Saturday, February 14, 2009

Centuries

Having finished the first draft of a paper on the enthymeme, I'm taking the day off, mostly. Besides, it's Valentine's Day, and without love the world's but a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

I'm staring at the centuries on my wall. Right now, my scribbled timeline spans 6 centuries, 13th till the 19th, Genghis Kahn till Emily Dickinson. St. Francis to Van Gogh. Magna Carta to the Emancipation Proclamation.

15th and 16th centuries seem, as I stare at them, disproportionately important-- simple revisionism by way of a sloppy pen, and undergraduate memories mostly-- I get the feeling that Gutenberg and his printing press really did have a dramatic effect on ... ideas. Disseminating them, obviously, but also what that dissemination must have quickly lead to: sudden exponential growth in the organic intertwining of random thoughts and systematic treatises, all melding, adapting to one another, birthing weird new hybrids. Regardless of how much of the growth and change was due to the easy reproduction of texts, its clear that those 150 years were important: Renaissance, Reformation, Beginnings of Modern Philosophy, Beginnings of Modern Science, Shakespeare, Bacon, Cervantes, Copernicus, Luther, Montaigne, Galileo, Age of Discovery, Columbus, Magellan, First Flush Toilet (!!).

The spinning wheel.

Sack of Rome by Charles V. And Descartes, Da Vinci, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Queen Elizabeth... all the things they sacked...

All culminating in the formation of the Jamestown Colony in 1607. That's what my timeline says. That's what the scribbly revisionist in me says. Add four hundred and two years to that, subtract three months, and you've got me, sitting here, product of all the masterminds and mistressminds who came before me. All the servantminds, and petminds, and townfoolminds. All the whippingboyminds.

I could say the same of the ceramic cup on my desk. Or the cell phone next to it-- which always reminds me of a Transformer. Of whom it could also be said.

Now I'm looking at a picture of myself on the other wall, not the timeline wall but the picture wall, and the picture, a polaroid, is of my Mom in a beige sweater vest propping my squirmy Sailor-suited body up. I'm smiling. I was a cutie.

I think you're a cutie too, cutie. And you ceramic cup.

As the NT says: "A Great Cloud of Witnesses" -- I feel them buoying beneath us, the many minds, the many dead, whose thoughts produced the ways I think, and what I've (just now) said.

1 comment:

Ryan H. said...

I was feeling the saints too a few days ago. The billions of people past time on Earth. A cloud of witnesses. Look at the clouds. Feel all those witnessing. All those words in different languages towards different religions and different political states. It was an expansion of my mind, or it felt expansive...