Thursday, February 27, 2014

17307--There May Be Questions After the Main Event

"What did the author mean by that?"

What a popular question that was way back in school.  It seemed almost a mandatory counterpart to whatever other questions editors packed into our English textbooks.  You'd ponder it in silence, trying to remain motionless while waiting for the teacher to pick someone.  Hopefully, someone who wasn't you.  Well, whoever ended up doing the talking, the answer was usually shot down as "Wrong!", followed by the teacher explaining what the accepted interpretation of whatever the poem or prose was.

That's right, crush all that youthful fervor and enthusiasm.  Close off any avenues of insightful analysis.  "Wait!  How do you know that's wrong?" you asked.  "What if the author actually meant something different than what you said?  Did he leave a note?"

"Well, of course not," the teacher explained, "but the answer's right here in my book, so that's what it means."

Maybe you enjoyed a similar scenario during your formal education years.  Maybe it would've been nice if more dead writers had left notes behind about the works they didn't know would be up for academic discourse long after their deaths.  That's why I find it annoying when people try to reinterpret the "intentions" of the crafters of the Constitution as though what was written was unclear.  Those people knew they were writing something of significance, so they left notes.  Leave it to a bunch of politicians to try to rewrite facts to serve their own ends.  Forgive me.  I digress.

One friend of mine went through a unit in an English class focusing on Robert Heinlein.  When the students were tested, the final question asked why Heinlein had written a specific novel.  One girl answered "For the money."  You've probably guessed that this was not the sort of answer the teacher was looking for.  The girl was not only given no credit for the answer, but was challenged by the teacher to explain why she thought that would be an acceptable answer.  To her credit, she was able to justify her response by telling the teacher that she gave that answer she did on the test because when she had asked her Uncle Bob about it, that was the answer he had given.  Teacher humbled.  Full points on the test.  Still, before butting heads with Heinlein's niece, that teacher stood as just one more perpetuator of the reality that people are misquoted and misunderstood easily enough even when they're alive.  This is just as true for things that are written (as I've noticed from some of my book reviews), no matter how clear they may have seemed to you when writing them.

I suppose this is why there are suicide notes and wills.  Certainly, if you can be misunderstood in life, your intentions can be reinterpreted once you're dead.  Stringing together a few informative sentences could save long hours of arguments.

Reaching back again to school days, I used to practice silence during writing critiques by reminding myself that stories published for the world to see would go out devoid of any individual opportunities for questions and answers.  Likewise, any feedback I received wouldn't be conversational either.  Now, of course, 21st century technology has changed that.  I can unleash explanations for any curiosities my stories may hold just as easily as people can ask for them.  We live in a time of open communication availability.

And beyond!

From what we're told, with the impending arrival of ubiquitous nanotechnology, advanced supercomputing, sophisticated cybernetics and The Singularity, future Elvis may not only not have to leave the building, but may become a part of it.  What your body becomes may be a matter of personal choice, but as long as your consciousness is perpetuated (albeit with technological aid), answers to your intentions can continue to come straight from you.  If that doesn't sound overly appealing, don't sweat it.  I doubt you'll be limited to sitting parked as a voice in a box running a simulation of thinking deep thoughts.  In fact, with all that you think therefore you are translated from organic into a sporty, synthetic neural network, you should be able to continue telling stories, seeing sights, and generally baffling the wits out of people for years to come.

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