“It maintains a powerful conceptual edge throughout that successfully underpins its experimental project. Although the book’s primary audience is inevitably going to be the dictionary dreamers, outsider academics, hobo lexicographers, and steampunk language philosophers, the book also poses reasonable questions for more mainstream users of ‘definitions’ as well: after all, if a dictionary is not definitive, what is it? Approximate? Scholars would probably instantly point out that yes—a dictionary is exactly that: it is a usage guide, not an argument for a non-contradictory internal system of word meanings. Does it matter that, as Floyd points out, the definition of ‘parking lot’ in the dictionary might also apply to hotel lobbies and ‘the bottom of the ocean’?
Well, Floyd unpacks that for us as well.”
Fantastic review of Definition in Atticus Review, a fantastic literary journal. Thanks to Chris Lura for writing such a beautiful review.
Guest will be playing 30 – 40 minutes solo acoustic to open the show, focusing on old and new Moses Guest tunes. Guest will join Bread & Circus on electric guitar and pedal steel during B&C’s first set.
MOSES GUEST will perform at Last Concert Cafe in Houston, TX, on New Years Eve 2018-2019 with CAROLYN WONDERLAND.
The first thing you need to know about Definition is that it was a written by a fictional character, Wayne Floyd, from Graham Guest’s debut novel, Winter Park, which, of course, means that Floyd didn’t really write Definition; Guest did.
In any case, Floyd (aka Eric “Socrates” Swanson) is a PhD student in philosophy at Rice University until fate leads him to Dude Ranch Rodeo College and Penal Camp in West Texas, where he writes Definition, a dissertation (of sorts) in philosophy (of sorts), under the tutelage of one Doc Holiday.
Definition is a book of philosophy, but, unbeknownst to Floyd (because Floyd is utterly serious), it is also satirical meta-philosophy, which is to say that Floyd makes some real philosophical points, but he also unwittingly pokes fun at philosophy and himself.
Perhaps the best way in to the book is to imagine that you’re an absolutely literal-minded logical being from another earth-like planet, an alien with Asperger’s Syndrome, like Star Trek‘s Dr. Spock, and you’ve landed on earth long after humans are gone, the only artifact you find is this one dictionary, and, for whatever reason, you begin your investigation into human life on earth by looking into the definition of “parking lot” – an open area of ground in which people can park their automobiles.
Over the course of the book, Floyd closely examines the definition of “parking lot” and tests it to see whether the concept it represents corresponds with what it refers to in the external world, as we perceive it. Philosophically, then, Floyd is looking at questions that arise at the nexus amongst concepts (epistemology), words (philosophy of language), and the external world (metaphysics). Definitions, he discovers, are not so well defined.
Guest/Floyd’s narrative voice is highly reminiscent of the late David Foster Wallace’s (author of Infinite Jest), but what makes that so weird is that, at the time he wrote Definition, Guest/Floyd had never read any David Foster Wallace. Definition and Guest pick up pretty naturally and effortlessly where Wallace left off.
Guest’s writing, from Winter Park, through Definition and Tailgater, to Lawnmower (novel-in-progress), is a balanced blend of Wallace, Faulkner, and David Lynch.
Floating Records Press is an independent publisher based in Hailey, ID. Its mission is to bring unusual, exceptional new prose to light.
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A Brief History of Definition
Robert Jogs, PhD
I have received an overwhelmingly large number of letters inquiring about the now famous, or, perhaps, infamous Wayne Floyd and his unusual book, Definition. Most of you know that Floyd was convicted of the murders of my friend, Dr. John “Doc” Holliday, out at Dude Ranch in West Texas, and of Old George Williams up in Winter Park, Colorado; or, to be more precise, I should say that Wayne Floyd was convicted of the murder of Holliday, and after it came to light that Wayne Floyd just is Eric Swanson, then Eric Swanson was convicted of the murder of Williams. It is intriguing, so I understand where all the letters are coming from.
And it’s true, I did know both Swanson and Floyd, though I only knew Swanson for about six months, over his first year of PhD philosophy at Rice, and I only knew Floyd through that one phone call, in which, in Graham Guest’s book Winter Park, I come off as a pretty slipshod or lazy philosopher. And I must confess, at the time of that conversation, I hadn’t read Floyd’s manuscript closely or thought about it very seriously. What I did see clearly, though, in Floyd, through Definition, was a sharp philosophical-type mind at work, one I thought would do well at Rice Philosophy. Of course, I had no idea, and it was an incredible shock to me when I learned that I had admitted someone to undergrad philosophy at Rice, who, under another name, was already enrolled in the PhD program in philosophy at Rice.
