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Righting qualia: A momentary occlusion of the light

January 31, 2007


The words of Plato, Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquino, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mills are unleashed from their exclusive, leather bound, Victorian-book-shelves tumbling into our homes via the impressive printerless, pressless, Gutenberg-like Internet worlds of full-text-online versions open to all Internet users. Their language is infinitely more readable than their 20th century counterparts. Web 2.0 tools such as Gnosis ClearForest, provide readers with hot links sprinkled throughout their essays, contributing to making their arguments even more accessible.

But it is in the language of novelists gifted in putting words to varied, shape-shifting, complex, unconscious states, qualia who are able to weave philosophy into fiction, to describe not only material culture through time and space but succinctly provide words when we ourselves are speechless.

From my local library I have free access to the entire series of West Wing. So with my morning coffee I watched as the fictional US President Bartlett with his fictional Nobel Peace Prize and the West Wing staff attempted to articulate specific words for a state of the economy that was not a recession − since the word was forbidden as a bad omen in the West Wing ─ but a state that encompasses a bit of moderate, albeit divergent economic viewpoints, in other words a lexicon of economics within a highly, textured, nuanced dialogue.

I watched as they tried to stretch the meaning of freedom so it could encompass the 18th century Founding Fathers right through to negotiations with North Korea in the 21st century and all that is in between. I also learned from the episode that the word Han in North Korean the name of the 22-year-old North Korean protegé pianist who chose to return to his own country rather than defecting, to protect a higher state of freedom,means a state of profound sorrow with a touch of hope.

Before I turn to my PC and my blogs, I read a paragraph from the new stack of library books recommended on-line by the New York Times, this one entitled Eclipse by John Banville. This sentence evoked a multi-layered state of synethesia with a full orchestra of fragrances, textures, images and sounds reminding me of my own experiences like this one described in the opening paragraph,

“Then a slight thickening in the air, a momentary occlusion of the light, as if something had plummeted past the sun, a winged boy perhaps, or falling angel.”

The entire book seemed condensed into this one phrase revealing the extent to which the speaking, writing and reading of words can also be experiencing. These are the things we do with words.

Number of Words: 457

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. A momentary occlusion of the light: a Review of Banville, John. 2000. Eclipse. London: Macmillan Publishers.

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