You have no items in your cart. Want to get some nice things?Go shopping
O Nature, and O soul of man! how far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies!
not the smallest atom stirs or lives in matter, but has its cunning duplicate in mind.
–Ahab, Moby Dick
Lost in a musing, as we curved down and around the High Atlas Mountains on the road to Marrakech, I bobbed and shifted in my seat. Low and lulling, the handsome tonal chatting of our tour guides, Brahim, Ahmed, and Mustafa, softened and sealed into a mist over their mixtape—less melody, more massage, an indigenous female voice sang a lilting plea that moved in rhythm with our van’s response to the terrain.
Inside, a myriad of vibrations. Momentarily modifying. Outside, my eyes tracked, attaching to the passing Moroccan landscape. Motion quelled emotion. My attention narrowed to a welling up within. A soft voice from a still pond. Silently spoken. Repeating in refrain:
The red road crumbles—
and turns to dust beneath us.
Mountains above and below.
A chain of durations of dry cracked heat had caused sizeable and irregularly shaped red boulders to dislodge, roll down, and break the paved red road beneath. Ruptured arteries. Steep slopes of flowing rubble. Generative ground.
Grows. Grinds. Granulates anew.
Earth to desert, desert to rust. Time: measured in a grain of sand.
Burgeoning pink clouds of dust engulfed us. The intermittent numina of road crews, numerous and industrious, remade the highway in a string of continuing negotiations, impressive and persistent. My soft core, rose, again as a sweep of emotions turned and tumbled across—the faults, the cliffs, the shifts—parenthood’s ostensible end.
A sad-elated weariness to watch out for; the task is often trickier on descent.
The visual landscape’s mood, outside, an earthy kiln clay red, rough, hot, soft-edged, and temporally serene; the charming chanting and chatting, inside—blew into a synthesis, a color- texture-feeling-sound print, upon whose trace I hitched a small satchel of hopes. Back to consciousness.
Engaging sub-critically, I lingered in its spell. I fell, into a trance interrogation of the poetic—
The red road crumbles—
and turns to dust beneath us.
The red road crumbles—
and turns to dust.
The red road—
The red road,
The mountainside synaesthetic set a match to, and matched, my feeling: that something solid and substantial was withering away in the dry hot wind. How hapless! this happiness.
Haunts blasted, and blessed. Birds blown, and blowing, from their nest. Flights unfolding pine—for futures. Already flown.
The red road crumbles.
The book is at once a reality of the virtual and a virtuality of the real.
In near Biblical stroke of human genius, the Digital Revolution divided history into two: before and after; after which, speed, immediacy, efficiency, became capstones of a daily shorthand code that made reality reductively byte-sized and replicable.
This cultural fission, the great digital split, became a binary moment. After which, everything before it became: analog. Though the word analog is often—some would argue mistakenly—generalized to include anything non-digital, how understandable! Defining things by their, if not technical at least felt, opposite.
And how undeniably convenient it is, having the world at one’s finger tips—our original digits. Extending our touch. Forever indigenizing the non-indigenous.
But it is a lot to handle: this invisible weight. A growing conehead of data to the Cloud. Its beanstalk promises, a gangly infinitude of Hamlet’s ghosts in a hall of mirrors.
Amidst this daily digital deluge on our senses, the impulse to inquire after the analog and the analogous is:
Pulling at us like a memory or a dream.
For the lure of analog is the non-binary and existential.
And, why I chose, on return from a trip to Morocco, not to ignore the preconscious whisperings that emerged from the sand and dust of a waking desert dream, from which a lyrical and unexpected caravan of words courted me, like some missionary vessel with a special message. The silent spoken slurry of which felt no less powerful than having discovered a missing page from an ancient treasured book.
The caravan arrived like an invitation from the underworld. To embark on an adventure of unproven value. To find inspiration in things that didn’t make sense, from the land of dreams and poetry, and then translate them, analogously, to a world of words on paper.
Or at least the virtual page.
