Determining Who You Are

This is a post in response to Catherynne Valente’s post title, “I Am The Walrus”. In it, she mentions that students from a school she did a reading at would sit at the library and pull out a random book from the animal section and declare that their friend was that animal. A cute idea about what makes us unique, and how to define us leaving it entirely up to the universe. She writes:

And it’s more than metaphors–it’s divination. It’s folklore. If I close my eyes and reach out into this collection of randomly-ordered images, whatever my fingers find will say something essential about me, or my friend who wears glasses, or the lady with black hair and the red book who came to talk to our class today. It will not say what they’re like, it will say what they are, deep down inside.SoIf I choose a worm for myself, I will be sad, because it means I am a worm and I have this whole set of ideas about what worms are. If I choose a tiger, I will be happy, because I also have ideas about what tigers are and in the world I live in it’s better to be a tiger than a worm. What animal I am tells a story about what kind of person I am, and what my life will be like when I grow up.

It’s this incredibly basic thing, somewhere between magic and storytelling, and you can see exactly where fairy tales come from in these boys grabbing blue books like Tarot cards, like runes. Where totems come from, and fetishes, and half the shamanic toolbox–oh, no Miss Cat, we’ll draw for you. If you draw your own it doesn’t count. Those are the rules.

No one taught them to do it. No one taught them those rules–though certainly there are cultural narratives at play in their reactions to drawing The Rhinoceros versus The Kitten. Though I found it wonderful that with the exception of the flamingo, all of my animals were the sort usually masculinized–big and strong and somewhat dangerous–and they didn’t question it at all. The draw has spoken. Nor did they express particular dismay at being butterflies or swans. It wasn’t about what kind of animals they liked. It was a deeper magic, as a certain lion would say.

Today, I was using an app that I found from The Poetry Foundation where you open it and click “Spin” and it will present you with a poem. I was taken immediately back to Valente’s post. I think it’s a great idea, as it not only lets you explore new poets but it also seems to say something about the reader. I mean, today I’m superiorly grouchy, and it came up with Grief and Celebrations. Irony? Definitely. Just thought I’d share with everyone, as I think Valente hits a great point. We rely on the universe to tell us facts about ourselves, that usually end up having great meaning. If you wanted to be a tarot reader, it’d be easy, or a fortune teller, because there’s always some way to make the answers seem vague enough to have some sort of truth. It makes it seem as though there’s *something* out there that knows things, you know? Like a collective unconscious or an energy that connects us all. I don’t know, I’m getting too theological here. Just some thoughts.

This post seems to be the face of the way the Egyptians feel right now. Everyone is uncomfortable and unsure about how things are going, and they will not know how it will turn out until years from now, which may be too late. Nadia Elawady does a fantastic job of describing a common point of view about the state of Egypt now. And the rest, I’ll leave up to her:

Inner Workings of My Mind

As time goes by, post-revolution, I’m beginning to realize more and more that every person who participated in the revolution had different dreams in their heads for Egypt. We all had one shared dream: we wanted to remove Mubarak and his regime. General chants calling for freedom and social justice were common among all. But my concept of freedom and social justice evidently is different from my neighbor’s concept, and his concept is different from the concept of our farmer friend down south.

When I was demonstrating between January 25 and February 11, I was dreaming of a more progressive Egypt. I was dreaming of an Egypt with less corruption, less bureaucracy, more freedom of choice, openness to information and knowledge. I’m surrounded by friends and family who want similar things for Egypt, albeit not always in the same exact way. But the differences between me and my friends and…

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Leibniz on Language’s Mirroring of Mind

In my work on Hume’s account of cognition, I discovered that many objections to Hume depend on the (tacit) assumption of certain strong parallels between mind and language.  Specifically, the objections frequently relied on the assumption that the grammatical structure of a bit of language which describes or expresses a given mental state will mirror the psychological structure of that state.  Since Hume does not accept the view that one can simply read off a mental state’s psychological structure directly from the grammatical structure of those related bits of language, many of these objections would not be particularly worrisome to Hume.  Or at least, that is what I argued.  I’ve taken to calling this view (which is rejected by Hume, but implicitly accepted by some of his detractors) “the Mirror Thesis”.

