Where Text Is – Written May 1, 2003

Text theory, to an individual, is the ability to think about text. I understand text, in it plainest form, to be anything physical that is interpreted by an individual as having significance. In other words, anything that is intercepted and interpreted through acoustics, sight, touch, taste, or smell is potential text. The real dependent factor is the individual. There is no possible way I can define text as it exists better than to say that it exists within everything.

Zen Buddhists and Taoists would ask, “If text is everywhere, must it be nowhere?” Could text all be nonexistent? Is text really just people overanalyzing that which is human nature – freedom of interpretation. I think sometimes this is very true. I think that once people begin to analyze how in 1610, when William Shakespeare was 46 and the King James Version was being revised, Psalm 46 was encoded to include his name, theory goes overboard. That myth turned out to be totally false, by the way1. Text does exist in many ways and in many places, it’s all just a matter of complexity (I’ll get into that later).

What I am trying to get at is how text and humanity go hand-in-hand. Animals do not comprehend text as humans do, and none can understand complex text (that we know of). Now that I have exposed simple and complex text, I suppose verification of that would be helpful. Simple text includes things like colors, simple sounds, tangible things, etc. Some text is different than others; speaking is different than writing; few humans leave the “primitive” stage of their existence until they learn to read, not talk. Words are a perfect example of one of the first complex forms of text that humans are exposed to. Music, art, religion, politics, governments, structures, schools – all of it is based on human ability to consciously think. Though primitive text is valuable, it is the more complex forms of text that most people are concerned with.

Once again, we are at an impasse in defining text universally. Who is to say that what humans interpret as “complex,” isn’t really primitive, and vice versa? If a modern resident of Manhattan traveled back to 1500 and met a resident from that time, his appreciation of art would not help him in a mêlée. It is easy to say that all complex forms of text exist as “beefed-up” versions of a more basic text; one example is violence – individual fighting leads to tribal battles leads to the phalanx leads to tanks leads to nuclear warheads. Some would say the world would be better off simple; I hear this one all the time from my friends who tell me I think too much.

Simple is good. I have come to understand simplicity in ways that few people ever will, despite how much I think. It is difficult, at least in our culture, to understand simplicity without talking philosophically since little of America is simple. “I am” is the shortest full statement that can be formed using the English language. “I am” was God to Moses; I am is who we each are; I am is our proof of existence. That we are aware of this text is not important, because it is not text that changes, but perceptions of text. Three letters and two syllables explain absolutely everything, at least Descartes. Most people have a very hard time imagining what it would be like to simply exist, even Descartes; for that, one must look to figures like Buddha and Lao-Tzu. To get off on a “fun” tangent, I am going to share some insight on a friend of mine.

The Surfer, as I call him, is the closest person to “Tao2” that I have witnessed with my own senses. P’u, as the Chinese would call it, is what Steve subscribes to; the uncarved block. Simply exist as “just another person” and you will reap benefits beyond comprehension. Some people call it luck, others call it Karma, still others call it fate. The Surfer has managed, through a heavy Tantric/Bohemian lifestyle, to see the world so simply that much of what he thinks is too simple for most people to fully understand. My thoughts are so complex that I can not comprehend how the ocean is just the ocean – I see it was life and waves and elements and molecules. If a study was done, I’m sure it would find that I talk 75% more than he does, and yet when he talks he always has something to say that I find intriguing – so intriguing, in fact, that when he stops talking I don’t desire more simply because I have received so much already. The Surfer worries about nothing; “You gotta go with it, man…” is his catchphrase. To be able to see only what is basic allows for incredibly clear vision.

In high school, I visited a museum with a French class I was in, and a friend of mine named Joe (who was outside the class) went along. After taking in all the “French crap,” as Joe called it, we headed up to the “modern crap.” A group of about ten of us walked around for an hour until we discovered a large painting hanging on the wall that Joe had been staring at for at least ten minutes, not talking to anyone. Now, Joe was a linebacker, and a damn good one, but he was a total blockhead. I am a decently intelligent fellow, and when I saw this

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on the wall, I simply saw it as overzealous ruler usage. I stood with Joe for twenty minutes as he explained how he had quickly figured out how the center of the painting was on the rightmost connection between the black and white. He continued to baffle me with his theories about how the artist was trying to convey how black culture was slowing encroaching in white America and how it was slowly being taken over. To me, Joe was crazy, but it made perfect sense to him. The painting remained text, it simply had more meaning for Joe than for me.