In the act of commuting this waking reverie to reality, I decided: it was worth investigating the potential inherent value of a singular string of words. Dreamt into a peculiar existence.
If the spoken word was, as Buckminster Fuller contended, humanity’s first industrial tool—converting our invisible intentions into perceptible vibrations; spirit into matter—then perhaps the written word was the non-electronic precursor to digital technology: packaging humans’ most unique qualities—emotion, intelligence, creativity—into transferable and repeatable expressions for the remote and perpetual replay of contents on demand. The book, as Carl Sagan said, being:
proof that human beings are capable of magic
But perhaps more important, to attend, if circumspectly, to the extraordinarily vague significance of the analogous itself. And that which we call analog. Why, for example, is it positioned as digital’s opposite; and what, if anything, the increasingly powerful imperative to return to analog might mean?
Scientists know ignorance fuels investigation. So maybe not knowing where my questions lead is exactly the point; a terra infirma upon which I willfully transform my inspired ignorance into a door that receives and propels me forward.
By vagaries, true. Poetry, yes. And intuition. The serendipitous and subliminal. The arabesque.
Such are my escorts into the soft and slippery machinations of mind. Through which I’ll wind and wander. Revere and rave. Inquire, invoke, wonder, wager. Petition and parlay.
To return again—perhaps with something fabulous, or new.
As I meditate on it now, I find the intrepid red road falls away, but only off a minor ledge—when it: crumbles. Admirably conveying, in utterance, its meaning: a soft, brambling rhythm humbly crumpling, in dissipation. In fact, the red road crumbles in such poignant pregnancy of irresolution … I barely needed to say (maybe never did) that it turns to dust.
Ancient mapmakers and mariners used the term terra firma to signal known and solid ground; thereafter it became metaphor. My crumbling red road though? was its (unofficial) antonym: terra infirma. Not infirm, as in weak or unhealthy, but not firm. Unsteady. Shifting and fluid.
Ungraspable, like clasping at sand—the harder you hold, or press, the more it falls and slips.
Terra infirma is an artistic expression. For example, it’s the title of Betsy Dadd’s films of vibrating still-life pencil drawings. As well as the subtitle of a book Geography’s Visual Culture.
It can’t, yet, be found in a dictionary; it is made up. (As if things in dictionaries weren’t.) Art and intellect, the cognitively creative—our cultural terra infirma—pave the way to new constructions and cartographies; our verbal, living-dictionary currency a kind of Prolegomena to any Future Intellectual Gentrification. Mutating, in a generative pool of the linguistic Who’s Who of words.
But in poetry, terra infirma is the guide; a molten lava to mountains. Words vibrate, tessellate, atomize and shift, as meaning-images move inside. Unstable as a storm at sea. Or still as a pond.
Through which a single pebble makes clear change.
On return from our trip, I had a hypnopompic dream.
It is a half-dream upon waking that—emotionally intuitive and conceptually laden—verges on problem-solving reverie. Keen on gleaning silty insights from somatic depths, I was loathe to leave its luxury, a liminal space.
Fine threads of feelings, East and West, mingled inside, stirring below sleep’s surface, at day’s break. I lingered there.
And found myself riding upon my waking consciousness, as on the back of a camel. Swaying in sync with the Saharan dromedary’s soft pre-dawn footsteps. Sinking and cupping and shuffling through the sand, I careened. In slow saltatory descent through imaginal quicksand; only to rise again, floating up, blown and bridled in a rhythm of loose-yoked thoughts.
From which emerged the strange verbal caravan of associations. Words whose kinship threatened to disintegrate in full light of reason.
I held tight to the reign of mood that bound them, like a mudra or seal. As solitary and shifting as grains of sand, its persistent formation tapped upon the tip of my tongue, painting an exotic meaning landscape across time, language, culture.
Intuitions felt upon the red red road.
Among them, there were analogues. Metal coinage and mineral earth. Not only mineral but lingual and vegetal variations on the color red. Measures of meaning, value and verse. A near-ready violence, perhaps, or weary and placeless wandering pleasure palace.