That was pretty incredible, so, yes, again, I do understand where all your inquiries stem. But now you’ve got to understand this: that what I’ve just told you is all the dirt I’ve got on the non-philosophical side of the Floyd/Swanson story, and it’s dirt I know you already have. So no, I don’t know what sort of clothes he usually wore or who his friends were or what sorts of things he said in class (he never took a class with me) or if he drank a lot or where he lived in Houston… I mean, not to be uncivil, but on and on, with these sorts of things, I do not know.
I have, however, by now, spent some real energy and time on Definition, and I thought it was the least I could do, given all the interest, to address some of the philosophical implications of the book and give a proper reading of the thing. I have some misgivings about spending time laboring over and extending and potentially further popularizing a murderer’s work, but a murderer does not necessarily a bad philosopher make. The murders had nothing to do with Floyd’s philosophical work and everything to do with his abuse of drugs and alcohol, as I understand it, so I am comfortable taking Floyd’s philosophical work on its merits. I think we will find the language game Floyd creates in Definition to be at once beguiling, absurd, philosophically innovative, meritorious, and generative of further work.
What is a dictionary? & What is a definition? Or, perhaps more precisely, What can we expect from our dictionaries? & What can we expect from our definitions? These are the main questions of Floyd’s Definition; or, I should say, rather, that these are the main questions that precipitate out of Floyd’s Definition because he never comes right out and asks them. So, right away, point number one: obliquity. Obliquity, indirectness, showing instead of telling are more literary techniques than a philosophical ones (unless you’re Derrida), so you’ll want to be aware, as you read Definition, that you’re dealing, at least methodologically, with a mixture of philosophy and fiction and that, while this combination, along with the more informal narrative voice, might make for an easier, more enjoyable read, it will also obfuscate some of the broader philosophical points. It also suggests or at least opens up the possibility that, while Floyd certainly seems to understand the details and the development of the particular philosophical rules and methods of his project, he may not actually know what the broader philosophical implications of his project even are: he sees the philosophical trees, but he may not see the philosophical forest.
Floyd’s method, or approach, then, is to look at the (there is only one) definition of “parking lot” – an open area of ground in which people can park their automobiles, from one dictionary – let’s call it Mac 4 – and check it (the definition) against the world, but where what this entails is looking at the definitions of all of the material terms of the definition of “parking lot”: “open,” “area,” “ground,” etc., most of which have more than one definition, and checking those against the world as well. What Floyd hopes to show, in the end, is that Mac 4’s definition of “parking lot” and all of the parking lots out in the world are, indeed, consistent with each other, and that they are so without making any unauthorized changes to Mac 4’s definition of “parking lot” and without having to include as parking lots things that are not parking lots or exclude as parking lots things that are parking lots. Floyd’s implied (again, because it’s not explicit) bigger idea is, I think, that if this consistency can be proven up via the analysis of the definition of “parking lot” from Mac 4, then that’s a good sign that it’ll work for all the other definitions in Mac 4.
Floyd is swift to acknowledge, however, that there are big problems in trying to show that Mac 4’s definition of “parking lot” and all the parking lots in the world are consistent, but he’s also really motivated to overcome those problems; in fact, at one point, he’s perfectly candid about how desperately he wants to establish this consistency, to make it so. And one big important point here may be that where there’s a philosophical will, there’s a philosophical way for, indeed, Floyd’s will, or drive, or desire, does seem to produce a number of really creative, innovative philosophical moves, moves which ultimately, or by the very end, appear to earn him something very close to success in his project.
The secrets to Floyd’s success are not really as mysterious as I make them out to be in Winter Park. In his definitional analyses, he simply takes advantage of words with multiple definitions by picking the definition of that word that best corresponds with the ways parking lots actually show up in the outside world (even if sometimes – or at least once – that definition is not relevant and applicable given the context: a move which, of course, it’s hard to see could be possibly be authorized – see his long analysis of “open”); in both his definitional and synonymal analyses, he takes advantage of non-material differences between definitions, like mere word order, to make critical substitutions of terms, one of whose other ostensibly relevant and applicable definitions corresponds with the ways parking lots actually show up in the outside world (see his analysis of “ground” and “field”); and in his synonymal analyses, he takes advantage of identicality, non-material differences, and I’ll show in a minute how he could’ve taken advantage of material-but-non-lethal differences between definitions of words and their related synonyms to make critical substitutions of terms that make the definition at issue correspond with the ways parking lots actually show up in the outside world (see his synonymal analysis of “automobile,” “motor vehicle,” and “car”).
