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Anonymous: Diogenes brings a plucked chicken to Plato. (19th century)

According to Diogenes Laërtius’ third-century Lives and Opinions of the Eminent Philosophers, Plato was applauded for his definition of man as a featherless biped, so Diogenes the Cynic “plucked the feathers from a cock, brought it to Plato’s school, and said, ‘Here is Plato’s man.’ ” When asked about the origin of his epithet, cynic deriving from the Greek word for dog, Diogenes replied that it was given to him because he “fawns upon those who give him anything and barks at those who give him nothing.” From Lapham's Quarterly

"I might need some serious slowing down after this."

It's long been considered wise counsel to understand who's whispering into one's counsellor's ear, for those people narrate that counsellor's experience, often without the counsellor acknowledging the influence. The much-touted still, silent voice, which originates inside, actively interprets, while TheNarrator represent a world pre-interpreted for easy absorption. This Damned Pandemic has rendered my library inconvenient to visit so I've been supplementing my Wreading with audio books. I've been noticing that I listen less critically than I read, as if intaking through my ears bypasses some gatekeeper in my brain. I find fiction even more believable when listening. I find non-fiction much more convincing, though I understand that as a "consumer" of literature, I hold a responsibility to be sorting whatever I'm attempting to absorb. Listening seems to bypass my sorting mechanism.

I find distasteful any medium that does not provide me the means for easily skipping ahead or flipping back.
Movies seem especially insidious, since they exclusively flow one way. Paging backward or forward shatters continuity and proves to be anything but convenient. Scrolling functions perform poorly. Audio presentations sometimes won't scroll backward, citing copyright restrictions, and the cadence seems inexorable. I continually accidentally inadvertently scroll far forward or back, then spend a frustrating few minutes trying to get back to where I thought I'd started. These mediums enforce a certain flow and don't seem to understand that some content demands repeated review and frustrated plodding through. I might need to see that last scene two or three times in order to make much sense of it. I'm forever stalling video and audio so that I can catch up to where the producer thought I was supposed to go. I quit in frustration quite a few productions before finishing.

I can completely open up my absorption by exercising while listening. If listening bypasses my critical sorting editor, listening while aerobic routes stuff directly into my even more indelible long-term storage, regardless of whatever garbage it might have been. These leave me feeling as I suppose a plucked and hypnotized chicken might feel when reawakening after making an absolute public fool of himself. I feel less human somehow, mere featherless biped. In high school, I dropped out of a speed reading class after I noticed a similar reaction. When I sought to cram reading in sideways, I failed to fully experience it. Sure, I could pass the subsequent comprehension test based upon vague gists, but I felt as though I'd failed to actually experience the piece. I found myself aching to read at my old reliable pace of a plodding horse, not to engage in some frantic steeplechase when cracking a piece of writing, however much longer that saunter might take.

A colleague listens to audio books at their fastest playback setting, usually at three times normal narration pace. He absorbs what he seems to want to acquire, and I cannot help but wonder about his narrator. The Muse usually falls asleep when listening to a book, which renders audio an unacceptable distraction when she's driving. I suspect that she, too, experiences a certain short-circuiting when listening, and that this might bore her. The shutdown sequestrations have rendered certain experiences suddenly more acceptable. If I cannot access printed material, the audio version
seems to suffice. I can putter while listening, sometimes reawakening to find that I must have missed the last five chapters. I pipe my Jiminy Cricket in through my headset and I wonder where my reliable old Jiminy has gone. That still, silent voice in my head faces stiff competition from slick production and pure convenience. My critic's been furloughed. I might need some serious slowing down after this.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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