Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Postmodern Words

I started writing about my area of study, but left it as a one-paragraph start to yet another unfinished work. Experience tells me that it will likely remain just that – I usually don’t come back and finish these things. However, it may well prove to be the inspiration behind something else and it is equally possible that some of what I just wrote will find its way into that piece. Or not. But it started the flow of words and whether it only served to motivate these words or goes on to become something more doesn’t much matter. Even this is of little importance unless it becomes so, right now these are only words.

Blended together, they paint a picture. These individual and widely scattered brush strokes do not yet form anything. Which color to use next, where to place it on the canvas and myriad other small and not so small details left to decide bring forth what is as yet a murky image in my mind. These thoughts are never born of words, those must be composed to reflect what my mind sees, and it will never be a perfect representation to anyone but me. I can fill in the blanks – the picture before my eyes is only complete because I know what goes in the spaces… those places where no words exist, but something still does.

Postmodernists will tell us there is no absolute truth. Nothing is certain; reality is subjective and even if there was some kind of universal truth, it is beyond human capability to know it. We do not have the capability to experience anything directly. Everything is mediated by our senses at least, and usually filtered through much more. When it comes to exchanging our ideas and experiences of reality, they too are mediated by our system of signs. Words, yes, but other means of communication are also never absolute. I know exactly what I mean with these symbols I am creating, but no one can ever know with the same precision, no matter how precise I am. Ever.

And perhaps it is human nature that we, the only animal that uses abstract representations of what we know, think and feel, are always on a quest towards precision. Even if one accepts the premise that reality is, at its core, a personal construction, our efforts to share meaning through art and science never cease. In our relatively short and inconclusive history (also not possible to know entirely or even close to it) our collective perceived reality appears to be striving toward getting ever closer to that ultimate, absolute truth. But we will never get there. We can’t. Reality cannot be directly experienced or shared, but it doesn’t seem to matter. These words mean something, but only in a contextual relationship with other words.

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