Alphabetical, Alphashmetical

Okay boys and girls, time to get analytical! 

The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms defines structure as “the arrangement of the material in a work, that is, the ordering of its component parts…”. With this understanding of structure it is easy to assume that alphabetical order is an assignment that presents order and structure. However, in Percival Everett’s Re: f(gesture) this notion is challenged through the poem Zulus

In my blog post titled The Beasts (linked below) I said “The poem Zulus is a poem ‘organized’ in alphabetical order.”. The reason I placed “organized” in quotation marks was, in a sense, as a foreshadowing to this post. The fact that Zulus is in alphabetical order challenges the idea of structure based on name. Although the poem adheres to alphabetical order at face value, the actual content of the poem has little structure. For example as each letter progresses ideas jump from one to another. In the F section it talks about how “F is for fuck” then immediatly is followed by the latin phrase “finis coronat opus”, then Frankenstein. Although it is possible I just cannot see the structure the poem is creating, it seems that Zulus is pointing out the absurdity of alphabetical order as a form of structure, as it only organizes by name, not content.

This relates to an activity our class pursued some weeks ago. The activity was simple, we were to order ourselves in alphabetical order by last name and then repeated the process by first names.  As I stood in my place and looked next to me to see who was next to me, I was struck with the realization that the people to the left and right to me were so different from myself. I am a tallish white man in a sleeveless black band t-shirt, and the people next to me were not the same genre of person as I was. This idea lead me to the point Zulus emphasizes about this false structure of order. When one reads the poem and see the subject matter that lies next to one another it is clear that many of them have nothing to do with each other.

What Zulus also does at some points is shift from alphabetical “order” to order of thought/ content. For example in the G section the alphabetical order is ditched to give actual order to the sentences stated. “G is for sodomy. G is for Goya, who knew.” (Everett 21). Alphabetical order gives a false sense of structure and order. It is based in name only, not the content of the subject. There is no reason that ketchup should be paired next to kete (a new zealand woven hand basket) in the alphabet if one looks at how the objects relate to one another. The only reason it is because some of the letters are the same. 

Alphabetical order isn’t universal either. The word for a cat here in the U.S is not the same as it is in Italy, there for their alphabetical order is different than ours. There are few things in the world in this world that are free from human “order” or perspective. One of these things is number. If me and a man from another country with a different language sat down and attempted to organize animals by name alphabetically, we would have completely different orders. However, the number of the animals could be agreed upon. Numbers seem to move past human perspective and cultural norms. Re: f(gesture) also touches upon this idea in Logic. “Seven men lost, but not seven. Seven is, will be.”(70). Although alphabetical order does not present actual concrete structure, number does. 

What are we to do with this concept of structure? In our society we sent standards, we expect everyone to adhere to. It is not wrong of us to exist in this way, but it does raise opportunity for conflict. When someone doesn’t adhere to these societal structures, we bring scorn upon them. When someone doesn’t act just, and so we shame them. We must ask ourselves if there is any real, tangible reason to bring scorn against people all because they did not abide by the fabrications our society has created. Zulus’ discussion of alphabetical order is a small example of the false standards of order and structure we set in our society. If we try to be understanding of those who don’t follow our structural standards, there will be less conflict.

Mosaic People, Just Ships In The Dark

“Does my memory of you consist in parts? Simple, component parts? Ascending and descending segments, your curve in space. Are you a composite? Or are you a whole, your name, all of you at once, a simple element?” 

Much like my last blog post, this post begins with a quote from Percival Everett’s Re: f(gesture), from a poem titled (logic). This quote alludes (at least in my mind) to a concept that was discussed in our class while reading Everett’s I Am Not Sidney Piotier. This is the thought experiment of the “Ship of Theseus”. The Ship of Theseus thought experiment revolves around a scenario where the greek hero Theseus’ ship is falling apart so it is restored plank by plank over time. The question raised by this scenario is; is the ship of Theseus still the same ship that left when his journey began? Or has it become new ship as each one of its component parts have been replaced? This is a very rudimentary explanation of this thought experiment, but it will suffice for the purposes of my discussion. It seems that (logic) is making a reference to the philosophical question that this thought experiment raises. 

