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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Möbius And Finding One's Self Oneself


Norma's blackboard invited me to reflect and decide if, after a day of medical tests, I was having fun yet. A simple question if you ignore the virgule --a left-hanging slash mark that is actually a chive. In all languages, including French, grammarians and gardeners can distinguish between virgules and chives because chives cast a shadow and virgules do not . This is elementary punctuation to my generation but is no longer taught and bears repeating. By such details one finds one's self.

The phrase "one’s self" is used in spiritual, philosophical and psychological description. Otherwise, "one’s self" can be replaced with the pronoun "oneself" except in possessive reference to a small mythical being --in which case, it's probably better not to mention "one's elf", especially loudly on a cell phone in public. Why? Because it doesn't really compete with public cell-phone broadcasts like, "Where you at? No, where YOU at? I'm at the checkout line, buying  stuff FOR MY CONTAGIOUS BRAIN-EATING DISEASE!"

Where this leaves one's self in relation to oneself is debatable.

People who shout publicly on cell-phones are the biological equivalent of a geometrical enigma, the Möbius strip.


The Möbius strip is a 3-d surface with only one side. It was discovered independently by German mathematicians August Ferdinand Möbius and Johann Benedict Listing in the same year, 1858. This was a great coincidence, diverging only in subsequent disagreement between the two mathematicians over which side had been isolated. Möbius claimed the outside and Listing argued for the inside. They finally agreed it was neither but the model was named after the mathematician with the best left hook (however, Mobius's umlaut was stolen that night and the grammatical case was never solved!).

Cell-phone shouters seem only to have an outside, but their effectiveness in driving the rest of us inside suggests both planes coexist in emotional opposition.

Two-sided people can use cell-phones too. Norma uses hers to converse very quietly with our children, who have grown up and scattered over the world, in the same gentle voice she used to hush them to sleep with when they were little. She does this in the evening while painting things blue.



While Norma was murmuring soporific phrases to our offspring, lots of friends were questing off to India to find themselves. They would come back after a year or two, full of strange enthusiasms --meditation, ego-abolition, gravity bathing (ok, I just made up gravity bathing)-- back to find their little ones had found other parents and their spouses reassigned. But they had found themselves in search of themselves --and, to their credit, they found a lot of Indians.

My personal search for myself is as it has always been. The sun sets. I set out. On the way, I notice the elf is not an elf but a purple caret-capped gnome at the foot of Norma's slate. A caret, I should mention, is a pointy grammatic symbol suggesting insertion (caret ^) and should not be sat on by accident. As for myself (this one's self) or whatever I was looking for, I probably forgot and left it in the van. I'll go look.

24 comments:

  1. Finding oneself in the vicinity of a cell phone shouter leaves one self looking for carets and another searching for an umlaut, all of which to use as ear plugs to negate the selfish yacker.
    The Mobius always turns my brain to cream of wheat, better to process noisy cell phones fragments though.

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    1. According to Norma, my volume rises on the telephone too. I don't realize it when it's happening to me --only when it happens to others-- so I have to shut it off in public.

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  2. After house fires, relative homelessness [it's like tacking a series of holidays onto each other; oh yes?], idiotic Brexit, it is lovely to return to the Norma-lity and sanity of this blog.

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    1. Have followed your stressful events --much relieved you escaped intact-- and if Norma(L) and I have furnished some positive distraction, we are much pleased.

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  3. And let us never mix our carets with our carats with our carrots. That always leads to trouble, especially when making cake.

    Another wonderful piece of writing, Geo. Thank you for the smiles.

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    1. My pleasure, and privilege. Will definitely follow your caution about making cake out of homophones,

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  4. People "searching for themselves" often find themselves in Mobius strips. Most of us spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find ourselves instead of looking for the ways to fulfill our lives. That is where we really are.

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    1. A very wise outlook, Emma. Happily the universe (unlike Mobius's strip) is geometrically open and provides fulfillment from both past and future.

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  5. I'm completely out of my realm here - - and must embarrassingly admit that my realm only exists among the comfortably cloistered shadows of chives.

    But I can fully relate to the pesky cell phone - - which seems to accompany every shopper who ventures into Walmart.
    And I wonder:
    Who the hell are these annoying people constantly talking to? Their agents?
    I have a call phone, but I have nobody to call....

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    1. Jon, a Walmart recently landed only 2 miles from my house. I hesitated going there, first because I always wear a shirt while shopping and wasn't sure I'd pass the dress code, then because I'd heard crazy things happened there. Then they added a great wine section...I now brave the telephonic cacophony.

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  6. Dear Geo,, thank you for that long-needed lesson!
    A little hint: in Iceland you are allowed to mention the elves - they (really! have an elf-commissary (he/she has to give their OK when a new street is built and maybe elves-lodgind are afflicted.)
    I wish I had seen your warning about "finding oneself" a little bit earlier - would have passed that article to a few persons I know...
    May I add another observation to the use of "oneself": in the German language we say "ich langweile mich" - which I find very revealing: English people "are" bored, Germans bore themselves.

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    1. The German expression ("I bore myself") aligns with what Norma always told our children (and me!) when we complained of boredom: "If you are bored, it's your own fault!" Norma is not of German extraction but I just asked her on her way through the kitchen and she said the Germans are correct. That settles it!

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  7. Sometimes I wonder whether the people who set out to find themselves know who they are looking for. And whether they would continue their search if they did.

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    1. I wonder the same thing, EC. Not sure we're equipped or meant to know exactly who we are --I'm satisfied with a close approximation.

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  8. Speaking of one's self, I find that a person can best find one's self at the bottom of a pint of ice cream. It works!

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    1. A most enjoyable technique for self-discovery, Keith!

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  9. Apropos of nothing, that reminds me that today I need to venture out into Orange Co. in search of a good Claret, and be careful not to sit on it either.
    Cheers,
    Mike

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    1. With all the health-warnings busying back labels of wine these days, I wouldn't be too surprised to see one advising us not to sit on claret (which really DOES sound like an editor's mark!).

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  10. As I have never taken the time to search for myself, I suppose I'll never be entirely sure where I am. Which is kinda appropriate, actually, because my sense of direction is non-existent.

    I love the Mobius strip. In a review, I once described a book as being a literary Mobius strip, and the author contacted me to say how much he appreciated the analogy. (He also admitted to having to look it up before he understood what I was talking about.)

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    1. I just tried something, Susan: drew a line down the center of my Mobius strip, then used scissors to cut along the line. Result surprised and baffled me. Finding myself sometimes leads to the same amusement.

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  11. I haven't encountered many cell phone shouters lately at Wal-Mart what with texting taking precedence over typical conversation. I wouldn't be surprised to find a Mobius strip soon become an emoticon. Now wouldn't that speak volumes?

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    1. From the proper angle, the Mobius strip becomes a lemniscate --emoticon could start a new religion. The infinite Wal-Mart!

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  12. Thank you, thank you. Only you can take me from virgules to blue to cell phone blabbers to India and gravity bathing, then park me safely by an old hippie VW van, where I can sit with a mobius strip, and ponder why if it's all one side, we can't get along.
    x

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    1. Kind Austan, Encouraging comment much appreciated!

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