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Monday, March 18, 2013

the footnote


One thing that had to happen on the way to adulthood was that I needed a signature. Noone ever teaches you how to write, or draw, probably sign a signature, it’s one of those things that falls through the cracks of lessons learned. I believe most people learn the basics of signature writing by forging their parent’s signatures. I never did this, not only was the fear of God so deep in me but I was a horrible drawer. I would try to trace the outline of a lion or frog or whatever it is that people draw in primary school and come out with something that looked like a ghost. I also remember overthinking  when I tried to draw the signatures. Sometimes I would be convinced that I needed to be in the person’s mind to do it. To figure out the emotions they were trying to portray by putting a curve here and a line there, what does that little squiggle say about their psychology, what philosophy of life leads them to draw one out that goes round and round like a river, what emotions are they trying to portray by using a squiggle here?. It was impossible. The time came for me to make mine up and it came at a time of laziness. It has a Z in it. I know the Z represents finality, the last of something, maybe it was the last attempt I ever made I can’t remember right now. It goes round and round and ends up in a G because I was told to put one of the letters of my name in the signature. It’s quite frankly a shitty signature. I look at banknotes sometimes and I realise no one will ever make me the governor of the central bank. Go ahead and pick out a note and look at it. The signature flows like the Nile with jut as much meandering. Mine peters out like a stream in a desert. I’m not worried about bank fraud and such things, just that I will never be the governor of the central bank. That sucks.

I realised the other day just how interesting footnotes are. If you want the real story look at those. They have all these tiny asides and titbits of humour that cannot be put into straight academic text. Sometimes there’s just an anecdote that would break up the narrative flow and the author decides to put it in the footnotes. They provide the texture to a piece of researched writing and they give you freedom. Either you pile yourself into the main structure of the story and don’t take any detours determinedly driving to the finishing line or you go this way and that. You meander, you wander, you look for the Easter eggs and delight in opening up for them. Some novels have footnotes. Works of fiction with footnotes, after a while it becomes tiring of course, it stretches your mind this way and that and doesn’t fit into linear chronology, you go off on this wild goose chase and come back having learned all these things but it seems the characters you were following haven’t moved at all. You as a reader had an adventure without them a part of it and you came back, your life was changed but they were the same.

Still the footnote makes me happy. The thought that I won’t be the governor of central bank tickles me the most about my signature. I was in a legal writing class the other day and the lecturer was talking about ambiguities in writing. As an example he mentioned a place he went to where he saw a sign that said "tourist approved taxis." Does this mean that the taxis are approved by tourists or approved for tourists? The latter apparently but I wanted to know where he was that only some taxis were approved for tourists. Which government was this that cared more about its visitors than its nationals, how was this discrimination allowed anywhere? After class someone pointed out to me that this wasn’t the real point of the story.

I’m taking this online course on coursera.org. It’s a website that gives free online courses taught by lecturers from some of the best universities in the world. They assign you reading, they provide video lectures, they assign essays for you to write and there’s a quiz to do every week. So you learn quite a bit. The one I’m doing now is called know thyself; it’s about self-knowledge and the processes behind it. As part of the reading we are assigned the six meditations of Descartes. The first one deal with the question of existence and doubt ending in the famous proclamation I think therefore I am. The second one deals with the existence of God, i can't remember what the rest were about right now.

There’s a part in the meditations where he talks about the effort made in creating something  and that its exactly the same as that made in maintaining it. Well, I’ve been tired al this week. Tired, tired, tired. I could chalk it up to my dream life, but I have a better explanation. You see I have let my hair grow for months now. It’s still growing; this means I am expending effort in creating new hair and in maintaining the hair that I already have. This is exhausting, I’m tired now, more tired than i've been in a long, long time. All this extra effort used in maintaining this hair and creating new follicles is killing me.