Prior to reading the quote cited above, I had not considered a real world application of this thought experiment. It had always seemed to me that this philosophical inquiry remained purely within the context of Theseus’ ship. I had never attempted to branch this concept into my own reality. On the other hand, (logic) seemingly branches this idea to the human condition, to the human reality. (Logic) questions whether people are made of parts, if we are perceived by our particular attributes, or if we are one whole element in space. My answer to this question is that we are made of parts. 

From a very scientific sense we are made up of billions of cells, each one dying at one point in our life span. Technically speaking we are made of component parts that are constantly replaced, in other words we are much like Theseus’ ship. Theoretically the person we are born as isn’t the same person say in 20 years time. That is in a literal sense, but if one looks at it in terms of how we grow, we are not the same person as when we were young. From personal experience, over this semester I can safely say that I have become a different person. Through learning lessons from Professor McCoy, and Everett’s writing, I have had my outlook on life altered greatly. I have said this before in my posts, but my life has changed from a structured reality to one of fluidity. What was once black and white is now grey, and I am better off because of this. This is just one of many examples from my personal experience, but I am sure if you took the time to reflect you could see how you have changed since you were young.

 I am not the same Kevin as I was at the beginning of the semester, but I cannot attest to the experiences of others. This change and growth was only possible through the fact that I am a composite being comprised of joy and sadness, experience and inexperience, knowledge and ignorance, and two strands of DNA compiled into one. To imagine people as fixed beings is to fail to fundamentally understand humans. Humans are fluid creatures constantly changing, yet trying to live in a world ruled by structure. We can not be as Everett puts it “a whole, your name, all of you at once, a simple element”. I am not Kevin the individual being, unlike no other in the world. I am my father, and mother, I am my brother, I am my friends. My being is so directly tied to the existence of others that I cannot say I am a whole, one person. I am a composite. 

When I first saw the quote by Everett, “I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY”, I thought I had an understanding of the meaning that was grounded, but upon writing this post I have found new meaning in it. No one can be themselves when they are constantly changing, there is no standard of who someone should be in order to be “themselves”. We are composite beings and when one of those aspects change we become a new person, we become ourselves. The past versions of ourselves live only in memory and recollection, who we have become is who we are. I can truly say that I am not “myself” today and I will never be “myself” again, I will only be who I am. 
People are composite, parts of a greater world put into a mold of flawed design. Once we understand the fluidity of people scorn can be decreased. Fluidity lends an inherent attribute of growth, and if people can learn and grow from the things that bring scorn upon them, they can bar themselves from such scornful action. I don’t mean to change this to a “self love” blog post but there is something to be said to the fact that understanding that we are constantly changing, it is easier to appreciate how amazing we truly are. Each one of us is a mosaic of culture, and upbringing whose existence is so miraculous, it is hard not to appreciate ourselves when you think deeply about it. Neil Degrasse Tyson said that the number of people who could be born, won’t be. All of my life I have heard people talk of the “miracle of life” and for most of my life I didn’t get it. I took people for granted, their existence as inherent. Through (logic) I can appreciate the beauty of humanity much better than I once could. I do not say I believe in miracles, but I believe in people. We are all just ships wandering in the dark without a clue where we are going, fixing ourselves as we crash into the waves.

Can Logic be too much?