For in the dim undersurface of dream, these words were a string of jewels whose crystal-ball reflections might yield truths linked by otherwise disparate meanings. A dream spun perhaps in part from my last name, the caravan was a vowel-changing, r-consonant chameleon ode to the desert. Associative ruminations. Space-generating. Another forms as I write:
If, as Plato said, a stone is frozen music, this song refuses, still, to crystallize; its lyric, a pale pink moving mountain of sand.
That the rubaiyat stanza—an aaba rhyming pattern of verse in quatrains—was inspired by the famous Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is interesting. But more fascinating was what my word-dream taught me: that the quatrain, or ruba’i, was named after an ancient melted metal bar, divided into fours and used for payment. Imagine: poetry as currency.
My word caravan was as saliently specific as woefully woolly and oblique.
Confabulatory, even, since I would add, subtract, and rearrange it. Never perfect, yet always almost always so. Forever caught in a middle space. I’d reach my hand in, ever searching for both the original seed and hoping to unfurl its fully destined length. Remembering and revising the train and entrainment of my visual thinking dream. Authentic and embellished both, then, the vowel-weighted sutra stuck together, and fell apart. Each word-thought imprinting itself in me as temporarily as sand beneath camel’s feet—settled enough to push against, sufficiently airy and unweighted to anticipate the next step.
Semantically primal, primevally semantic, it was subconscious. Somatic, drawing upon feeling and mood. Attempting to unearth the ineffable while leaving the mystery intact. Like Bachelard’s waking-conscious “word reveries”.
Digital technology, dependent on analog’s real-world samplings, abstracts them into discrete representations. Symbolic language further codifies them into formula-based programs (such as binary code), then re-analogizes them via analog-like representation.
For example: a numeric-symbolic recording device assigns 1 or 0 to spatial color-coded light values—pixels—whose combined effect looks and feels, increasingly, like direct experience.
Analog technology, then—ostensibly closer to whole, direct experience—is more sensory and relational via its more proximate, intimate—less mediated—contact. Of course “direct experience” is problematic (cf. Western philosophy since Kant).
But, might it be less devious than technology calling itself virtual, thus singing its own praise?
Digital tech offers a more “prefab” experience. Objects are pre-weighed, assigned value, appraised, ranked and scaled. Symbolic shortcuts such as binary code and algorithms—intelligent and effective—create delimiting stand-ins for interpretation. Through its dependence on abstraction, via numerical and symbolic language, it leans more rational, less empirical.
Likewise, our stored experiences and memories, lessons we’ve learned in school, rules of life and culture, exist as an assortment of available pre-judgments. When we don’t change our experiences or opinions—our minds—and rely on these pre-judgments, we run the risk of prejudice, perpetuating cultural biases, repeating mistakes. In emergencies these shortcuts save our lives. But not all shortcuts are created equal. In an unjust world, our technologies are rooted in reduction. Their destructive capacities threaten to obliterate us.
The lure of a return to analog is a craving for value. Based in nature and life. Rather than money and manageability, extraction and profit. It trades in wholes and creative correspondences.
Analog technology is so named because it makes analogy—is an analog—to direct experience. It is a mechanism, not unlike our brains, measuring and recording the variability of continuity.
At least a perceived continuum. Like humans’ sensorial translations of the external world, analog technology represents relationships—mimicked more than manipulated, according to nature’s design and, though not without play from the galley of social mores and will of imagination, human’s best ability. As extensions of our bare-sense perceptions, analog technologies receive, record, translate, and amplify back our experiences of the world.
Sound waves, for example, are physically transferred to vinyl disc or chemically imprinted on magnetic tape in formats that can be copied, played, repeated. Sonar technologies detect energy signals beyond our natural senses, transmitting them electronically, making them visible.
Moving images appear continuous to our naked eye but package light onto film in discrete, non-continuous frames of reference. Thus technologists deem them less analog than vinyl records.
