ok, yeah yeah yeah, concepts

I'll respectfully submit that all concepts are of human invention and the possibility of their actual existence is shallow at best; a complete misnomer at worst. Our concept of Reality is like the candy shell on an M&M, and I'll spare you the bit about the exploding chocolatey goodness inside. (I can do a LOT with an M&M analogy, but I'm on a diet.) Actually, I think concepts only represent the best that our paltry chicken brains can currently manage about Reality, and that they represent less than half, probably more like less than one percent--I hate using math to describe anything, but I guess it does come in handy to descibe amounts, but I mean a teensy wittle bit--of the Truth that binds us, if we'd only just Look! (You'll get that reference after my books get sold and then, you know, like two years later when they're finally on the shelves).

Take time, for example. Time. The Big Kahuna of That Which We Cannot Understand. I heard it descibed once (by a physisist on Letterman - the closest I've ever come to a physics class in my life) that you can actually beat time. Well, ok, so it went something like this: You get in your little space capsul, you know, the one that made all the headlines cuz it can go faster than the speed of light, and you fly straight out from the Earth for a year and then you turn and come back and when you get home it will be earlier than you left. (I don't recall how much earlier because it was on Letterman, and that's on kinda late.) (And if you can contribute anything to this theory, feel free, Mr and Mrs Smartiepants.)

So, is it actually beating time? The math apparently works, if you hold with the validity of that sort of thing. But I think time is probably an independent sort that doesn't appreciate all the numerical restrictions placed on it. Time marches on, as the saying goes, and I submit that it marches on to its own tune, and one which we can't yet hear. I think, somehow, what we're beating is our own concept of time, and not Time itself. And that's the closest I can come to describing it, because of the Paltry Chicken Brain Theory.

I think everything is like that: all concepts represent something bigger (another paltry concept to represent an idea about which I really have no idea). I read this story in The New Yorker by Karen Russell recently about two kids trying to find their dead sister. They found something a lot bigger:

Immediately, I bite down on the mouthpiece of the snorkel to stop myself from screaming. The goggles: they work. And every inch of the ocean is haunted. There are ghost fish swimming all around me. My hands pass right through their flat bodies. Phantom crabs shake their phantom claws at me from behind a sunken anchor. Octopuses cartwheel by, leaving an effulgent red trail. A school of minnows swims right through my belly button. Dead, I think. They are all dead.

“Um, Wallow?” I gasp, spitting out the snorkel. “I don’t think I can do this.”


Present tense aside, it was a good story. (I'm not fond of the present proclivity toward present tense. It's annoying. If you're telling the story with the sort of hindsight to use clever analogy as descriptives, it's tough to believe that it's happening Right Now. But thanks for playing.) It's online too, at that link, if you want to read the whole thing.

I included that bit of dialogue because the kid might be smarter than the rest of us. Sometimes you got to wonder if we're opening a Pandora's Box here. It's all well and good when you can put it into your Concept Trunk, but are we really, truly ready to Know? Some of us are, I guess. But unfortunately, I think much of the human race is not. I used to see it all the time in classrooms when I taught. There was this misguided theory that mixed ability grouping would help the dumb kids. But the dumb kids dragged the smart kids down. Intelligence is like a life-preserver. It can only carry so much weight.

But what that paragraph really says to me is that there are all sorts of things all over the place which we can't yet see, and can't yet have a concept. We just aren't smart enough. Not yet. Maybe someday. If we don't kill ourselves first.

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