15 August 2008

Meaning and association

Mundane objects are made oppressive with the weight of emotional associations. Sentimentality chains itself to the most banal things. There is this fear that reigns a tyrant over so many, this terror of loss that shadows all things material. We grip tight, accumulate and hoard in a vain attempt to make time stand still. We console ourselves that though a cherished moment is deceased, we can still summon the memory of it, especially with the aid of a physical catalyst. We may not be able to raise the dead, but we can call forth their ghosts. Sentimentality is a sort of necromancy.

Emotional associations create other traps to ensnare the rational mind. Our anxieties, hopes and desires are doors through which commercial predators seek to gain entry into our vulnerable core. Emotions are a Trojan horse to smuggle in the artificial ‘needs’ peddled by marketers.

Our feelings beg for a master’s firm hand. If we will not be that master, they will seek out another who is willing. And the candidates are legion. Given the slightest chance, these masters bent on domination will gleefully do every mind the false kindness of flattery, appealing to our inherent need for love and respect.

Many associations, representations, connections and symbols that are still able to convince and enchant are but historical accidents. Yet they were not born in a vacuum; those with power today are descended from social constructs either now extinct or ignored as irrelevant. Irony-blindness – a common affliction – allows us to mock the superstitions and magical thinking of those who believe in the old constructs while we believe that simply wearing expensive underwear with somebody else’s name on it transmogrifies us into sexual gods. Like the retarded second-cousin you cannot quite bring yourself to scorn but nonetheless feel a deep pity for, the gullible stand as exemplars of unthinking made flesh. They are a walking, breathing, consuming formula expressed thus: If I buy A which gives the impression of B, then I become B. Consumerists make poor logicians.

If Meaning and Symbolism insist on permeating our humanity, if they are irrepressible strands of our genetic code, then very well, we accept this on one condition: that they recognize the sovereignty of Reason and submit every impulsive thought for her dispassionate consideration. Reason will then calmly point out the absurdity of their claim that a $50 construction of cotton to clothe the genitals can impart respectability and prowess.


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