It gets confusing. Maybe we forget that analogy implies an analogical relationship.
And that a relationship is between two or more things. Or beings. Or beings and things. Or words. Or words and things. Or meanings. Also, between organisms and mechanisms. Or, between things perceived and constructed by us, like machines.
I was nearly awake, but felt drugged. Sluggish and restless. Caught in a conceptual wave of oneiric-poetic wondering, I swooned and swirled and swayed. Sinking into the desert sand, emerging weightless, atop surf’s dune’s dense hot air, rising. Loping down again, words appeared, and erased, in the itinerant desert palimpsest of caravan’s wake.
Though accompanied by a deeply physical feeling of real, the poiesis of dreams in the hypnopompic state inverts reality. Reverie, according to Bachelard, bears witness to a normal, useful irreality function
After which, reality’s normality violently resumes. My left brain kicked in. Demanding dialogue.
Are the words’ roots even connected?
RIGHT: (annoyed enough to hijack the left’s analytical side)
By connected, I assume you mean scientifically; in this case, linguistically?
You know, actual etymological evidence lends more intrigue, not to mention credibility; that is, if you want to make a case.
RIGHT: (voice raised in righteous indignation)
But this—is desert poetics!
LEFT: (flustered by fluster)
RIGHT: (mind cooled to a male peacock in full flush of display)
There are other kinds of connections: literary, aesthetic. Make-believe. Works and insights of the imagination.
Though the left brain had made a frightful point, it wasn’t enough, ironically, to use mere argument to make an argument; empty frame on frame; content versus content. And so, by assuming its dominance, the left had lost it. While in a strategic psychological move, the right brain co-opted left’s tactic, breathing a Pantone swatch book of color into its tired old trope.
Laying out a reign of love, not terror.
Thus romancing the left into a cooperative submission in which it discovered: the meaning of analogy in linguistics is “the process by which words or phrases are created or re-formed”.
Some things are so solid in their reality
that one forgets to dream upon their name.
It was an accident of mistyping, but I supposed it could be true—because I wrote it, and read it, and thought it—that the read road crumbles too.
The wonderful thing about language is its essential and erroneous flexibility. Words dissolve on close inspection. And in the heat of one’s amateur word-origin musings rears this embarrassing and liberating truth. That the little-big stories of origins, etymologies, as well as the oneiric-poetic musings called word reveries, assert themselves not only among and within but between languages. In a forever unfolding space of discovery. Beyond terra firma. Always pointing toward what one didn’t see and didn’t know.
Without any outside help, humans’ primeval urge for words assembles itself into a song or playful dance. A changing choreography of unexpected meanings and serendipitous linkages.
Its lush, salubrious terra infirma proves great fodder for the imagination.
And then there is this fact: the mere existence of a science of word roots, like all science, attests to its subject’s fluidity. How words adapted and evolved and overlapped, in usage and meaning; how one word root morphs into another, nearly justifying a leap over logic when evidence lacks. Right brain, wielding confidence again, uncharacteristically went for the kill.
Because why not go and be humanly creative again?
Will an anti-consumerist movement toward the analog make a difference?
Young hipsters and old hippies alike show preference for paper-and-ink books and bookstores; vinyl records, typewriters, and film cameras; small presses, print magazines, graphic novels, and zines; local over big-box; handmade and idiosyncratic over mass-produced; thrift and vintage over commercial. Slow food over fast. Making over consuming. And cars? Who needs a driver’s license in cities with good public transportation?
Not unlike the 1960s Wes Anderson world I grew up in.
I walked down the sidewalk to catch the bus to Red Raider summer camp, rode a horse named High Society, marveled at a fellow camper who ritually rolled her Wonder Bread into a ball, swam relay races in a muddy pond, and wondered if that girl named Robin was really a boy.
Scrappy, barefoot, preppy.