I would argue that the idea of “primitive” and “complex” text is arbitrary. Text is text – sometimes a sky makes you feel good because it’s blue, other times the cloud formations will entertain you. How can the experience from either interpretation be considered better or worse, greater or lesser? I am a believer in atomic energy, and the manipulations of it, which is both basic and complex. The cliché, “The more you know the less you know” is a fitting one with just about everything. Every civilization has to fall to see what its flaws were; in order to understand how to lay completely still one must completely exhaust himself.

So now that we know text is everything, what is there to do with it? If text is indeed everything that is perceivable then answering that question is like knowing the meaning of life. Text is indeed individual because of the one part of my definition that has yet to be covered, “significance.” Can there be universal significance? Is there any way to have purely individual significance?

What is universality and how does it apply universally? I don’t believe in universals (except that one), but I see how some people could. I have heard countless people slander and libel everything from abortion to necrophilia claiming it to be universally “wrong” for whatever reason, and I just refuse to accept anything as universal anymore. Looking at things as “right” and “wrong” is futile because nothing can be universal, though necrophilia is a compelling argument against my theory, since virtually everyone (except necrophiliacs) agrees that necrophilia is not a good idea. Most would say, “Well, those that don’t agree are sick, and therefore they are bad.” When a society comes together on an issue, laws are formed around the issue and it becomes common practice. Issues like murder, rape, theft, and perjury are crimes most people in the world agree are not good and, based on human nature, must be destroyed.

There are a million tangents to take here about crime and sociology and governments, but we simply don’t have time, so I’ll use an easy one. A society can be judged by the content of it’s prisons (someone famous said that, I just forget who), and if one was to take a look at the correctional facilities through out the world he/she would see that we are in big trouble.

So do you care? Do you really give a damn about the poor criminals throughout the world that have broken laws and are “paying their debt”? If you’re like me, no, it is not a significant factor in my life, I never plan on even visiting a jail. But if a middle-aged person was to say, “Society can be judged by it’s youth, and judging by what I see, we are in big trouble,” I would be forced to defend The Youth because the reputation of The Youth is significant to me because I am one, just as it is significant to the middle-aged person because he is part of the society that is supposedly being destroyed.

So we have surveyed text theory basing our perception on the theory that text is anything physical that is interpreted by an individual as having significance. And now we’ve talked about almost everything EXCEPT the most basic forms of text, writing and talking. After taking English 209, I have come to a new realization about words. I have been a writer since I could write, and I’m not really sure why I started. One day in first grade I decided to write a short story (a very short story) and I had fun, so I did more and progressed to the point I am at now. All my life I was told, “Write to your audience.” If the class Text Theory has taught me nothing else, it is, “Screw the audience!” If people are all inherently different, they will automatically interpret what they see and hear differently, so why waste time writing to them as a collective? If anything, you could attempt to grip a single person, such as with a letter or sonnet. Marx and Orwell didn’t write because they wanted to enlighten, though I’m sure that was a drive; they simply felt the need to document exactly what they thought. From those documented thoughts, many more thoughts have come about, just because no one can perceive the same thing the same way.

Thank God! Where would humor be? And sarcasm? I just may kill myself in the New World Order. Feminists, chauvinists, sexists, Marxists, Maoists, existentialists, Bohemians, fascist anarchist advocates for Jesus Christ – where does it all end? The flux is everywhere; without our different perceptions of what reality is (in reality, what is reality to us as individuals) we would never have all the great ideas we have.

Text is everything, therefore it is everywhere, but it is up to the individual to interpret text and make it “real” for them. The interpretation depends both on the actual physicality of the text and the individual – this physical observance is then interpreted by the brain and creates “thoughts,” which is technically a new text in your mind (physically observable as electrical impulses). By this premise, if all thought is text, then everything that can be thought about must be text, and that encompasses absolutely everything.

2 Chinese for the Way; a cousin of Buddhist Nirvana, though Tao is dissimilar in that when one reaches it he/she remain may on Earth as long as they desire (optimally).

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