Sunday, May 10, 2009

Where are you, Doc?

Right here... as usual. Busy... as usual. Writing... as usual.

Just now I am pondering this very interesting bit of GKC

The present writer is prayerfully conscious that he was never meant to be a biographer; not having that eye for detail which can trace a tenable theory among many doubts. On the other hand, if unlearned in the more recondite documents, he has in his time studied about one thousand detective-stories, and is often struck by the resemblance between the ingenuity of their authors and the ingenuity of the learned biographers. The true biographer hunts down a hero as the romantic detective hunts down a villain; tracking him, so to speak, by lost buttons and cigarette-ends; deducing his designs from his slightest scribbles or scraps of paper; drawing hints from eavesdropping on his most casual conversational remarks. Unfortunately, there is a fallacy in transferring these talents to the task of biography. A decent detective story is itself a selected bundle of clues, with a few blinds as carefully selected as the clues. If therefore the reader, or his romantic detective, finds that somebody has made a note of the late train to Market Harborough, or observes somebody else wave his hat towards a particular window with a striped green blind, he knows that these things have some connexion, however obscure or remote, with the great problem of who hanged Admiral Bundleton with his own bootlaces. But when we are dealing with the whole life a real human being, and trying to trace its outstanding events, it is not in the least necessary, it is not in the least likely, that all the trivial incidents or allusions will refer to outstanding events. Many of them will refer to things that nobody can possibly discover, after five hundred years; many to things that were next to nothing even at the time; some actually to nothing at all.
[GKC Chaucer CW18:221]

But what are you writing? you ask.

Well, if you must know, the third part of the sequence which begins with The Black Hole in the Basement. And trying to make some headway in the development of The Duhem Society... And trying to figure out the clues (!) in several coats-of-arms which I have taped to the side of my laser printer.... Whose? Well, three of them belong to a man named John Fisher, all strangely similar and yet different. And the last belongs to Joseph Chandler... Twice he made alterations to his own arms: once when he became an American citizen and was no longer bound by English law and custom, and once at another time - for what was rumoured to be a secret purpose. Very curious indeed.

At some point I might show them to you. But even if there's some - uh - allusion to an outstanding event hinted at by these gaudy little ornaments, it remains to be seen what there is to be discovered by their study. Perhaps nothing at all. Or perhaps something as awesome and as dramatic as Bilbo's ring...

But for now, only the One True Author knows, and I've only just set out on that Road To Emmaus, hoping to hear His denouement.

Well... I have decided I will give you the first arms and its blazoning.

Fisher: Or, on a fess between three water-bougets azure, a fish naiant argent.
Motto: Noli timere ex hoc iam homines eris capiens. (Luke 5:10)
Should you infer anything from it, kindly keep it to yourself for the present. (Yes, the canting is obvious; but what more does it tell us? What?)

To complete this puzzle, I shall add something suggestive from a text on heraldry, which strongly links to one of my other projects, the sketchy beginnings of a practical study of pedagogy in science and mathematics:
The reader has, by now, acquired a sufficient number of the ringing, exciting heraldic words to realize that a familiarity with them is worthy of cultivation. The fact is, mastery of the art of blazon makes the Heraldist. A man may visualize hundreds of coats of arms in use in the thirteenth century, and know the family history attached to each achievement, but if he cannot (or will not) express them in proper terms he has nothing, for knowledge that is not generously shared can but poison the mind that imprisons it. A blazon, like a chemical formula, means one thing, and one thing only, hence, every heraldic artist can make a correct drawing from it: in that ability lies the difference between the heraldic-artist and the heraldic-draughtsman. The former emblazons (paints) from blazon (verbal description), the latter, at best, makes a neater copy of a rough sketch placed before him, or, at worst (and very commonly), adds a few of his own errors to the errors of his predecessors. Even some of those who can draw and paint from blazon produce nothing that rises to the status of art. To be neat and tidy is not enough.
[Julian Franklyn, Heraldry, 41, my emphasis]
Truly said, Julian. May God give me the words to express what I must, that knowledge might be shared generously.


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