770 words by Stanley Lieber
I'm cleaning out the King's cupboards when I run across some old detritus that he had thought it would be a good idea to bring along with him to the station.
According to legend, he wrote this paper for a grade school assignment. As I recall, it triggered unrest amongst the faculty. In the absence of advanced philosophical technology, papers written by school children wielded the capability to disrupt classroom activities.
The popular image of Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart is inaccurate to the point of ridiculousness. However, this has not prevented a multiplicity of interpretations from emerging to surround his work. Ludwig von Köchel's contrived naming convention has even been absorbed into the text of Mozart's published scores, sans any indication that Herr Mozart did not create these titles himself. Beneath the layers of false attribution lies a man (J. C. W. T. M.) whose own prodigious correspondence is often the last resource consulted by would-be experts. Thus, the common conception of the silly-voiced man-child, idiot savant dominates the commentary upon his work even to this day.
Figures such as Mozart are invoked almost as articles of our language, employed as symbols of narratives larger than the mere facts of their corporeal existence. This phenomenon renders any deeper investigation into the men themselves a trifling diversion, an unnecessary digression at best. When one appears to be referencing a rich study of the available facts, what one is too often doing, instead, is invoking the surface texture of popular memory (most often grossly misconstrued, but constituting a shared culture nonetheless). It is shamefully dishonest to put forward such vagary as learned discourse.
But. Is this lamentable transgression so far removed from the process of creating words, themselves? I beseech the thoughtful reader to consider that language, to begin with, is merely a collection of consensual, codified misunderstandings.
I will now shift contexts and refer to the decades-long correspondence between the Americans Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. It is unlikely that the modern reader is familiar with these gentlemen. Sadly, the average Federalist/Anti-Federalist scholar is likewise ignorant of their existence. And yet, it must be pointed out, portions of their correspondence have been, since 1926, accepted into the Scriptures. One recoils at the cognitive dissonance; this vast field of Green scholarship, donning its own willfully fogged-over spectacles in order to better scrawl out its blind declarations. It is deemed acceptable to reference the icons of culture by name or by clique, but it is seen as counterproductive to make clearly understood precisely what it is one is trying to say. Of course, not all manglings of the language are intentional, and not all such manglings are equally deceptive. Some people just don't care about the Bible.
There persists an interplay between the rigorous accuracy that is ostensibly sought after and the broad symbolism that is most easily digested. I am prepared to admit that in my own work I have yet to satisfactorily bridge these disparate vectors of focus. Even an isolated, outlying case refuses to make itself known. For example, I am capable of pursuing either individual goal with exceeding stamina and skill, and yet I am resigned to my failure in striking a balance between the two as a whole. I have discovered no happy synthesis. No congenial associations between the two paths. The network betwixt particle and wave refuses to materialize. Redoubled focus simply dissolves into a migraine headache.
This, then, is the eternal struggle. The Mozart of reality versus the Mozart of history.
Why read the entirety of Jefferson's correspondence when a blind quotation will suffice?
As I compare like with unlike, I stumble upon the realization that the vision of others, is, by necessity, likewise obstructed. This myopia that afflicts me is not an invention, a deficiency particular to my person. All of our screens are thus occluded, whether we recognize it or not. In our minds, the eminence of the signifier shall always eclipse that of the signified. Ironically, we trip repeatedly over this blunt limitation, which itself probably evolved as a means to facilitate communication.
What I'm trying to say is, stop trying to tell me what I mean.
In this paper I have demonstrated the inherent political power of dictionaries. The careful reader will adjust his ambitions accordingly.
I fold the leaf and replace it within its compartment. We are way beyond these sorts of observations by now, Thomas. Today I would mark this paper with a C-, at best. But, you wrote for your time. Some inaccuracies and the overall sparseness of detail may be forgiven. I confirm the historical grade (A-) by thumbprint and wave away the hovering screen.
While I was a grading, something in the room has changed. A faint white light illuminates the port hole of the King's quarters.
I make my way over to investigate the disturbance.
To be continued...
photo by heavyheavy