I stubbed my toes, stepped on glass, and swung from the monkey bars; skipping one too far, I broke my arm. Slate chard from a discarded school chalkboard in hand, I climbed a tree; the jagged piece dislodged while scrambling up and sliced my skin deep. I cowered when middle-school boys cornered us; there, between the gym and the Elizabethan theatre, vague prepubescent fears spawned as they tugged at our Danskins.
All of which happened on school grounds while my parents played tennis.
The same years, though, when disinformation helped maintain those norms. Had some Nixonian device implanted itself in our youthful musings, about which word was longest?
supercalifragalisticexpialodocious or antidisestablishmentarianism
It was Baby Boom’s bitter end at the height of the Cold War. Race riots. Desegregation. The ERA. The President shot dead on national television. Assassinations. Student risings, shootings. Kent State, Jackson State, Orangeburg; and over the border, Corpus Christi, the Tlatelolco massacre, and the Mexican Dirty War. The year the Cuyahoga River caught fire from pollution, in 1969, we spoofed on a jingle—‘McDonald’s is our kind of place’, we sang, ‘They serve us milkshakes, made from the Great Lakes’. Our Mary-Poppins innocence yielded without struggle to Go Ask Alice and rock opera Tommy. See me, feel me, touch me, heal me, went the lyric.
Antidisestablishmentarianism won out.
Midcentury’s Mad Men of the Ad Age morphed into mercenary designers and monkey-suit marketeers. Squandering human creativity. Slutting themselves to corporate clients as pitch boobs and sales bots.
While computers evolved brains.
I’ve never read an e-book.
“E-books appear to be winning out”, a market report stated years ago. The contest metaphor underlined capitalism’s dependence on winners and losers. The greater the power differential, the more leverage; investments thrive on disinvestment and gutting things out. Framing markets in such either/or language benefits the investor, not the consumer.
I glance at my iPhone.
Like others, I’m addicted. To the way it charges me. When dopamine levels drop, I pick it up. Amazing how a rhetorical device as old as power is now encoded into a handheld device. Device. Also know as whatnot, doohickey, thingamabob, and whatchamacallit. Deriving from the Latin for division. As potentially effective as Evil Plankton’s radio-controlled Chum Bucket.
I’ve learned to watch out for things presented as binary; non-complementary; zero-sum.
I, too, prefer used books and clothes, going out to movies, taking notes with a pen, turning the page of a real book. How much time has been wasted in writing this on the convenience of the back button? Would a typewriter’s commitment facilitate a clearer choice?
I feel the reasons behind this trend. Analog technologies are better quality experiences by definition, so named because they are:
They record more detail, engage more of the senses, demand fuller presence and participation of people, objects, sensibilities, and intelligences. They are more “real” in the sense of being less mediated. Not to propose everything analog is better; a real gun will kill, a virtual one not. But the analog-assisted drone digitally multiplies its lethal impact, and conveniently removes the perpetrator. When non-violent, though, the analogous remains more closely aligned to source, producing a more tangible and pleasing aesthetic. Embracing our humanity, performing no erasure of nature’s own imperfect perfections.
Dealing in the vintage market, I gauge these differences daily. The heavy metal blades of old electric fans not only look sleek but cut the air into crisper wisps of wind. Scratched vinyl discs reveal how much the music was loved. I wonder if, like roosters, the shrill sound of mechanical alarm clocks grated our nerves just enough to wake us abruptly—and remember our dreams.
I use digital music but admit: a soft fluff of fuzz stuck under a needle offers a scintillating sound. Of course the quality of custom craftsmanship is limitless. But the functional aesthetics of mass-manufacturing, before supply-side economics? That is something to behold.
Add the affordability. Things bought second-hand. Radio, cheap and free. Things and appliances made to last. Less convenience, true, but also less isolation; more physicality and shared experiences. The commonplace analog experience, the technology of everyday living, even offers a sense of reclaiming time. It can be counter-intuitive. Slow food takes longer; but sublimates love while providing nutrition.
We connect at light speed via social media but get sucked into a black hole. Emerging senseless and leached of time. Sigh.
