Saturday, June 06, 2015

Playlist For Thinking Deep (?) Thoughts

I have a lot to ponder this week and to distract myself from the serious things I have to think about that actually affect my real life and the real world and the real people in it, I'm going to think about some stuff that doesn't really matter unless it really matters a lot.

Stuff like Is the rule that 'rules are meant to be broken' meant to be broken?

The maxim that 'rules are meant to be broken' and its corollary that the exception proves the rule are used over and over and misused every time.  The exception that proves the rule doesn't mean "the exception that makes the rule true," but uses 'proves' in the old-fashioned sense of tests: the exception tests the rule to see if it is, in fact, a rule.  If it doesn't apply in every situation, then it's not a rule. There are rules like mathematical concepts like that one that says A+B=B+A or whatever. That's a rule. There is no exception to it.

Similarly if rules are meant to be broken then we do not mean them to be rules at all.  I can't think of a single rule it would be a good idea to break.  The saying isn't used in situations where we mean an unjust rule; nobody seems to say it about things like 'separate but equal,' which would be a rule that was meant to be broken.  Instead, we use it to justify antisocial behavior that benefits us at the expense of society.  Think of everytime you've heard someone say "Rules are meant to be broken" or something like that. They're about to do something that makes them kind of a jerk, aren't they?

Speaking of jerks,

Who Is Eilert Lovborg Anyway?

Did you listen to that first song? Or at least read the title? I love songs that are about people I've never heard of, and then going to find out what the deal was with those people.

Eilert Lovberg is a character in the play Hedda Gabler. Hedda and her husband George are academics, middling along in their life and struggling to make a go of it. George wants a professorship, but then Eilert shows up.  Eilert turns out to be not only Hedda's ex-lover but a recovering alcoholic and the author of a best-selling work in the same field as George. George and Hedda, already worried about going broke, fear Eilert will get the professorship that George wants.  Eilert doesn't want that job, though: He's got a new girl, Thea, and he and his gal are working on a sequel to the bestseller.

Hedda, now jealous of Thea, encourages Eilert to go to a party with George. Eilert relapses, gets drunk, and loses his manuscript for the sequel.  George finds the manuscript but doesn't tell anyone.  Eilert tells Hedda about losing the manuscript, but Hedda, instead of saying it was found, encourages Eilert to kill himself.  She also burns the manuscript.

That escalated quickly!

Eilert commits suicide, and George and Hedda set out to reconstruct the sequel from Eilert's notes.

Hedda's role in Eilert's suicide is discovered; there are hints of blackmail, and so Hedda kills herself.

Hedda Gabler is often thought to be the first 'neurotic' character in literature -- meaning that she doesn't act rationally, and doesn't act randomly, but rather acts according to a hidden set of goals that only she understands, and which she finds more important than public, rational goals society claims to have.

Society's weird, though, and we form constructs about our very constructs, distancing ourselves from the things we say we want, or trying to impose on them an order that doesn't exist. I mean, for example:
Why is love the only emotion we are unsure of?

This has long been a pet peeve of mine.  Have you ever heard someone say "I think I'm in [any emotion other than love]"? No, you haven't.  There's never been a time that someone cut you off for a parking spot or you got fired or your kid did something funny and you responded "I think I'm angry/sad/happy." 

But love? We tell people they're not really in love, and we question whether we are in love, and we talk about how we didn't really know about love ever before this moment.

Maybe we do that because we are afraid of what love might make us do?

There was a stir a while back when an author looked at a 1997 study of closeness and made the rather bold claim that you can make someone fall in love with you just by asking (and answering) 36 questions.  She didn't seem to think love was so mysterious: "Love didn't happen to us. We're in love because we each made the choice to be." 

Reducing love to nothing more than a job interview doesn't seem so romantic, but I'm not sure that saying nobody really knows what it is or can be sure they are in it is so romantic, either.

Lightening up a bit, here, let's think about other things we say about the things we use. Like

 What are you supposed to call a book when it doesn't have any kind of physical form any more?

I often find myself thinking about the words we use for stuff we use.  Automobile, and the shorter auto, seems pretty self-explanatory, as are both film and movie.  And those words seems like they'll stick around even as those things change.  The self-driving car I wish existed RIGHT NOW FOR ME will be even of a more automatic mobile than the one I drive myself around in now.  A movie will always move.

But I say watch TV when I mean look at a movie on my laptop (although more and more I say watch Netflix or something like that); that's still pretty accurate, though -- the word "television," used to describe the console and the generally broadcast things on it, means "vision at a distance".

Every definition of the word "book" refers to the physical creation we think of as a book: pages, covers, etc.  The word still might apply just fine for ebooks; there are (e)pages and a physical casing for that book, still.  But what about audiobooks? I download an audiobook onto my phone and listen to it. No pages, no cover (unless I guess I count the phone?)

I suppose book has come to encompass the ideas within the book, a generic term for 'this set of words that tells you something,' rather than the physical thing people still like to carry around for some reason (I caught Sweetie reading one the other day!).

But that doesn't stop me from feeling awkward about audiobooks. I can't say I read a book when I listened to it and if someone says "Hey, did you like the book The Passage?" I feel dumb saying "Oh, yeah, I listened to that it was great."

And finally How come he's the 'waiter' when I am the one who is required to sit for a period of time before getting to do the thing I'm here for?

This one's kind of easy, though actually: originally, the term was used for servants to wait by the table to fetch stuff for their masters.

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