23 April 2015


by Andy Weddington
Thursday, 23 April 2015

"A few years ago, the city council of Monza, Italy, barred pet owners from keeping goldfish in curved bowls...saying that it is cruel to keep a fish in a bowl with curved sides because, gazing out, the fish would have a distorted view of reality. But how do we know we have the true, undistorted picture of reality?" Stephan Hawking

Again this morning I climbed into my firetruck red '68 VW Karmann Ghia (if having read a recent post you know my Dad drove a sunset orange '69) and wandered desert roads.

As a fly fishing and painting trip nears my thoughts on trout, paint, and my Dad - thinking about how he drove the Ghia he so enjoyed.

And amidst my relaxing mental distractions, heading due east on a nearly deserted two-lane road, a car approached from the opposite direction. The color first caught my attention. It was sunset orange. And as our gap closed - a '69 Ghia. 


The driver waved and smiled. I returned the friendly gesture.

Odd, we've lived here more than a decade and I've not seen that car before this morning. 

How can that be? On that infrequently traveled road? The timing? Another minute or so and we'd not have passed. 

On the roads another couple of hours and I could think of nothing else. Words kept coming to mind. 

Geez, it was Dad (but he died 15 months ago).

Death. What is it? A word, yes. To describe something we do not understand. But is there such a state - in reality?

Home I retreated to a comfortable chair with a dictionary.

In alphabetical order...

alive - continuing to exist; having life : living : not dead

being - a living thing; the state of existing

death - the permanent end of something; that is not alive

exist - to continue to be or to live; to have actual being : to be real

quandary - a state of perplexity; doubt 

Words. They are a poor, at best, interpretation of reality. And yet we humans assume reality and words are the same thing. As I've written many a commentary about General Semantics, the word is not the thing. Nor is the symbol (of anything) the thing. The thing is what it is. 

Words and symbols give structure (necessarily for human convenience) to non-structure (at least as perceived by humans). For reality is structured; complexly. 

Thus, though no words and symbols best, we should acknowledge "events" of our world and not (static) things. For reality is ever in motion. So little we understand but try to make sense of through words and symbols. And smile believing we have it all figured out. 


With this morning's encounter I am perplexed but not in doubt. 

And argue that nothing is permanent. Not even death. But that is our definition. It helps us to accept, to survive, to carry on. Maybe.

I cannot explain why that sunset orange Ghia was on the road this morning nor why it passed me just as I was thinking about my Dad and doing things we both enjoy(ed) - fishing and painting. 

What I do know is that beyond my mortal comprehension, and any feeble vocabulary of words or symbols, he exists. Still. But not still. 

That is reality. 

Following Stephan Hawking's opening train of thought...

Humans live in curved fish bowls. And words and symbols further distort the curve. Ergo our gaze, our picture of reality, is distorted; terribly so.  

But trout, navigating nature's waters, see differently; clearly. 

And so do people, ever conscious of the restrictiveness of language, see with clarity. Though not perfectly.  

Thanks, Dad, for a dose of reality. We'll be looking for you on the river. And not say a word. 

'Flying the San Juan' 
10 x 10 in. acrylic on illus bd

Post Script

For a good primer on General Semantics pick up a copy of 'Semantics and Communication' by John C. Condon. Since age 19 I've faithfully read it cover to cover twice a year and perused in between readings. As reminder, it keeps me sane - among the "unsane," and insane. 


Dottie Jean said...

Andy .... this was fabulous and I got goosebumps reading it. I almost didn't but am so glad I did. Thanks. ~ Dottie Jean

A Colonel of Truth said...

DJK, I've had goosebumps since the encounter. What are the odds? Considering the variables, incalculable. Something grand at work.