Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Morning's Adventure.

2:25 PM Posted by Patrick 4 comments
I woke up at 6 to the deafening klaxon of my alarm. After I had chastised it in the most severe of terms for its sin, I proceeded to snooze it for the next 45 minutes or so. Astonished each time that I woke that the cheeky little thing had the impudence and courage to sound again in the face of my displeasure.

I dragged myself out of bed...correction, I spent the next five minutes pulling off my covers bit by painful bit, allowing the cold of the room to shock some wakefulness into me, without sending  me into immediate cardiac arrest. The shower was another struggle. The hot water was irresistible, and I had to call up every last ounce of my self-control to turn it off. Amazingly, I escaped after fewer than ten minutes had passed.

Dressing was an even more difficult challenge. I did not like clothes this morning, and the clothes I did like were not enough clothes, or else, did not match with my new jeans, which I felt it was my sacred duty to wear. It was the kind of morning which will drive you crazy, or worse, to Jefferson Pointe. Eventually I found my way into something that did not offend my person too much, being soft enough not to aggravate my incipient tie rash, warm enough to keep me from dying, and dressy enough to keep me from feeling like a hobo.

Breakfast was the ordinary affair: stick something in toaster, eat it with eggs, repeat. Perhaps slightly more extraordinary, for the loaf of Stollen on the counter. Jonathan had already made the coffee, so I was quickly able to dispel my remaining grogginess.

My dear mother made her appearance just before Eight, or thereabout, and I chatted with her briefly before making my way out to the car. I squared my shoulders, turned up the collar on my coat, and strode purposefully to my car: I had a mission.

In my back pocket was a wallet. In that wallet lay, 1) a speeding ticket, and 2) more cash than I care to have at a given time. The fact that I was soon to give away all that cash did not bother me so much; it was the necessary result of a foolish mistake--a chapter of life to be dealt with and done.

I made my way downtown, parking by the Star Bank on Berry Street; I walked to Citizens square to pay my ticket at the City Clerk's Office, only to have the very nice lady tell me that I had been cited for a State Statute, and the rules are different; that I must go to the "Right, Venerable, Bud Meeks Ultimate Justice Center" to have it taken care of.

*Blink Blink*

Lucky that I am an adaptable animal--and that I dressed on the warm side--I went gallumphing back toward my car. Distracted by the Higher Grounds--and the distraction within the distraction--I took advantage of my pause to call the Casey Family Logistics Command Center to ascertain what was coming. Unfortunately, high command was unable to find any solid intel, so I was going it alone.

I walked the long, cold, lawyer infested stretch to the Hall of Justice. Upon walking in, I had to empty my pockets into a tray. In went my affects. Keys, coins, cellphone, and spring assisted knife: we had a problem. "Cell phones," declaimed the guard, "are banned from the building by court order! You actually violated a court order by walking in here with it. You must put it in your car, and then return, once you have put off your uncleanness." So I trudged all the way back to my car, feeling more than a bit of the latent anarchism that lurks within us all.

Two wrong turns, two unnecessary trips: I despaired that I would ever have time to get through the lines of people waiting to be helped. As I walked my solitary way back through the streets, I could already feel the pressing weight of failure. Yet I knew I had to try. I picked up the pace, and quickly made the return circuit.

Into the tray once more went the knife, keys, and coin. The guards waved me along--I think they were rather more amused by me than frustrated--and I stepped into the large atrium, where various malefactors were waiting to be brought before the Judge. It was then, and only then, that I realized the long line was not for me. I traipsed happily past the long line, to the empty window where tickets are taken care. After a brief, amiable, conversation with the wardens of that good office, they set about getting everything in order, which took a fraction of the time I had expected.

Another pleasant surprise waited at the end. The state ticket, with deferral, cost me about a hundred dollars less than the city ticket would have, and my ticket is waived in half the time.

I left the Hall of Justice feeling complete relief. Partly because it had cost less, but mostly because I knew that flukes in my schedule could no longer cause me to miss the payment deadline, resulting in a warrant for my arrest. My fetters were broken.

As I processed triumphantly toward my car, I realized that I was in closer proximity to Regal's than I would be at any time soon, so I stopped by for some celebratory pipe tobacco, to commemorate my exceeding virtue in getting the state citation as opposed to the city one.

I then found my way to the familiar confines of IPFW, from the library of which, Brethren, I write you this Epistle.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ramblings Inspired by Hunger

9:47 PM Posted by Patrick 1 comment
"History and German," I reply for the 47th time that day.

And everyone knows the question which follows after.

The question follows because my hearer misapprehends my purpose for studying German and History; not only that, they do not properly comprehend what I mean thereby; that is to say, those subjects signify to me.

To some, the study of history comprises the study and rote memorization of lists of dead men and the equally dead events of their lives, the only use for which is to torture the already wandering minds of bored children.

To others, thinking in a slightly more sophisticated way, it is the study of human development; perhaps the evolution of human civilization. Interesting, but not really of great utility. These sorts always respond with support, but perhaps with a shadow of amusement behind the eyes.

To others still, it is necessary. We must study history, or else we will keep making the mistakes of the past! If only people studied history, they would vote third party and the thousand year reign could begin in earnest.

No.

They are more impressed with German. I could teach that at a school too, and it is a rarer skill, so it should be in slightly higher demand. It is kind of cool as well. Impressive. I am yet to meet with a stranger who quite understood the importance of speaking the language of the worlds second largest export economy. Even then, that would fail to reach the mark.

My purpose in studying History and German resides in plain curiosity. I want to understand. More importantly, I want to understand ideas, and the nature of ideas. History is the complete record of philosophy, politics, culture, psychology, and literature in motion. Machiavelli refers to history as the laboratory of ideas, to which one must look to ascertain the nature of things, but what does he mean thereby?

To understand history is to have perspective. To understand any subject, outside of its greater context, is to understand it imperfectly.

Meaning without context is nonsense. A single word outside of a sentence, a sentence outside of the body of work, the body of work divorced from the author, the author removed from the context of history, all destroy meaning. If I tell my baby brother that I am going to run him over repeatedly with my car, he will probably giggle. If I say the same to a customer at work, I will be in exceedingly big trouble. The context has, without changing my words, fundamentally altered their meaning. All meaning is not derived from context--the literal message is unchanged--but accurately determining meaning is impossible without it. And if we are interested in the nature of things--truth, or what you will--then context, or perspective, is a prerequisite to any search.

If history is the context of human ideas and actions, my tools for comprehending what I find therein are linguistic. There may be some genius in the world who may hold the pure essence of an idea in his head; I am not he. When I think about something, if I wish to think about it clearly, I must use words. Sure, I can have a misty hodge-podge of feelings and ideas in my head, but only words can focus then. If, then, language is the symbolic medium through which I assign meaning to history and--well--everything, why restrict myself to thinking in English? German gives me a second linguistic, or symbolic, perspective, with which to assign meaning.

To oversimplify: what I desire is to improve my mind. Therefore, I study history, which is everything, and language, which is a medium through which to try and make sense of everything.