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Language is a sentient life form
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|Out of phase|
I was born in the first half of the last century. I ploughed with horses and lived on a farm in Canada where the neighbours all got together to run a threshing machine each fall. Being big and stupid, I had the ass-end job of shovelling the resulting grain away from the auger in the depths of the soot-blackened grain bin. My grandmother was born before Daimler met Benz, and she could never figure out why I was building an airplane. Even after Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon.
I worked with the grandson of Cogwagee (Tom Longboat). Running in the same hills beside the Grand River as the world champion marathoner of one hundred years ago, I thought I knew what he was feeling as he effortlessly covered mile after mile of open countryside. When I finish my filmscript on Cogwagee, I may try to look up his family, again.
My father saw the dirigible L59 fly overhead, as he was on his way to serve in the border dispute between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Later, he owned a Bistro in Lyons, France. ("Bistro" means "hurry up! - work more efficiently!") I was born in England, and never saw, and never will see, Yugoslavia.
I have been from Paris to Kuala Lumpur showing corporations how to work more efficiently and profitably. That extra profit never seems to come into my pockets, though. Slav=slave. A happy, highly worthwhile, screw-him-when-you-can slave. Ah well.
I think it was John Ford who said that screenwriters are the most important people in the whole process of film making - but don't tell them that!
Some people get used. A few do the using. Most lay back and take another sip.
My mother knew the Teslas. Nikola Tesla's sister was her favourite. My mother could tie a knot in an eyelash - Tesla's mother could tie three knots in an eyelash. Of course, Nikola Tesla is the person who invented AC electricity and remote-controlled robots and 600 other patented things that we now use (and are still being "discovered"). He was the Wizard of Oz and Mark Twain's "Mysterious Stranger". So many of that community were exceptional in their capabilities. For those who showed some exceptional ability, there was an inexorably mated factor - they were, and are, perceived as being "out of phase" with others. This translates into a vague and completely unfounded distrust. The community has now been completely bulldozed and resettled by other people.
Aspergers syndrome is used to describe the out-of-phase characteristic. I think it's still voodoo science to place people inside such a fence.
The characteristics shown by people arise out of a flowing, multi-dimensional matrix. Hard-wired genetic factors set the stage. Environmental inputs then either harden further predispositions, or deal various degrees of glancing blows to established tendencies. Then language comes into play like a whirlwind on the Sahara, pushing this way and that; re-forming, covering, baring, choking, and bringing occasional rain.
A person’s “personality” is a snapshot at some point in that on-going process.
To artificially pull out a few characteristics at one point and label a person “bi-polar” or “autistic” or “attention-deficit” is to fall into the trap that language (that separate, sentient life form) has laid for us: Categorization.
Everything has to be Named. Otherwise, how does one refer to something unnamed? If it doesn’t have a noun, it is to be Feared (the default Name).
Imagine not “thinking” in Words. We call that dreaming.
Dreams may or may not be in colour – sometimes.
Dreams flow. And happen. And just “are”. To describe them is to throw them into the rock-solid confinement of not-dreams – Language.
Dreams may or may not follow “logic” (a reproducible series of [named] steps, one following the step of the previous one).
Dreams may be not applicable to conscious actions, or they may provide the “leap in logic” [leap over logic] that would not have been possible by following the currently known series of plodding steps in a process.
Tesla dreamed. In his dreams he SAW AC dynamos at work, powering AC multiphase motors.
But he was out of phase. The original “Mad Scientist” with soirees attended by Mark Twain and JP Morgan and other lucky folk who sat in his residence in the Waldorf Astoria with Tesla coils sparking and motors whirring and Tesla holding one of his fluorescent tubes in his hands, all lit up and not connected to anything. Great matters were discussed at these soirees. But like a dream (although all these things happened) there was little or no translation into the life of real Words. So the soirees, like dreams, evaporated out of the historical stream of events. As did Tesla.
As may I.
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The Universe Is Shrinking
Apr 1, 2004
“I went on a trip yesterday.”
“Where did you go?”
Her smile is a bit mischievous. Her dentures gleam.
“Oh, we went a long way. Helen and I were taken to that park beside the waterfall – Niagara Falls.”
And then he calms down.
“Mom, did you go on the trip yesterday?”
“Well, yes. No. The day before… I’m not sure, now that you asked…”
She looks out at the backyard. A dark grey cat is lounging against the sun-warmed garden shed on the far side of their manicured lawn.
“Is that cat always there, mom?”
“Cat? What cat?…”
He sits back in his chair.
“Is there a cat out there? Reach me my glasses, will you, son?…”
She squints at the picture window.
“That’s why the birds don’t visit anymore…”
He reaches for her glasses and places them on her lap. Then he picks up the changer, flicking on a nature show.
