Brent C. Dickerson

Copyright © 1997 Brent C. Dickerson

   Reader, have you learned a foreign language?—not when very young, but later in life. Then you recall that, at first, the impressions you received from hearing—or, indeed, from using—the new language were vague, shallow, and often mistaken; as you progressed in facility with it, the notions communicated gained in sharpness, depth, and accuracy.

   Or can you recall your first acquaintanceship with classical music, or with jazz? Even to those otherwise sophisticated in music, one's first impression of either is often that it is an aggressive mish-mash, formless and indeed rather alarming. Those who are not immediately scared away from contemplating it eventually begin to see form or at least form's representative, convention, begin to emerge; increasingly, one becomes familiar to a greater or lesser degree with the new concept of "rules" and "structures," and the individual moves from a plateau of incomprehension to one of appreciation.

   Life itself is much like this. We are faced with things we do not understand, or understand only vaguely. We are uncomfortable with the unfamiliar, and learn to avoid or to ignore it, despite the fact that it may indeed provide a valuable enrichment to our lives, or some key to understanding matters which perplex us. We learn to hate what we do not understand because its mystery seems a threat. We are thrown into what seems to be a mish-mash of events, concepts, motivations, subconscious or barely conscious imperatives, emotions, and physical realities. We understand it vaguely, shallowly, and we are often mistaken. We strive to make sense of it all; but even any hope of making sense of it seems beyond one's reach until one limits one's considerations to a quite low level of the hierarchy, a level so low that it appears barren of insights into what lies above.

   In this series of notes, we will take a glance or two at the universal mish-mash, and try to gain some at least preliminary notion of the greater form of the thing—if there is one! We will take a look at various things, some common, some uncommon, some of which seem to need a fresh look, others of which it seems to me that—dare we think it?—the commonly-accepted view is quite wrong. Sometimes the mode of presentation will not be what the Reader might anticipate; but it will be a manner which, in my view, presents the idea most effectively. These thoughts are offered not so much in the hope that the Reader will agree, but rather in the belief that, even in reviewing the disagreeable, we obtain a nearer approach to a complete understanding of the truth of the matter simply through having widened our perspective.

   One is reminded of Byron's words:

"But now I'm going to be immoral, now
   I mean to show things really as they are,
Not as they ought to be, for I avow,
   That till we see what's what in fact, we're far
From much improvement with that virtuous plough
   Which skims the surface, leaving scarce a scar
Upon the black loam long manured by vice,
Only to keep its corn at the old price."

—Byron, Don Juan XII:40.

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