Just Reading Stuff

There are a million things running through my mind today.  Some I’d like to write about and other best forgotten.  The problem is focus.  I am still working on a number of projects but none has reached a stage where they are complete enough to write at any length about.

If you think that means I’ll have a short post this week – you’ve not been reading my blog for very long…

First let me get the newsy stuff out of the way.  Last weekend Heather and I enjoyed a very nice get away in Pacific Grove for our anniversary.  Physically I wish I could have done more but still we enjoyed ourselves.  I managed a walk from the inn to the beach, around the shops, art galleries and restaurants before I had to retreat to comfort of a chair.  Each day I am a little stronger but still not 100% recovered.  I’ve spent some time in my workshop, helped a little bit on the 2,000 piece puzzle in the living room and even helped put a few dishes away the other day but I’ve not really finished anything much.

I did start the new website and made a start at editing a video for it but haven’t finished – I learned a lot and hope that counts for something.  I’ve started watching a series of videos on how to use WordPress and Drupal to build websites.  I read a fellow blogger’s post over at YAPCaB (Fight or Accept) about the difference between fighting and accepting cancer – one of those posts that has made an impression on my mind that I can’t quite explain yet but know you should read what he said.

I even started reading a new book, “Intertextuality, Debates and Contexts,” by Mary Orr but have only gotten through the first part on defining what intertextuality is (or isn’t depending on how you read the text).  I’d go into great detail on this literary criticism method but I suspect that the rest of the book is likely to greatly changed my thinking on how to use this “lens” to derive meaning from a text. So far it’s greatly change my thinking on what a “text” is along with a number of other things I thought I understood.

What I have finished in the last couple of weeks has been my re-reading of “Earth Abides” by George R. Stewart.  This time through I set out to mark every place in the book where there was a quote or scene that I felt had either been an influence on my life, where the character Ish’s behavior paralleled my own, or where Stewart used a four-dimensional description (ie, described a scene in detail and how the scene changes over time).

I placed a lot of book marks.  Here is a picture of the book after I finished:

My stack of books

Earth Abides is the one with all the blue markers.

The stack of books on my night table include just about everything I am currently reading – A book on forgiveness on my Kindle, Stewart, Orr and a wood working magazine.  I tend to read a bunch of things at one time.  Someday I might learn to focus.

But that’s not who I am – I shift from one thing to another.  Sometimes quickly but most likely in my normally slow ponderous way.

That’s the way it’s been with “Earth Abides.”  I am sure that there is something in there that I need to learn or need to articulate but I can’t focus my mind on the problem for long.  Either because of my health, because more important things come up, because I haven’t reached clarity on what it is I want/need to say or I find I need to look something up and get lost on the way back.

As I’ve read and re-read “Earth Abides” three clear subject lines come to mind:

  1. How much alike the main character Ish and myself are – Ish’s decision making (or rather lack of) is similar to mine.  Ish suffers from depression like me.  Ish tends to watch events rather than participate in them.
  2. The number of places in the book where Stewart’s science is wrong (often because new learning has proven the science known in the 1940’s to be either wrong or incomplete) and the events he describes could not have happened that way. Sorry but food in cans would not be good to eat 30 years after they were made.
  3. I now see a number of places in the book where Stewart must have been influenced by his education, profession as an English professor, his work as a toponymist (one who studies the meanings of place names) and a number of books – various books of the Bible, Robinson Crusoe and other works.

My current reason to delay writing about any of the above might seem a bit weak but it goes like this:

This re-reading project started out as an exercise in intertextual reading and as I looked at the problem I decided that I didn’t understand the tool of intertextuality enough to use it to read Stewart’s text so I bought a book on intertextuality to better understand the tool.  While reading Orr’s book on intertextuality I see that she constantly refers to other texts (essays, books, lectures, etc) on the subject and it is coming clear that I’ll need to read those texts to understand what Orr is saying on a number of points, both major and minor and particularly around the notions of semiotics, which is likely outmoded by more post-modern thinkers but still of interest to me.

See!  That’s what happens to my brain.  I find one thread leads to another and another and another and then the whole thing folds back on itself and a complex weaving builds buried in a mass of incomplete thoughts.

It is so hard for me to say, “enough, I won’t follow that thread” or “I don’t need to know that to do the job at hand.  Looking back at my list for “Earth Abides,” I know in part of my mind that I don’t need to know anything about semiotics to write a coherent essay or series of blog posts on any of the three points but the fear of leaving something incomplete bothers my intellect and blocks me from even starting some projects.

Which of course is a strange juxtaposition with other parts of my life where I am perfectly happy leaving things undone – like the dishes or the deck out back.

And speaking of the deck, I’ve got to build a rain gutter on part of the roof which got Heather and I talking about rain barrels.

Focus, focus…

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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1 Response to Just Reading Stuff

  1. Gisela Foster says:

    Andrew, I really like how your mind works. And who says that you won’t need what you learned while chasing amother thread? I’ve recently begun to study the relationship between puppeteers and their puppets; one website lead to another; magazines lead to books, and somewhere along the line I had to look up the word “semiotics.” Not really for any particular reason, only because I couldn’t stop myself. And you see, I needed it for your blog. I think the greatest gift of the Internet is its endless amount of information. I often chase ideas late into the night and have no problem with unfinished house work any more. Cancer has shown me new priorities.
    Please say hello to Heather for me.


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