Friday, January 8, 2010

I'm A Sort of Search Engine



I am not a memoirist. It's a good thing, too, since I have it on good authority that I never remember things accurately. Never. Not even when I'm the only person present. I am not a memoirist; I am an indexer.

It may actually be my faulty and unreliable memory that brought me to indexing. After all, an index is a way to refind things you know you've read as well as find out what you might read.

Indexers have been at work for a very long time. The Egyptians used red pigment to distinguish the equivalent of key concepts in their medical texts--so a person could skim along through the hieroglyphs* before the patient died, I guess. Cuneiform tablets were kept in jars with brief cuneiform inscriptions pressed right into the clay of the jar. If you don't think that was a brilliant idea, go to your pantry and remove all the labels from the cans. You will soon appreciate the technology.

Reading, itself, is essentially a technology created because memory is frail. Consider the number of people you know who can recite Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet ("It's sort of like Anna Nicole," one befuddled interviewee explained. "You know, like, she went into the Bahamas. Do you remember when you found out about Anna Nicole? Yes, to me it's kind of like 9/11.") or Bradbury's Farenheit 451? I think I know zero people who can do either--and I live with a person who recently embodied Friar Lawrence on the Senior High School stage.



*Are you concerned about the end of the Mayan calendar? You shouldn't be. Glyphs are an exceptionally dodgy means of communication. "Lounbury, for example, has isolated what appears to be another event glyph--That for 'burial.' Thus, he has completed, in a sense, the set the Miss Proskouriak began with the upended frog, or birth." (I really wish I had written down the citation for that, but I didn't. I noted it in my journal c. 1983. It was probably related to one of these.) Just move into the future with knowledge that there is always another upended frog. Look, there's one now. . .


Illustration Above: One of the anonymous secret messages presented in Frank Warren's Post Secrets at YAM. (YAM = Yellowstone Art Museum: Here in the back of beyond we are forthright about the nourishing qualities of art. YAMs are good for you.) I included it here because it represents another facet of indexing: Anonymity. If I'm doing a good job of indexing, I'm invisible.
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