The analog measures events over time. If digital is more spatial, the analog more temporal, perhaps it is like language—our innate technology of speech—resonating with our minds.
… an image that deserts its imaginary principle and becomes fixed in one definitive form, takes on little by little all the characteristics of immediate perception … We could say that a stable and a completely realized image clips the wings of the imagination.
I didn’t want to wake up.
But when I did, I poured coffee in my cup and exited directly to the back porch. Craving to soothe my transition by immersion in nature. I slipped into the upward angle of an Adirondack chair and gazed up under a soft fluttering umbrella of river birch leaves. Breathing, in relief.
But as my eyes shifted to the backyard, I might as well have stared at a mirage. Or, only wished I had. Our over-familiar lot confronted me, disconcerting and aggressive.
“Sorry. This is all there is. Demand nothing more—and don’t ask questions”.
The key was in the lock. It filled my field of vision, defensively blocking mental images of my travels, and the beautiful, conceptual-hallucinatory afterglow of my waking desert dream.
This key and lock I am describing were: as if alive!
The key puffed up expanding into place as the lock embraced every nuance of its proportions. If this sounds sexual, it was unfortunately violent—intrusive, forced, suffocating. Our middling slice-of-heaven backyard was suddenly seductive and seditious; a hungry ghost for the visual image; its own visage, a pretty-veil spectacle. Severe, immobile. Stuck to itself with Super Glue.
In perpetual performative erasure, it filled up my perception, momentarily swiping clean my mindscape and memory. The more I rejected its assault, the more craven, expansive, and interpolating it became. Gaslighting me. Like Mara appearing to Buddha under the Bhodi tree.
“Don’t be a fool. This is all there is”.
I closed my eyes to picture the beautiful colors and forms of Moroccan doors. And all that had informed my reality just hours before. The muted bright of greens and reds, yellows and blues, softened by sun and sand, warmed against weathered wood, rounded clay, and iron arabesques. Cool geometric tiles tessellated in the walls and walkways. Full and welcoming, a rainbow. Art, architecture, food and spices, tiles and textiles. Azure skies at dawn.
A brown velvet heart stone, like baby’s skin, pillowed securely in wet sand-colored sand.
But the assault continued. Ever aggressive. Under assuring. Over-sugared and false. Fixated on a loop of brain gratification. The uniform unspiritual of my current scene kept rushing in.
I turned to my phone for evidence. My visual cortex struggled to accept the difference, refusing to reconcile the images, yearning to turn them away, as outsider: it wanted all or nothing.
The nothing was curiously eager to win.
Thumbing through my digital photos, I noticed how the Essaouirian arches and doors resembled a keyhole shape: rounded at the top, rectangular on the sides. The negative and positive imagery of which was evocative of male and female genitive imagery.
I gazed up again. The keyhole shape had transformed my predicament.
Where the foreground had been a transparently maneuvered key stuck in the negative space of our backyard, the forms reversed. Background now protruding, it became a keyhole, a lock without a key, through which my mind might see, or seep. Alternating shapes of lock and key floated imperceptibly in the middle of my fenced-in yard, fighting for their case.
Like the famous rabbit-duck experiment. Or the double silhouette human profiles that mirror each other and constitute the negative space of “Rubin’s Vase”. A flickering binary of ambiguous images vacillated as my mind sought continuity. This was the gestalt; one moment the keyhole occupied entirely by my current undesired reality, the next it was a stone-paved doorway to a medieval medina.
My right-brain poetic pulled me through. I couldn’t un-see how the closed-door backyard predictability opened up in abundance—magenta, turmeric, lavender, cobalt, blush, emerald and aqua—of textiles and spices. Imagination asserted no shortage of Moroccan doors in every color.
One of these realities felt more real. Not the disappointing analog of my external world. Nor digital photos of Moroccan doors. But my closed-eye imagination, where I saw the doors less perfectly but walked among the souks. Outsider to my own home, I re-membered myself to my known invisible interior.
When you walk through the door, you are the key.
