Tag: philosophy

Slippery Meanings

It’s not that words themselves are slippery. Their definitions more or less stay the same, but instead it’s the meanings we use words to find (and later express) that are slippery because, more often than not, we don’t know what we want to say until we have something down on the page (or screen) and go, “nah, that’s not it.”

In his latest blog post Alan Jacobs quoted the German philosopher Heidegger on the nature of art which I think applies to us:

“What art is we should be able to gather from the work. What the work is we can only find out from the nature of art. It is easy to see that we are moving in a circle. […] It is said that what art is may be gathered from a comparative study of available artworks. But how can we be certain that such a study is really based on artworks unless we know beforehand what art is?”

And on it goes.

I think the very slipperiness of writing, where we exert ourselves to discover meaning, makes it creative and I think this is apparent if we compare this ‘creative’ writing to writing we may find in some workplaces where meaning comes ready-made in the form of abbreviations and jargon. When we create our own meanings, in whatever form, that makes the writing creative or, at the very least, interesting to read.

The Poet’s Cardboard Box

Ted Kooser

Ted Kooser, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, wrote in The Poetry Home Repair Manual, “One of my first writing places was a cardboard refrigerator box pushed into the corner of the bedroom in a tiny apartment my first wife and I rented while I was in graduate school. I sat in the box to write my poems, and taped the drafts on the cardboard walls.”

A cardboard box isn’t an ideal desk to write on but I think Kooser understood, given the circumstances, that the writing itself was what mattered, not how it looked to others. Of course, if he could afford a desk he would have wrote on a desk.

It’s easy to get hung up on appearances and forget that the substance of a thing isn’t always revealed by its appearance. The beard does not make the philosopher.


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