When reading Percival Everett’s book of poems titled, “re: f (gesture)” there’s a section named Logic. Logic is the shortest of the 3 sections in this book. When reading through Logic, there’s a poem that caught my attention and intrigued me. The poem that intrigued me is the 3rd one in the section. The third poem speaks about memory, “Does my memory of you consist in parts? Simple, component in parts?” (Everett, 67)

Poem 3 is an interesting one in my opinion. This is because I’ve always been fascinated with the mind, and why we as humans do what we do. The part of the poem that sparked my interest was the first couple sentences I mentioned earlier. “Does my memory of you consist in parts? Simple, component parts?” (Everett, 67) I’ve learned that the mind does amazing things to protect us from trauma, like blocking out an event from your memory. This is like a defense mechanism for our body, and our mind. According to a Science Daily article, “According to McLaughlin, if the brain registers an overwhelming trauma, then it can essentially block that memory in a process called dissociation, or detachment from reality. ‘The brain will attempt to protect itself,’ she added.” (Science Daily) By doing this, your brain does protect itself, it protects you as well from facing any heartache, or emotional trauma. “Dissociation causes a lack of connection in a person’s thoughts, memory and/or sense of identity and it’s extremely common to experience a case of mild dissociation. For example, if you’ve recently gotten ‘lost’ in a book or daydreamed at work, then you’ve experienced a common form of mild dissociation. A severe and more chronic form of dissociation is seen in mental illnesses and rare forms of dissociative disorders, such as dissociative identity disorder, which was once called multiple personality disorder. The same way the body can wall-off an abscess or foreign substance to protect the rest of the body, the brain can dissociate from an experience. In the midst of trauma, the brain may wander off and work to avoid memory. However, not all psyches are alike, and what may be severe trauma for one person may not be as severe for another person.” (Science Daily) When a major event happens the ensues trauma, your brain blocks that memory out, basically, it crumbles it up like a piece a paper and throws it away from your mind.

One question that popped into my mind while reading this poem, can logic be a sort of trauma? Can one person learn so much, that it just becomes so much, that the person must block out some pieces of knowledge and relearn all of that blocked out knowledge. I scrolled around the web and I found an intriguing article from Teaching Tolerance. “Students who are experiencing trauma can be retraumatized in school through poorly chosen readings, activities, and assignments. Gorski offers an example, ‘I often hear from students who are learning about racism in the past tense,’ he says. ‘For instance, they are reading To Kill a Mockingbird and learning about what it was like for people of color ‘back then’. At the same time, they are experiencing racism in school and in their communities in the present tense.” (Gaffney) This can be blocked out by students, because they are learning about it in the classroom, but it’s happening out of the classroom as well. Students might be dealing with this themselves, so, the brain blocks this, to protect them. “Outside of individual lessons, other curricular structures can harm students. Kass Minor, a consultant with the Teachers College Inclusive Classrooms Project, says one common policy that does real harm is tracking, the practice of sorting and separating students based on perceived academic ability. Although tracking may be intended to offer extra support for students who need it, the messages it sends are anything but supportive.” (Gaffney) One thing I learned when I entered the education major, and when I started working with kids in general, I learned to never display their academic work on for everyone to see. It not only embarrasses the child, but it also embarrasses the family as well. This is a form of trauma that some parents, even teachers, aren’t even aware of. I know some teachers may not intend for this to be the meaning of the display, but it ends up hurting and traumatizing the child.

A quote that is stated in the article by Cornelius Minor, “As teachers, we do things for kids because they are human, not because they will thank us or because we caught them being ‘good’” (Gaffney) This quote is true; kids are humans too. Kids have faults, kids get tired of learning for an hour straight, they have a short attention span. When they see something shiny, they stare at the shiny item. Just like in the movie “Up!”, when Doug see’s, well thinks he sees, a squirrel. He trails off for a second, and then comes back to reality. Kids are innocent enough, coming from a teacher-to-be perspective, give a child a break once in a while to have them go play.

Works Cited:

“Can You Unconsciously Forget an Experience?” ScienceDaily, Texas A&M University, 9 Dec. 2016,

Gaffney, Carrie. “When Schools Cause Trauma.” Teaching Tolerance, 2019,

7 (6)

Percival Everett’s poem “6” from the Logic section of his book re: f(gesture) is, interestingly enough, not about six, but rather about seven. The poem opens with “Seven men / can be obliterated” (Everett 70). Following this, seven becomes the focal point of the poem, mentioned seven times including this first instance. I found this intriguing and definitely ironic; why is seven so important that it’s in the spotlight of a poem called “6”?