It’s a culturally underplayed fact that digital technology usually relies on information translated via analog technology. (We may in fact know this, but pay it little attention.)
When we see “retro” novelties like vinyl records in big box stores—by now, the familiar commercialization of counter culture—we may ask if a cultural impulse has been scouted, targeted, and amplified from the investor side of the equation?
Re-introduction of originals, like Classic Coke.
Or, dare we imagine we’ve been duped at an even deeper level? By those who purposely sow the seeds of discontent, downgrading one thing at the expense of another and aiming to, years later, reap the rewards from a comeback?
At the apex of the Digital Revolution, Texas Instruments, inventor of the first handheld digital device, a portable calculator, made the interesting strategic decision to ditch digital research.
In favor of analog.
In a world where digital was dubbed master, analog the slave, they foresaw a future revolution; portended the truth of power, how its reactionary soul sought resolution only by counter force.
I noticed it years ago, in a documentary. I don’t remember the content, but it’s the framework that’s important. A journalist asked a question at a press conference along the lines of:
But, isn’t [x] just like [y]?
The journalist assumed the press secretary would respond without literalism—cued by the word “like”, which we learn in grade school signifies analogy—demonstrating a modicum of critical thinking’s basic math.
Then again, a press conference’s logic typically revolves around deflection.
I couldn’t decide whether it illustrated how endemic literalism had become, so simple yet so toxic in its ability to obfuscate communication, or how widespread the rhetorical techniques of propaganda had spread via the unmitigated exposure of media and marketing.
The officer disregarded the question entirely as absurd. And, adding insult to injury, deemed it necessary to point out the apriori obvious that:
[x] and [y] are two different things
Despite metaphor being at the foundation of language, the root of our thinking, our cultural struggle to include and cognitively process it continues. For example, in response to the widely distributed social meme The Future is Female, a counter claim emerged along the lines of:
I hope the future isn’t female, because it wouldn’t be inclusive.
Despite advocating for an important but separate vision—the non-binary—this counter claim had, unfortunately, hijacked the usually hopeful Future as Female theme, casting it as entirely literal in its vision. In an ironic turn, the counter claim itself, engaging in false dilemma, required binary thinking. And thus bypassed the campaign’s esteem-boosting, domination-busting mission, which was, not unlike Black Lives Matter, rooted in (and routing for) a historically oppressed group.
When words are used as industrial, gatekeeping, devices rather than the imperfect poetic-mimetic tools of expression they are, binary thinking insists that we choose sides:
something either is or isn’t binary
“Tribal literalism”, as Joseph Campbell called it, was a “reification of metaphor”, a refusal to participate in it: “scrapping the whole dictionary of the language of the soul”.
A human, all-too-human denial—of humanity itself.
The etymological meaning of analogy is “according to logic”. Through abstraction, analogy finds logical connection between the like qualities of otherwise unlike objects or ideas.
Without abstraction, there is no analogy.
If an analogy aligns with the power infrastructure, it will be accepted and encouraged. In fact, destined for consensus, it will be funded, messaged, and amplified to the broader community. But if it works against the status quo, it will be selectively shot down.
Thinking, as Hannah Arendt said, is dangerous in a tyrannical state.
Abstraction itself, outside of those forms sanctioned by late-stage capitalism—the inequitable use of calculus by Big Finance, the shocking foray into artificially intelligent weaponry by Big Tech, the extractive use of algorithms by Social Media—becomes suspect.
And what of thinking’s bedrock, metaphor? Though it may look all but dead …
It is a wild howling infinite at night.
Amy writes poetry and creative non-fiction while making progress on her first full-length fiction/nonfiction novel. A forthcoming flash fiction piece will appear in Guesthouse. An essay was published by The Raffish, and two essays were short-listed for New Philosopher magazine’s Writer’s Award. She lives in Indianapolis, sells vintage clothes and books, teaches yoga for recovery, and has an MA in the history and philosophy of science. Moved artistically by mood, and calling herself a New Transcendentalist, she eagerly awaits the Poetic Economy.