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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

750 More Words

It occurred to me that there are a lot of way to say "a large quantity." So this is a stylistic exercise that I performed on the 750 site:
To get it all down, on paper or screen. A river of words. A plethora of verbiage. A respectable quantity of scholarly publications. Mountains of prose. Vast landscapes of sentences and paragraphs. Piles of shit. Bucketfuls, sackfuls, fistfuls. Myriad perspectives on the subject matter. A deluge of books and articles. Enormous quantities of academic output. Heaps of stuff, of entries on a cv. A veritable onslaught of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, articles (definite and indefinite). Loads of fun. A sizable amount of work. Tons of research. Gadzillion things accomplished. Boatloads of "significant contributions to the field."

Megabytes, gigabytes of information. An endless supply of synonyms. Platefuls of edification. A ceaseless flow, a cornucopia of virtuoso performances. Limitless reserves of unnatural resources. An embarrassment of riches. A countless array of intelligence, perspicacity, perspicuousness, expertise, knowledge, brilliance, cleverness, imagination--not to mention creativity, genius, and precocity. Unending displays of competence. Solid, unimpeachable reputations, as far as the eye can see. Infinite layers of subtlety. Overflowing vessels. A Babel worthy of Borges.

Silos, bank vaults, storage facilities, boxes and other analogous containers, full to the brim. An abundant store of possibilities still unrealized. An unimaginably extensive horizon, looming over us, dwarfing the already not inconsiderable accumulations of philosophy, anthropology, sociology, chemistry, applied behavioral science, biomedical research, physics, and other areas of study too numerous to count. Rainmakers, the stars and superstars of universities and colleges, have worked 24/7 to amass library-fulls of monographs, thousands or millions of cubic feet for the storage of many a quaint an curious volume of forgotten lore, gleaned by the teeming brains of bards and scops, poets, prophets, and savants, scientists, wise men (and women), theorists, researchers, adjunct and tenure-track faculty--inspired by muses and duendes, fueled by trillions of gallons of coffee and scotch, an unimaginably humongous galaxy of the best that has been thought and said. Touchstones and benchmarks without any logical stopping point. Volcanoes, geysers, of wisdom and practical applications.

Have I mentioned, yet, the inexhaustible databases, the wealth of concrete manifestations of all this? Ships arriving in port, laden with new insights, brainstorms, inspirations, ideas, the seemingly never-ending working out, working through, elaborating, explaining, explicating, annotating, summarizing, synthesizing and analyzing, improving, of this storehouse, this prison-house of language?

And what of the laconic, the terse, the concise, the pithy, Pound's "piths and gists:--all that does not belong to the plethoric mode, the worship of quantitative measure, the bean-counting, the bureaucratic quantification, the immense weight and heft of sheer numbers, hills of quantifiable items? Long careers, or whole armies of worker ants slaving away in the beaneries, might be devoted to the abuse of measurability, the massiveness of mass itself.

Bathtubs full of archives, miles of microfilm, kilometers of hexameters, lightyears of lexemes, syntagms, discursive structures of uncharted scope, in the full range of time and space, or even in alternative universes. A planetful of human minds, all chained in the saltmines of schools and academies, might not be sufficient! We must return to the origins, the springs, the foundations, the prehistoric archetypes and prototypes, the millennial erudition of a thousand blooming flowers.

I have a good deal more to say on this subject, and other matters which have remained in the inkwell: the unplumbed depths, the bottomless wells, the unchartered bottoms, the still inchoate forms taking shape in caverns measureless to man, in domed expanses of unimaginable extension. (The end is not yet in sight. I have miles to go before I sleep, although these words are indeed dark and deep.) Here I might linger a while, enjoying the eternal present, frozen moments of time chosen out of even vaster, dimensions, before the onslaught of dementia, oblivion, the daunting prospect of forgetting more than one ever knew, of being wrong, mistaken, in ways too varied to be put into a finite set of possible outcomes. To err is human. Error, too, is gigantic, making knowledge seem comparatively puny, where it once appeared gargantuan, larger-than-life, of Goliath-like proportion, the height of a redwood. The sea of what is known will always be small when set beside the flood tides of what cannot be known, whether because of the limits of time and space or because some things are unknowable by their very nature. A tsunami might be an even more apt metaphor: as though I could run out of them! There are always more where that came from, the "bottomless cup" in an all-night diner, the perpetual motion machine churning out even more than you ever thought possible.

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