These are Floyd’s methods of transitivity and substitution, and they entail the slight-to-not-so-slight shifts in meaning that allow him to, among other things, move across this dictionary and transpose and reconstruct his definition of “parking lot” from (1) an open area of ground in which people can park their automobiles to (2) an expanse of something in which people can park their automobiles, the ultimate effect of which is that the definition of “parking lot” becomes broader: it no longer excludes things in the world that Floyd is confident are parking lots.
The question does arise, though, whether this new, transposed definition is now too broad, too inclusive, because, according to it, it would appear that any and all expanses (of whatever) are automatically parking lots (i.e., the “world parking lot problem”), which, of course, describes a situation that does not correspond with the world as we understand it. But, he pretty successfully stuffs these concerns with his moral/legal analysis of “can,” pursuant to which he shows that there are almost always stronger legal and/or moral rights in effect that step in and prevent all expanses from being parking lots. But let’s back up and take a couple of quick examples of Floyd’s methods.
In his definitional analysis of “open,” Floyd runs into trouble with the various relevant and applicable definitions of “open” and so proceeds to violate, albeit humorously, his rule of relevance and applicability by seriously pursuing “open” definition (39) that part of the field beyond the line of scrimmage where a ball carrier encounters fewer potential tacklers. Then he discovers, late in the game (as it were), that the definition of “field” – an area of open ground, is materially the same as a section of the definition of “parking lot” that says an open area of ground, so he replaces that section with “field,” and finally chooses a different but, in this case, properly relevant and applicable definition of “field,” an expanse of something, to replace “field” and eliminate the open problem, along with his unathorized use of “open” definition (39), once and for all. Pretty brilliant.
In his analysis of “automobile,” one thing Floyd does not do that he could’ve and really should’ve done is, quite simply, change out, or substitute, “motor vehicle” for “automobile” on the basis of its being a perfect related (materially-but-non-lethally-different) syononym of “automobile.” Doing this would create, as a new-final transposed and reconstructed definition of “parking lot” – an expanse of something in which people can park their motor vehicles, where “motor vehicle” is defined as a car, truck, or other road vehicle powered by an engine, and it would produce at least three salutory effects: (1) it would eliminate Floyd’s dependency on the strained (if also brilliant) analysis of the definition of “automobile” – a road vehicle designed to carry a small number of passengers, wherein, in his truly laudable efforts to get a driver into that automobile, he winds up having to put forth and rely on the super-dubious and just kind of absurd notion that human duality is a fault or imperfection; (2) it would allow him to avoid the absurd conclusion that big buses – which are obviously designed to carry a large number of passengers, not a small number, as required by the definition of “automobile” – can’t or don’t park in parking lots; and (3) it would be good (and “green”) because, via its employment of the naked or unmodified word “engine,” it opens the door to alternative energies: electric, human, etc.
What does all this show? Well, a number of things, including but not limited to the following – most of which are, again, I would think, unbeknownst to Floyd:
(1) It shows that this definition of “parking lot” was not so well defined or perfect or absolute to begin with, and that it improved with revision.
(2) It shows that if we were to treat this dictionary and its definitions as absolute and unrevisable, then we would get absurd results, like that automobiles don’t have drivers and that there are no concrete parking lots.
(3) It shows that, pursuant to certain rules of transposition, this definition, the definition of “parking lot,” can be revised and improved solely from within Mac 4 itself, or solely by referring to other words and definitions in Mac 4 itself; but, it’s also pretty clear that Floyd’s restricting himself in this way is, ultimately, a mere contrivance for the game, for the sport of it, as it were, because, while this work does show that Mac 4 is to some significant extent self-sufficient and self-correcting, there is no requirement that this or any dictionary be self-sufficient and self-correcting: we do not ask that our dictionaries be able to provide solutions to their deficient definitions solely from within.
