Category Archives: There is no justice in poetry

There is no justice in poetry

The Poet had, in a very sincere and heartfelt way, gotten tired of it. At every turn, there were people asking him: what did you mean by this line? Why use this word instead of another? What was the significance of the bird after a long stretch of nothing but spiders? What does it all mean?

Early on, the lesson had sunk in that honesty simply would not do. The line was there because the cursor accidentally moved to the wrong document whilst writing something completely different, and somehow worked anyway; that particular word had to be there, since each and every synonym in the thesaurus led astray; the bird was the only thematically appropriate word rhyming with undisturbed. These were the simple and straightforward reasons, and thus, they were relentlessly insufficient to sate the curiosity of all those avid readers. There had to be a deeper meaning, there just had to

The Poet was at a loss. No amount of evasion, equivocation or obfuscation did the trick. The readers just kept coming back, with more elaborate and in-depth questions. It just kept happening. Something bigger was necessary, something so grand it would throw off the chase for a long and peaceful time

And then, inspiration struck, giving us the first words of the Poet’s next magnum opus:

The Death of the Author,

Historically accurate to an arbitrary degree

She looked at the painting and grumbled. Clearly, the painter hadn’t grasped the finer points of the technique employed, and thus had bungled several key strokes, presumably in an effort to finish the darned thing as fast as possible. It always amazed her that artists who were prized and famed for inventing a style or technique often lacked seemingly any proficiency whatsoever in these styles and/or techniques. For all the fame, glory and extensive biographies devoted to these people, they really could not paint better than whatever euphemism for off-colored excrement was in vogue at the moment

She, however, could outpaint even the masters. She had done so on several occasions, in fact, and prided herself on having her work put on prominent display in several of the world’s most prestigious art galleries. Her name was not attached to the painting, of course, seeing as she was technically a forger, but that didn’t matter; she knew, and that sufficed. Above and beyond this secret nugget of satisfaction, she knew she could get into any museum she pretty darned wished, after a sudden strategic recovery of lost art from centuries ago. She took some measure of pride in her work

Alas, one of the drawbacks of having mastered the Ancient’s arts better than they ever did themselves is that the originals had begun appearing to her as first rough sketches. This meant that her more accurate forgeries had to scale back on the artistic ambition and play up the decidedly non-artistic application of arbitrary rules set down by (more often than not) the fact that certain kinds brushes or turpentine were unavailable at that particular historical moment, or some such silliness. The key to historical accuracy was to do it with random precision

If only the ancient masters had been better equipped, she muttered, and set to work on another undiscovered original. She had discovered a collection in Antwerp which did not yet feature her specific brand of art history, yet displayed one of her competitors with an undignified degree of prominence. This lack of artistic integrity simply would not do

Incongruous embodiments of the Nous

One must admit that the proposal had merits at first glance. Truly, bringing together the many disparaging strands of thought into a single volume would make the prospect of cataloguing and comparing that much easier. The current necessity of having to collect and collate a massive number of sources, some of which are exceedingly difficult to get a hold of even at the best of times, has brought down recruitment numbers massively over the years. Likewise, even seasoned veterans grow weary of keeping track of who’s who and what’s what, and the innumerable minute differences from one author to another. Yes, one singular book to collect everyone would simplify matters immensely

However

The non-intuitive (albeit obvious in retrospect) drawback to this project was that it collected everything into a single volume, making it easily accessible. The Official Book of Esoteric Wisdom brought it to the ready attention of the multitudes, at which point it all stopped being esoteric and simply became another body of knowledge to be read. The enthusiasm with which the erstwhile esoteric scholars set to work soon translated into a bored acceptance into the fold of the exoteric mainstream

Before anyone knew it, a new esoteric corpus emerged, even more difficult to procure and understand. Perhaps, this time, the whole enterprise would stay esoteric

Gamers said it could not be done

They faced a challenge. Or, more correctly, a meta-challenge. As a game development studio that specialized in making exceedingly difficult games, they had a reputation of making very difficult games indeed. So far, they had managed to perform the difficult balancing act of keeping things difficult but not completely impossible. To be sure, most players would give up and declare their games impossible, but the games were (in an ever more technical sense) not actually impossible. Just headscratchingly, hairpullingly difficult

At various points during the studio’s many years of doing business, the question of whether they’d achieved peak difficulty had arisen. Every time, the gamers had responded by taking what seemed to be impossible challenges and rendering them far easier than they should have been. Using tools, strategies and vernaculars that became increasingly opaque and specific with each iterations, the gamer base responded by demanding more difficulty, bigger challenges and larger impossibilities

This time, however, doubt lingered in the air. They’d thrown everything that could be thrown into a game, and even the kitchen sink based challenges had eventually been overcome. All hell-class difficulty spikes had been employed, having already used the ideas previously deemed to be of merely limbo, purgatory and wrath levels of non-completability.  In short, they were fresh out of hells

If only, one developer mused, there were additional hells. That’d do it

They did not know it at the time, but this one off-hand remark was just the inspiration that was needed. After some deliberation, it was decided that the next step in the studio’s trajectory would be to hire a slew of literary scholars, of which at least one had read both Dante and Joyce. It was time to up the difficulty to new, previously unimagined levels