I’ve since become interested in the more general role of this purported parallelism between mental and linguistic structures in the thinking of early modern philosophers, and was quite pleased to come across a statement in Leibniz’s New Essays on this very point:

THEO:  […]I really believe that languages are the best mirror of the human mind, and that a precise analysis of the significations of words would tell us more than anything else about the operations of the understanding. (NE, 333)

Obviously, this quote, all by itself, doesn’t really tell us what Leibniz’s views are specifically, since there are many ways of cashing out this mirror analogy.  Nevertheless, Leibniz, here, is clearly endorsing some version of a mirror thesis.

For context, this comes in Leibniz’s discussion of 3.7 of Locke’s essay (“Of Particles”), which contains a frustratingly compressed presentation of some of the most interesting elements of Locke’s philosophy of language.

via Leibniz on Language’s Mirroring of Mind.

My Friend the Mercenary

I thought this book was very powerful, but near the end it ended up being more about the arrest of a group that Nick was involved in. The details in Part Three seemed unnecessary, and I have to say I couldn’t follow along it very well. The first two parts, and the epilogue were all fantastic.

The book sends a powerful message of friendship and companionship – of relying on others and the debt owed by human life. The message is one that hits home, and it shows that people aren’t what their labels portray them to be. A great book, if you get the chance and don’t have a weak stomach.

May Your Pen Grace The Page

This poem below is by a very talented, Australian slam poet, Luka Lesson. I highly suggest browsing around his site. I also suggest that when reading this poem, you read it aloud. Thanks to Anamaria Verlaine for introducing to me to this poet last night, at her poetry event at The Pixel Bean.

May Your Pen Grace The Page.

May your pen grace the page at the same pace as your brain

May your grey matter from now on no longer be grey

May you mean every word that you say

And may writing your rhymes be the way that you pray


Get up, Step up, never let up

Get your setup set up

Get recording, get stories pouring

Ignoring your calling and calling you ‘boring’ is boring

You need to be touring

What are you doing? You’re basically stewing

No space for day dreaming

No place for that feeling

No place for pacing the building or facing the ceiling

There’s no way that it is dealing

Your brain it is stealing

And there’ll be no change to you

And there’ll never be any change to that ceiling


I’m basically feeling that art isn’t hard

What’s hard is your heart

And it starts in the past, but the past’s in the past

So love who you are

Pass a rush of blood until your arteries blast

And let the blood rush to your arm and let your artistry start


May your pen express upon the page every feeling you’re in

May your white page – Yang

Love your black pen – Yin

May the ball in your ball point roll ‘cause that’s the point of the ball

And if we can’t make our points then what’s the point of it all?

May the lead in your lead-pencil lead you astray

We spell it L-E-A-D ‘cause we’ve made leaders this way

I know it’s hard but easy to say but I mean what I say when I say

“Mean what you say”


Potentially my pencil be the deftest thing you’ve ever seen

Adept at expressing everything that you’ve never seen

Especially when you question me

My pencil, man she gets to me

She comes to me and comforts me and takes me out to lunch you see

We have a cup of coffee, before I know it she’s on top of me

She rocking and she’s rolling me

We’re touching uncontrollably

She likes to switch the roles on me

I think I writing with her

But she it writing with me

Its my life as I desire to be

It’s only right that she’s my wife 2B


She takes me to her bed of white

We try it in the dead of night

Pages till we get it right

We make love between the sheets


May your pen grace the page at the same pace as your brain

May your grey matter from now on no longer be grey

May you mean every word that you say

And may writing our rhymes be the way that we pray

Response to Chepi’s Story

I just wanted to say how honoured I am that Llola Lane, one of the creators of Ozland, wrote a story as a response to the one I wrote for the monthly Ozland Writing Contest. My story can be found on this blog, here, or on the Ozland blog, here. Llola’s story, titled, “Aiyana’s Story”, can be found here.

We’re thinking about working together on the next piece, just for fun. Come next Wednesday to the Ozland reading at either noonSLT or 7pmSLT. Here is your limo!