Lo these many years ago when I was writing my PhD thesis, I frequently voiced a wish that someone would invent a form of sentences and paragraphs that worked not in two dimensions, but in three: that had the structure, not of a straight line, but of a mirror ball, so that the sentence, the paragraph, the thought, the Thing would be constantly turning, revealing its different facets, and whoever was reading/looking at it could see how those different facets related to each other.
Which is how grammar itself works, really, and why Yoda funny is, but that's for another post.
I wanted this three-dimensional discursive artifact to be invented in order to be able to circumvent the problem of trying to write about something that couldn't really be understood until something else -- something tangential, or something that happened later -- had been explained. God had gone some way towards solving this problem when She invented footnotes, but there was still a long way to go.
Great leaps and bounds in this direction have been made since, of course, in the form of hyperlinks. I remember the moment when I first realised what hyperlinks were and how they worked: my first conscious thought was Damn and blast, if only these things had been invented before I tried to write my thesis.
The problem of linear chronology remains, of course, in that consciousness and its apprehensions are inescapably linear because of the way that time works, or at least time the way we understand it. You can still only read one thing at a time, and decisions must be made about the order in which you will read them. All the same, it would have been an enormous help to have been able to send my examiners (for who else ever reads PhD theses?) off at a hypertangent in order to find out extra things about the topic before proceeding further.
If I had the patience to read (and the brains to follow) Stephen Hawking, I might have a better handle on this, but life is short.
And because I am now trying to write a book, a book about Adelaide, for which I have a magnificently liberating -- and, for that reason, terrifying -- brief from the publisher (although since it's a book in a series and I'm in the fortunate position of having several earlier volumes to supply a context, it's less terrifying than it might have been), I have been thinking about ways in which technology might come to my aid.
What I need is a form of technology that will automatically record everything you're thinking as you're thinking it: some sort of microchip that reads your mind and has an Autosave function.
I'm sure it's possible. In fact someone somewhere has probably already invented it, and is merely having trouble with the patent. If so, I'm guessing the problem won't have been solved before February 1, the date the manuscript is due, which is a shame. And God knows I have wished to have one of these gadgets implanted many times before today.
But how else to record, without having to race to take notes to keep up with the brain when the brain is actually working this fast, which happens so seldom you have to grab it while it's happening, for who knows when it will come again -- how else to record the suddenly obvious solution, which came to me in the middle of dinner, to the structural problem of where to put the story of the sudden closure of Adelaide's Radio 5KA in 1941, when the government thought 5KA was being run by German sympathisers who were broadcasting in code was because said station managers were Jehova's Witnesses? For it belongs, it obviously belongs, in the section on Weird Adelaide.
What's more, as the radio station closure is all about the mood of Adelaide in wartime, I can tuck in, under that story's wing, my dad's recollections of being a 15-year-old ARP bike rider in 1942, pedalling up and down the streets of Adelaide's eastern suburbs knocking on the doors of people whose blackout curtains were not sufficiently closed -- recollections I was determined to shoehorn in somewhere but had not yet found a place for.
But I had to leave my dinner half-eaten and rush to the computer to write all this stuff down, because otherwise it would have whooshed past like a car in the rain and been lost to sight. I just wish inventors would invent things before I need them.
In which the pond turns to the Caterists and Dame Groan ... - The pond is never sure whether the reptiles are mocking the Donald, or mocking themselves for admitting that they're the Donalds of down under journalism...
12 minutes ago