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Subjective Perspective of (Logic)

“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.

Logic and Common Sense

I tend to associate the term logic with the idea of common sense, or practical sense. I assume that it takes basic knowledge or common sense to be able to break down a math problem, such as 5 times 5. As a student who progressed through both elementary as well as high school math courses, I know how to break this down. I count the number five, five times, and that is how I find the answer. But, to another individual who did not receive the same education as I did, this is not common sense. They may question why they must add up the number five, five separate times. Or, without me having learned the foundation of addition and multiplication in the first place, I, too, would have no idea what I am doing. Logic is way more complex than it is said to be; it is in fact not common sense.

The term logic, as defined by Lexico, is “Reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity.” The term is well associated with a recent class discussion in which our class discussed a section of poems, entitled “(Logic)”, in Percival Everett’s re:f (gesture) anthology. While as a class we tried to break each poem down, piece by piece, I know I continued to struggle with figuring out how to interpret the words.

One of the readings in this section ignited the most confusion for me, as it is written, “Let us assume X./ Even such signs have/ some place, some/ language X./ Constituent parts/ compose this reality–/ molecules, atoms, simple/ X” (66). 

To start, there is no practical knowledge within these statements. I do not understand how my knowledge can apply specifically to, “Constituent parts/ compose this reality…”. What does this even mean? How is this logical in the sense that it is regarded as common sense? Then, there is the aspect that there is math written in the English language. Math and English are two completely different languages, each with different meanings and symbols. It says, “Let us assume X” which appears as the start of a mathematical equation or a statement written in words. But, aside from its linguistic structure, nothing about this reading actually makes sense or encompasses the foundation of the English language. How would I know what “molecules, atoms, simple / X” means without having previously studied that branch of science? This is not common sense.

The term sense, within the phrasing of common sense, according to Lexico, is “a way in which an expression or a situation can be interpreted; a meaning.” While in some regards this definition does live up to its expectations because in order to make sense of logic I must find meaning and make interpretations, in other ways it does not associate. When piecing together the terms common and sense, common means that it is something that is known or that many people tend to know, and sense is the meaning or interpretation. This essentially implies that common sense, even in logic, is known by everyone because of the fact that it is categorized as common sense. But doesn’t that accumulate more confusion for people who do not have a basis for this knowledge?

Last year I was in an Introduction to Logic class to fulfill a math credit since I preferred to take an “easier” class than one like calculus where I would be drained of all of my energy. I went into this class as a second semester freshman under the impression that there would be very limited brain work in this course. I had the saying “Logic is common sense” in my head, convincing me that I made the right choice to enroll and that I would receive an easy A. I could not have been more wrong. I would approximate that for 90% of the semester, I was completely unsure of what I was being taught. I would attend the Teacher Assistant hours during the week, overwhelmed by the continuous sequences on the board, trying my hardest to go back and understand the foundation of the work my class was doing. Logic requires understanding various formulas in order to break statements down. Logic includes knowing how to prove the validity or invalidity of mathematical statements, and to be able to interpret oddly shaped symbols.

One questionable validity or invalidity statement written on the board one day said, “Mr. Aarons is a wolf but also a professor.” How was I supposed to know how to interpret this or answer this? How does one go from having a prefix of mister, to identifying as an animal and then also a professor? How was I to infer whether this statement written in English was invalid while using math? And most importantly, how was I to prove that this was a logical statement when nothing that was written made sense or had the foundation for common sense?

My roommate, who was also in my class, stared at me with the most confused expression on her face. Neither of us knew what we were doing.

In light of both this course as well as Everett’s anthological section “(Logic)”, it can be explicitly said that logic is indeed not common sense. To succeed, an abundance of brain power is necessary, as well as outside mathematical knowledge.