Monday, January 21, 2008

"Never Ask a GSer About Maps"

I [Bruce Kodish] haven't had much time to blog. Since last Thursday I've been at Read House, the home of the Institute of General Semantics in Fort Worth, Texas. Read House is located in the Fairmount Historical District of town, full of historic residences and within walking distance an up-and-coming urban area that includes one of the best vegan restaurants I've ever eaten in.

Read House now houses the complete [as far as I know] Institute of General Semantics archives. Steve Stockdale, who just resigned as Director of the Institute, put together materials, digitized at least some of the most important ones including some of the old reel-to-reel tapes of interviews with people like M. Kendig, one of the leaders in the early days with Korzybski, and other interviews that Steve conducted himself. Various archival materials, like letters, manuscripts, library books were previously scattered in various places and relatively unorganized. Thanks to Steve's tremendous efforts, the history and legacy of Korzybski and General Semantics has never been in as good a shape or as accessible.

Looking through a box of materials labeled "Ken Johnson," I found this gem from a good friend and teacher of mine, now gone. Kenneth G. Johnson, PhD was for many years a professor of Mass Communications at the University of Wisconson-Milwaukee. Here is his poem, "Never Ask a GSer About Maps" which Ken wrote and presented at the IGS Seminar-Workshop in 1990. His poem was inspired by reading Shel Silverstein's Never Ask a Zebra About Stripes.

"Never Ask a GSer About Maps"
by Kenneth G. Johnson

I asked a GSer why he was so concerned about maps.
And the GSer asked me:
Does your 'enquiring mind' feast on the National Enquirer?
Or seek answers to "What do you mean?" and "How do you know?"
Do you claim to see things as they really are?
Or do you know that you abstract?
Do you lock in on first impressions?
Or do you use your process brain to process a process world?
Do you polarize your choices using simple either-ors?
Or recognize possibilities in degrees and probabilities?
Are your abstractions free-floating hot-air ballons?
Or firmly anchored in experience?
Do you trap yourself in word-made boxes?
Or prize your own uniqueness?
Do you climb mountains of seductive abstractions?
Or avoid the peak-a-boo-boo?
Are you looking for a white-robed guru?
Or a time-tested crap-detecting system?
Are you bound by the tyranny of agreement?
Or will you settle for the warmth of understanding?
Do you react categorically and dogmatically?
Or do you leave that to your pets?
Are you seeking Truth with a capital T?
Or prediction value with a small p?
And on and on and on and on
And on and on he went.
I'll never ask a GSer about maps
Again.

1 comment:

aj said...

Ahh, this brought me back to my first class with Ken and the witty quips, examples and poems he sprinkled throughout the class. He inspired me to write "Ode to a Recalcitrant Student or I don't Need No Stinking Maps."

Thanks for the memories