“A queer conception, sublime logic.”
This quote is taken from Percival Everett’s collection of poems Re: f(gesture), under the poem (Logic). When I stumbled upon this line while reading (Logic), something felt familiar. First I suppose I should break down what I interpreted from this quote before I explain the familiarity I felt. It seems that (Logic) is discussing the idea that to everyday people logic is understood as what is “common”, “normal”, or “simple” in terms of action or thought. It is often paired with the idea of acting logical. However, the poem seems to point out that logic itself is not simple, it is rooted in perspective. Logic has no definition in The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, but the Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “a particular way of thinking, esp. one that is reasonable and based on good judgment”. It seems that logic is presented as a universal concept of reason. The idea of whether something is logical or not is accepted as a set line, a standard that is never defined but should be easily understood. This quote from (Logic) is begged the notion in my mind that there cannot be a universality in logic because what is reasonable to one may not be reasonable to another.
I discussed in my first blog post the significance of perspective. I noted how an important step in writing is not necessarily the content, but the lens in which we present it. It seems to me that (Logic) is presenting a different significance to perspective, that is: subjectivity. The Bedford defines subjectivity as “Broadly speaking, subjectivity is associated with the internal reality- with perceptions and thoughts arising and based in a given individual’s mind- and thus with bias and relative truth.”. Using this idea of subjectivity, when reading the excerpt from (Logic), one can see the point it is making regarding logic. The idea of logic is strange and beautiful, that there should be a universal standard of thought when people are objectively subjective creatures. People will always think, write, and speak with bias. There is no instance where a writer can be completely objective, and why would we want them to? Subjectivity is what gives a writer a voice. When I read the works of Poe, Huxley, or even Everett, I do not engage with the writing because it is an objective analysis of events. I engage because I enjoy the writer’s voice, their subjective perspective is what my mind enjoys because it is allowing me to an interesting way of thinking. Subjectivity is the essence of what engaging writing is, and what being human is. However, this is what makes the idea of logic so strange. In spite of our subjective nature we attempt to set a universal standard as to what we consider “common thought”.
This leads me to the “familiar” feeling I had mentioned previously in this blog post. When I first read the excerpt from (Logic), it immediately reminded me of the quote our class was introduced to by Professor McCoy at the beginning of the year, from Percival Everett’s Erasure. “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood. Mere sounds strung together by some agent attempting to mean something, but the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.”. This quote notes the beauty in language, interpretation, and perspective. It is miraculous that through the utterance of sounds, we are able to change the world around us, to convey meaning. This is very similar to the “Sublime Logic” that (Logic) discusses. There is a certain beauty in the fact that humans can even communicate at all, yet we fail to acknowledge it because it is so routine. We set standards of reasoning and communication that when not achieved, a person is faced with scorn.
What can be taught or taken from this message? We should attempt to take a moment to appreciate the beauty in our routine human function. We should appreciate the strange nature of logic, how it is never defined but always expected. For myself, I have lived in a very black and white world, right is right and wrong is wrong. Reading the works of Everett, and understanding that the world is grey has lead me to be less scornful and angry. When someone insults me I am more easily able to see that the communication we are attempting is strange, beautiful, and more complex than it seems. I am able to forgive, with the understanding that each of us is just trying to do our best. I am happier now that I have an appreciation for logic and communication. Communication is key into a functional life, yet it is so unbelievably ambiguous and subjective. If we take the time to appreciate the complexity of language, we are more likely to be forgiving of miscommunication. We should try to take a moment and appreciate that it is incredible that a sentence is ever understood.