PHILOSOPHE: Shit No One Talks About

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931...

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931), Museum of Modern Art (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

I’ll lead by saying this probably isn’t the sort of post everyone will find riveting. All I can say is, It’s about time. Literally.

During the research phase of writing my senior paper, I came across a study done by Stanford professor Lera Boroditsky that looked at the different frameworks within English and Mandarin concerning how to express the abstract concept of time in spatial terms. Okay, now let’s unpack that. First, what do I mean “the abstract concept of time”? Well, I mean time as independent from the arbitrary measurements we impose on it. We measure time in hours, days, weeks, years, etc. for a reason–actually many different reasons. A year is, of course, the length of time it takes the planet to travel once in its elliptical path around the Sun. While a “day” is the length of time the Earth takes to make one rotation on its axis (which, to note, is not constant), how the day is subdivided is an ancient, arbitrary determination, with the roots of the 24-hour day lying in pharaonic Egypt. The concept of a seven-day week is primarily an outgrowth of Christian and Jewish beliefs concerning creation while other cultures have different week-lengths.

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PERSONAL FILE: A Box-full of Memories

What if it were that easy?

Dumbledore has an armory of peculiar magical devices in J. K. Rowling’s story of Harry Potter but there’s one that’s of particular interest to me. He keeps it locked away in a cupboard and when the young wizard first stumbles upon it toward the end of the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, it’s only a short time until the final contest of the Triwizard Tournament. After having a vision of the dark lord Voldemort, Harry finds himself in Dumbledore’s office and accidentally discovers the object in the cupboard, left slightly ajar: it’s the Pensieve and Harry’s curiosity gets the better of him when he leans in too close to the shining basin and falls in, finding himself doused in the headmaster’s memories.

As with many things in Rowling’s books, “Pensieve” is a play on words: “pensive” means to be thoughtful or absorbed in deep reflection and contemplation. Dumbledore periodically takes his memories–which appear as a wispy white vapor on the tip of his wand–from his head and drops them into the Pensieve where he will return to examine them on occasion to search for “patterns and links.” Continue reading

PERSONAL FILE: Fences

FencesSince my family has always lived on a significant amount of land (at least by a city person’s standards), there was a lot for me to explore. Unlike other ranchers, who often clear their land of trees for pasture, my family has always left the woods intact. Whether that choice was influenced more by lack of desire or lack of equipment is open to interpretation but, at any rate, I’m deeply grateful for the woods. Open, clear land seemed really boring and unromantic to me; nothing like the woods, which were full of little hidden places that could only be found by the diligent wanderer.

Even at twenty-two and looking ever dapper in rubber boots and gym shorts, I still trudge off into the river bottom from time to time armed only with a walking stick and my dogs to keep me company. When I was younger and the ranch was smaller, I’d be disappointed when I encountered a fence. Fences meant the land beyond was owned by someone else and that I could go no further in that direction, lest I draw the ire of our neighbors—or (no joke) stumble into one of their piano wire booby traps. Continue reading