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The Tinkered Mind

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March 25th, 2022

This episode is dedicated to @meaning_monkey


Writing carries an inherent nostalgia. Like taking a Polaroid. It’s rather cute that the Polaroid camera fell out of use almost completely, replaced by more convenient technologies, and then made a small but respectable comeback. Snapping a picture with a Polaroid camera in the age of digital photography baked into everyone’s phone doesn’t seem rational at first glance. Why not just take a picture with your phone? The reason is because we have no nostalgia for our phones, nor the screens upon which we’ll review our photos in the future. But an actual photo fades - it shows it’s time in a way a juiced up, lit up screen never can. The Polaroid made a come back because the medium itself has nostalgia baked into it, and what is the point of taking a photo if not to lay a trap of nostalgia to be sprung at some time in the future? Writing carries a similar nostalgia, but not one that’s often recognized.


Not often recognized because the vast majority of people don’t write for pleasure, but everyone takes photos for fun. For most writing carries a strain of necessity and duress, and a reminder of school, bad grades and a confused sense of ineptitude. There’s little nostalgia in things that would be better off forgotten. 


But all writing is a kind of snapshot - like the Polaroid. The words that fall onto the page aren’t the person’s actual mind being recorded, but simply expressed during that particular time. If this paragraph had been attempted a day later, the same mind would have worded it a bit differently. The reasons why are both numerous and fairly straightforward: I’ll be a slightly different person tomorrow, in a slightly different mood, and the thoughts that will have led up to the writing will have been a quite different narrative. But there’s no way to test this. I can’t try to write this paragraph again tomorrow because in that case I’ll also have the memory of this paragraph in my mind to some degree. It would likely come out different had I not taken the time today.  All of this is to say that the words we print upon the universe are unique to our mind in a specific time in a specific situation. It’s as close to a snapshot of the mind as we can get.


So is a piece of writing representative of the writer’s mind? Hard to say. Maybe we can say its representative of the writer’s mind during that particular moment. But then, what if the writer goes back later and edits the piece of writing? Would that mean we now have two different representations of a writer’s mind now interacting?


What’s unique to writing is that we associate it so closely with how we think, or what it’s like to be a mind in the moment, so a book looks quite literally like a record of a thinking mind. Much more so than say a painting, which really is an expression of much the same process. But not everyone thinks in brush strokes, but everyone utilizes some degree of language relative to thought.


Where is my mind while this is being written? Well, if my focus and attention is solely on what word might appear on the page next, then I suppose it might be pretty accurate to say that my mind is right here. But the moment this piece of writing is finished being written, my mind will be past it, gone, never to return  - even if I come back to edit, it’ll be a different mind, a different circumstance taking the knife to an artifact of the past.


Where is my mind? Well, it was right here, but it’s gone now, and you dear reader are left to experience these words like a fresh tombstone of a past moment, like animal tracks freshly pressed - something that happened. It’s but a testament to the fact that something was here, something living, someone that didn’t want time to pass without marking the moment.

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