General Philosophizing

August 3, 2007

I’ve been resisting, and yet strangely attracted to, the idea of a blog for some time now. Each time my attention turned to the matter I questioned my motives. Why would an extreme introvert want to shout their ideas from the internet hilltops, visible to all and sundry? Its highly illogical. And yet I find I do have things I want to say. Perhaps blogging is an introvert’s tool after all. It’s a venue for the sharing of ideas with a theoretical outside world, without the actual bother of seeking out specific people and really communicating with them or the associated nerves of face to face interactions.
However, being the child of a professional wordsmith, and an amateur in my own right, I really couldn’t begin one without a good title. I was thinking ‘trashed’ which has the value of irony and would pertain to my thesis (about which more hereafter). But it didn’t have the right ring to it.
I found it serendipitously at the library on Tuesday after work. I had just dropped by to do some reading and had detoured past the entrance in order to run my old books through the automated check out machine and had paused outside the door to rearrange my bags. As I looked up I happened to see Joan Soranno and John Cook walk in before me, looking a little lost. They took the elevator and disappeared from view. Then my eye caught on a poster for an event sponsored by HGA taking place in the Athenaeum on the fourth floor. So I followed my curiosity one floor up from my usual spot (derived through a complicated calculation involving nearness to the NA section, distance from other readers, protection from too-prominent sightlines down aisles and, of course, shade). When I got off the elevator something in my manner of looking around drew the attention of the white coated bouncer/HGA-head-honcho at the door of the exhibit. He asked if I was here for the show and I answered honestly that I had not been invited but was a curious architecture student and … would that get me in? He gave me a name tag and I slipped in while he chatted up the next arriving architectural bright lights.
It turned out to be the last day of a traveling exhibition of Iraqi book art – really beautiful stuff, mostly watercolor and what is commonly referred to as “mixed media” on handmade looking paper bound in interesting ways. Of course the text was all in Arabic but it was beautiful none the less. The room was swirling with dramatic people in eccentric glasses and black clothing, some conversing about the architecture scene but some listening to the white gloved docents talk about the display. I tagged along to one of the groups and heard the librarian describing the sense of one of the books as she talked. She said the author was writing about letters as being the foundation of all communication. The formed bonds into words and the words bonded into thoughts – she used a couple of flowery and poetical similes that didn’t appeal to me and which I have since forgotten. They may have worked better in the original Arabic than in a brief and paraphrased translation but I was totally distracted from my literary criticism by the last words. The book concluded sadly, with something about the pain of being and exile and ended “I am lost between the letters.” I was entranced.
I had to get out a pen and write down his name – Dia al-Azzawi. It was actually only after I had jotted it down that I remembered that on all previous experiences inside the closed archive of a library there had been strict pencils only rules and there I was with a pad of paper and navy blue inked fountain pen at chest height. Oops. I quickly stashed it in my purse but the spell was broken. I remembered my obligations to my seat downstairs and also felt a bit out of place among so many of my architectural betters. Also I was the youngest in the room by about 15 years. Bear in mind the way the NYT is always waxing poetic about “brilliant young architect, 46.” But I got what I came for, obviously. There are times when I feel lost between the letters in the sense he intended – cut off from communication when the bonds turning the alphabet into words and words into meaning and meaning into some connection with my fellow humans fall apart and leave me breathless and stranded. But I prefer my own interpretation – the sense of losing oneself in the noise of the universe – and in the mystic symbols with which we describe it. I’m reminded of a quotation by Annie Dillard in her wonderful autobiography An American Childhood. “Private life, book life, took place where words met imagination without passing through world.”
Well I feel that this is plenty and to spare for an introduction.
This strange process of publishing random thoughts to the universe seems like a poem by one of my new favorites, Kay Ryan. And anyone who knows me would expect this to conclude with a poem so … in honor of three much-missed stalls in the women’s bathroom of a church gym in Biloxi Mississippi:


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