternative meaning going to change anything? I justify the literary analysis because it’s going to make a student’s life better in the long run; their career will benefit from the good grades, and their children will benefit from the career, and so on. Finding meaning in the Occupy movement will make a lot of people happier. Finding meaning in the relationship between the English and the French is probably cruel to that dead horse that’s getting kicked, so we’ll just give it a rest for a bit. Sometimes, things just have to come at face value.
Still, there’s that thrill. It’s the same kick that I get from daydreams: the excitement of something totally new, totally of my own making. Where other people find adventure in mountain biking or travelling, I get it from thought: original thought; uncommon thought. That less-travelled cognitive road gives me such a high.