The art of gracefully begging to differ

Being the moderator of a feminist facebook community was dramatic. Ironically, it was also very predictable. Something about the combination of drama and predictability spoke to her, like some unsung poem of modernity being scrawled on so many metaphorical walls. It almost took on the quality of a soap opera – everything happened at extreme velocities whilst also somehow standing completely still. At no point did anything change, yet the details of the standstill could enthrall the unwary for years upon end

This is not to say she hadn’t learnt anything from the experience. Far from it. Somehow, she had acquired the force of discursive obviousness that allowed her to instantly disable any troll wanting to stir and/or wreak havoc. Not by means of outright banning the offender (although that is always, in her opinion, an acceptable option), but by simply agreeing with the troll in question. This worked exceptionally well with those who entered into the group with the time-honored introduction “I don’t actually know anything about feminism, but I think my outsider’s perspective might shed some light on matters, if you but let it”. She let it, by responding thusly:

“I’m happy to see that you acknowledge your ignorance, and your further contributions will be read accordingly”

Until this day, only a single person had managed to not dig themselves into a hole after this radical agreement. The inherent irony of disagreeing with oneself seemed to be a radically new concept to many; they begged to differ even as she agreed ever more profusely

This, too, was part of the unseen multivolume, multimodal poem. Perhaps she’d sing it some day. Just to spite modernity

The last word on virtue signalling

I am here to tell you that I am not qualified for this position. I have no relevant experience, and no qualifications worth mentioning. I would bring nothing new to the table, my contribution would be substandard in every way, and in every aspect finding someone better than me would be as easy as pointing in a random direction. I do not justify this in any way – indeed, I have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Whoever you pick instead of me will be the correct, better choice. Thank you all for indulging my unwarranted presence

Glaucon’s lament

Glaucon was late. Later than fashionably late. It was way past time to get a move on, and high time to embody the notion that everything is change. Given enough velocity, it would be so, regardless of the presence or absence of arguments either way

Making his way downtown, he suddenly found himself in the midst of a crowd of philosophers, arguing. For some seemingly random but probably important reason, they suddenly decided to include him in their argument du jour. Caught between being in a hurry and knowing that any counterargument would be met by increasingly refined and subtle counter-counterarguments, he decided on the spot to apply the one foolproof strategy to get out of this situation

He was going to agree until they caved in and let him go. Surely, even philosophers have limitations to their inquisitive perseverance

The arrival of History

It all sounded very prim and proper. He had went into the Archives, diving deep into the Realm of History. Phrased that way, it sounded like an adventure, the ideal of academic pursuit. The mention of the difficulties in opening the Archival Locks – made all the grander for the unwarranted capital letters – completed the Indiana Jones image to a T. This was the Archive, where History dwells

In reality, the Archive consisted of little more than a heap of papers – only ‘documents’ by feat of retroactive efforts – stuffed into a series of filing cabinets, without any sense of order or organization. Worse, this lack of consistency was apparent in the documents as well, the bureaucratic whims going this way and that seemingly depending on the mood of the person holding the pen at the moment. The same went for spelling, even when taking into consideration the fact that it all took place before spelling conventions became standardized

History, it would seem, was something best seen from a distance, lest it became a mere collection of ordinary everyday things. Up close, History became history, documents became papers, and the ancient sages gradually morphed into old fools likely to blurt out the darnedest things at the least opportune times, repeatedly

But it all sounded good. After the fact was polished for a while

Memetoxicity

It was too late

A few weeks earlier, there might have been a chance to save the intrepid explorer. Alas, the environment had overpowered him and broken through all of his protective gear. The goggles, the standardized dictionaries, the regularly scheduled communal low-stakes domestic activities – they did nothing. Not even the makeshift metaphorical tying himself to the mast had helped. He had heard the siren call, and succumbed. He ventured too deep into the memetoxic environment, and did not return. Only a husk of his former self remained

To think that, back in the old days, they let young academics go alone into these territories, without even so much as a supportive conversation to back them up. A simple introduction to methodology, some theory, and then off they went. Alone, unprotected, at times also unfunded. Sacrifices to the optimism of early digital humanities

The broken man murmured, the only phrase he knew how:

Sonic, and Knuckles, and Knuckles, and Knuckles, and

Just checking

Someone told him to check his privilege

So he did

His first discovery was that he was not alone in the project of checking his privilege. In fact, statisticians and social scientists alike made rough estimates as to the geometry of the outer areas of said privilege, employing ever more sophisticated methodologies in their efforts. They said it was both fractal and exponential, getting bigger in different ways depending on the measures used to measure it. Overall, perplexity reigned; phrases like “somehow both bounded and infinite” were tossed around with frightening regularity

Moving from the periphery to the center, he quickly discovered it to be an intricately tangled web of services, targeted incentives and hidden opportunities just waiting for him to use them. Any one aspect would take weeks to understand fully, and the prospect of understanding it all in its entirety seemed beyond the scope of the limitations imposed by human longevity (the boost provided by free healthcare notwithstanding). Nevertheless, free university courses were available for the express purpose of enhancing public awareness of both parts and whole. The most difficult part of it all seemed to be knowing if and where to start

A profound sense of vertigo overtook him. If this was what it was like to be a regular nobody under socialism, imagine what it’d be like to be a slightly richer nobody under socialism