“Maybe that’s why there’s no rabbits in the yard, either, eh, mom?”
“Mom. Can I help you down to the dining room?”
“Would you like to go on a trip with me down to the dining room?”
“Oh can we?… That would be great fun.”
She pulls her sweater down her hips then rocks a bit to get up. She stops.
“Oh, son. Can you find my slippers? I’m not sure where I left them.”
Seeing them just under the bed next to her feet, he pulls them out and helps her get them on.
“Son, can you please take a look, sometime, in the shoe stores, for a nice pair of shoes? These slippers are very good, but they’re getting to feel funny inside… Take a look at them, will you?”
He pulls off the old slippers. His mother’s feet are ninety-one years old, very flat, looking like they’ve been contained tightly for, well, ninety years. They are almost as wide as they are long.
Nobody makes shoes to fit her. He’s tried and tried.
Ten years ago, when his mother was still quite active, they had gone to a shoe store. The pair that sort-of fit were soon put in the closet because they were too slippery and heavy. They are still there. The slippers they got then are what she is now wearing. They don’t make the right kind of slippers anymore – some are too sticky, or too slippery, or the metal on them somewhere tingles her nerves. Several new pairs are in the closet with the shoes.
“You’re right, mom. The lining is rumpled a bit. I’ll just cut the lumps out… Your scissors still in the drawer?”
“If somebody hasn’t taken them. Try that drawer… Or maybe the…”
“Here they are. Just be a minute.”
He turns off the television as he sits down to work on the slippers.
He snips the frayed lining from both slippers, then smoothes down the insides.
“Here, let me put them back on. Let’s see if that’s better.”
Her old socks cover swollen and discoloured legs. Looking at them, his gut shivers.
As he gently pulls the socks, being sure not to make them too tight, he makes a note to try to set a few dollars aside to buy her some new ones.
“There. Now let me help you up, mom.”
“Ok. Where’re we going, son?”
“For a walk down to the dining room. It’ll be supper time soon… Then I’m going to have’ta get on the road. Have’ta take a load to Cincinnati.”
“You’re going already, son?”
“Yes, mom. Gotta pay the bills… But first we’ll go on a trip to the dining room.”
“Oh son, I haven’t given you anything to eat or drink. There’s some cookies in one of the drawers – if they haven’t taken them. The girls are very nice, but as soon as I leave the room, they go through all the drawers and take the cookies and fruit and who knows what else…”
“Yes mom. They said they have to, to keep down the mice and things.”
“Here’s your walker. Is it working alright, now?”
“Yes. The tune-up helped… It’s just…”
She settles her arms along the handles.
“These handles are really uncomfortable. And when my hands touch the metal, the electricity goes right into my arms.”
“Well, I’ve been looking for something that would work better. They don’t seem to have the right parts. I keep looking, mom…”
A long shuffle gets them to the dining room. It is right at the exit. He steers her gently toward the drinks table.
“Mom, would you like a juice, now, or a banana?”
She looks around the dining room.
“Oh, no thanks, son. They’ve nearly finished setting up for… Is this breakfast?”
“It’s supper time. The board says that you’ll be having ham with mashed potatoes and peas. Sounds good, doesn’t it?”
A server hustles out of the kitchen with the last of the plates and cutlery.
“I’ll sit over there at my table. That’s my table – just Dorothy and me, now. Emile’s gone. Dorothy doesn’t want to leave. One of the girls wanted to move her to the other side but she said, NO, I’m not leaving Eva! She helps me, she said.”
They get to the table.
“I help her take the right pills. Heh heh. She forgets things easily. But she doesn’t want to leave.”
“Mom. Give me a kiss. I’m going to have to go now.”
She gives her son a big kiss.
“Bye, son. Why don’t you take a snack with you?”
“That’s alright. I’m going to be stopping for supper soon… Well, maybe just a cookie and some juice.”
At the snack table he wraps up the cookie in a serviette, then puts it in a pocket. Pouring some orange juice into a glass, he glugs it down, thinking that it will save him a bit of money at supper, down the road.
Ready, he gives his mother a wave.
“Now you take it easy driving that big truck of yours,” she says lightly.
“Bye mom. See you next week.”
As he leaves, he smiles at the stone fountain outside the entrance that she calls Niagara Falls. The park benches and umbrellaed tables are occupied by a few people, taking in the afternoon sun.
His Peterbilt is parked on the road.
He wipes his nose and eyes, then pats the cookie in his pocket.
What are we talking about, here?
Apr 1, 2004
Language, as a repository of learned behaviours and as a laboratory for symbolic recombinations, has enabled us to span the universe.
Language is a sentient life form.
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