Bird’s Nest In Your Hair

Part III Chapter One

“What a bunch of crap.” He thumbed back through the pages, as if to emphasize for himself the thinness of the volume. “Hmph. And pretty thin, too,” he said to himself. The entire compilation struck him as an incomprehensible collection of silly posturing. It all seemed utterly worthless; even embarrassing. At times it wasn’t at all clear what the author was getting at, and sometimes it was hard to see why one word should follow another. There were so many empty phrases containing what seemed to be disconnected or even useless information.

There’s a word that seems to be receiving more and more use these days: information. More and more often it seems that everything has something to do with information. We live in the age of information, of course. We also have information theory, information science, and more and more information technology. There’s the information society and the information highway, as well as information overload, information anxiety, and there’s probably a lot more of these information phrases on the way. How can anything be considered apart from information? Information has to be about something, but more and more of it seems to be about … more information.

Where does it all end? Does it ever end? For the moment, forget about Brian holding Jeb’s book of poems. Consider some other guy, on a beach somewhere, holding a rock, looking at the rock, and it’s true that there is the rock itself in his hand, and that this rock is not the hand that holds it or even the little piece of lichen attached to it. The rock can also be described as being bluish, not much bigger than a bottle top, and fairly good for skipping. We might guess that the existence of this rock might stretch back 4 billion years or so, but no, it’s more exact than that, and there is something within many people that wants to know the exact figure in years, days, hours, and even minutes. Seconds. And how long will it continue to exist? That’s also important. And when it comes to the material, the very stuff that makes it a rock, can it really just be described as this or that particular kind of rock, made up of these molecules, which in turn are made up of these atoms, which in turn are made up of these sub-atomic particles, which in turn, and then again in turn, until we get to string theory, and then to superstring theory, and then to superduperstring theory, and doesn’t the question then become whether the process of inquiry itself isn’t infinite?

For this inquiry, this search for new information and knowledge, along with its constant exchange, it all begins to point towards a solution that seems a lot like language, or at least a solution that will need to be found in language. Language in the broadest possible sense of the word; maybe not a particular language such as English or Urdu or mathematics or impressionist painting or impressive philosophical jargon, but language with a capital L, Language, or maybe what the ancient Greeks referred to as logos, “word,” which includes in its myriad meanings such definitions as explanation, narrative, rationale, reason, reasoning, dialogue, debate, and many others besides. In the Liddel and Scott Greek-English lexicon (used by Jeb, of course), definition VII is given as a particular utterance, saying, while definition VIII is given as thing spoken of, subject-matter, which seems a little contradictory, unless everything can be considered logos, “word”, until there is nothing that is not logos or in some way related to this idea of “word”, not excluding the one who inquires into it.

Word. Words. Words, words, words. All words require a certain amount of decoding, sometimes less, sometimes more. Sometimes it takes a while for a reader to get used to words he’s never read before. Recall the first time you read Shakespeare. Shakespeare himself must have made revisions. The writer feels differently about something written just the day before, or even a moment before, so the words are scratched out, the paper is crumpled, or the delete button is pushed. Then other words are put down instead. Consider yet some other person: a traveler in a distant country asks for directions, but has to use a phrase book to make his question clear. There may be gestures, pointing, and the repetition of a single word many times over in order to exchange the vital information. Even people that have known each other their entire lives – married couples, or identical twins, for example, that have been speaking together ever since they knew how – will express themselves differently. Understanding can be slow in coming: for the individual person, for a couple, for a community.

A new understanding can be reached, sometimes suddenly, and then it seems as if this new understanding had never been missing in the first place. It was there all along, perhaps right along side, perhaps even waiting, though until then it hadn’t been comprehended, and then it is this eventual comprehension that proves it comprehensible. This new understanding, this ‘now having been comprehended’ must itself be an important aspect of language. And it doesn’t seem entirely wrong, and maybe it is even helpful to think about this new understanding in terms of conversion. Perhaps not unlike the conversion Diana is (or maybe was) trying to make. When she first began going to church (even before they officially began the catechesis) she was in a group that was, in fact, called the ‘inquirers’, and they spent their Wednesday evenings asking such questions as ‘Does God exist?’, ‘Why is there evil in the world?’, and ‘Who am I?’ Perhaps this is pushing the point too far; perhaps in the final analysis a religious conversion such as they are attempting entails more than an addition or exchange of information. Perhaps it is more of a rearrangement, even realignment. Perhaps it is something else entirely. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

But maybe this is just the sort of conversion Brian is trying to make, sitting there and reading a book of poetry. He doesn’t get it, or maybe he just doesn’t want to get it. And who knows? Maybe he shouldn’t get it. Not only was the book he was holding thin; some of the pages were very nearly blank. He wondered whether some of the poems might be short enough to be recited within a single burp. He turned back to one of the haiku at the beginning of the volume and gave it a try.

“W-i-n-t-e-r-w-e-a-t-h-e-r” he belched, running out of gas just before he could form the bilabial beginning of the last syllable of the line. Still, the point had been made, if only for his own amusement. What made it poetry, really? Some of the lines rhymed, but a lot of them didn’t. There really wasn’t much more to qualify them as verse besides the fact that almost everything lined up on the left hand side, while the right sides often made all these chunks of script look like combs with the ends of their teeth broken off.

Still, it was more than he’d been able write of his own masterpiece, The Library, that literary sphinx that promised to send readers screaming into hysterics, or maybe even die of vomiting in their very chairs. Still, here was a book, a printed book. Sort of. Self-published, obviously. Not even that when it came right down to it. It really wasn’t much more than a bunch of printed pages stapled together. Still, it bugged him. Couldn’t put his finger on it, but it bugged him. Some were so violent. Some just didn’t make sense at all. What did these things mean? A horse that won’t talk? A guy who cuts off his own penis? A couple of leaves in the wind? What the hell was all this about? He threw it across the room, watching it flutter like a bird trying to take flight before collapsing in the corner, a mangled heap. He resolved to never look at it again, and then made the same resolution ten minutes later.

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