(4) Moreover, it also suggests that a dictionary’s ability to self-heal (as it were) like this might not even be all that momentous or impressive anyway because if our rules of transposition allow us to try on all the various relevant and applicable definitions of a word, and all the relevant and applicable definitions of the all words in all those definitions (etcetera etcetera), and all the relevant and applicable definitions of the synonyms of that word, and all the relevant and applicable definitions of the all words in all those definitions (etcetera etcetera), then don’t the chances that we’re going to be able to reconstruct a definition that better corresponds with the world just go way, way up, I mean, almost exponentially?
(5) It shows that where there’s a philosophical will, there’s a philosophical way: the philosophical creativity and innovation Floyd shows in developing the rules and getting done what he wants to get done, what he feels has to be done, is pretty remarkable (and perhaps it actually helped in this regard that he started from scratch: he had to make it all up as he went along).
(6) And it shows that Floyd is doing definition-writer work here: he’s tightening a definition so that it better comports with the world; and, more generally, it shows he’s doing philosophy of lexicology.
If it’s true that definition-writers take rough field reports (called semiotic chora) of the ways in which words are being used in a particular community at a given time and then tighten and refine the meanings of the words gleaned from those use-reports into definitions, then maybe we can say – and without forsaking its lexicality at all – that the tighter the definition, the more philosophical the definition, that is, the closer the definition comes to not just capturing some of the necessary conditions for the presence of the thing-in-the-world and for the proper use of the word that represents it (i.e., the gist of the thing), but to capturing the necessary and sufficient conditions for the presence of the thing-in-the-world and for the proper use of the word that represents it.
I get my cell phone back, call Big Dave, and head off through the airport to passenger pick-up…It’s crowded, though to say that and mean it would be to go out on a limb because crowds can be relative to types of places and times and some places are always crowded whereas others are not and the airport is one of those places that is always crowded, but is that even true? Every night, especially in the wee hours, there’s almost no one there.
Crowded is a crowded municipal train at five pm when people are packed in like sardines, sardines which also I suppose in a can are crowded, but dead, which prompts the question: is crowded a live condition or can a whole crowd be dead – and I mean literally dead not just passive – and still be a crowd? A dead crowd certainly does not feel crowded so to the extent that one needs to feel to be crowded one cannot be dead and be crowded and thus by extension one cannot have a dead crowd.
So, sardines are not crowded. But that’s also not what people have been claiming about them all these years; people have been claiming that they’re packed in; but there’s a relationship between being packed in and being crowded: people, because they are alive, can be packed in and crowded; but sardines, because they are dead, can only be packed in. Though I bet there’s someone out there willing to use crowded in the inanimate sense. She might for instance say, Those words look crowded on that page, please double-space. But are words really inanimate? Are words like dead sardines? Or can words, unlike sardines, successfully be crowded, in the animate sense?
So let me back up. There are enough people in the airport today to make me uncomfortable, but then I have sociophobia so any number of people makes me uncomfortable. If I also had xenophobia claustrophobia agoraphobia and acrophobia I wouldn’t even be at the airport right now, but since I only have sociophobia I just want people to get off of me; that’s all I ask, Just get off of me.
Like parasites or leeches or ticks they get under your skin by talking; talking is their method of penetration; they stand in front of your face and talk until you listen then they look at you and you have to answer you have to say something and as soon as you do they’re in you you’re engaged and you can’t shake free of them, ever; they’ve deposited a seed a germ a contaminant of themselves inside of you that you will carry around with you forever until you die and you will pass the disease of that person on to others you meet even to your own family until everyone has the disease of everyone else in them and we’re all sick.
“Hop in, Bitch!” Big Dave calls through the passenger side window of the Outback.
I get in. Despite the cold, Big Dave is in shorts and a Hawaiian beach shirt.
“Dude, what happened?” he says, staring at my face, his mouth hanging open a bit.
“I was detained.”
“Detained? For what?”
“Being drunk on the plane.”
“Awesome,” Dave chortles then adds, more thoughtfully, “It is so weird how, how unassuming you are, and yet you are always getting into so much trouble.”
“Yeah, it is weird.” I have to agree.
“But so no fine, no court date, jail time?”
“No, no, nothing, thank fucking god. But it could’ve been terrible…I mean…I think the punishment for something like that is fucking…but then they just up and let me go. I don’t know why…. something about Terminal C. I don’t know.”
“Wow.” Dave pulls back out into traffic, concentration on my recent escapades obviating his need to drive like an idiot for the moment. “Auspicious commencement to your vacation, to say the least though, fuck, huh?”
“Open” & “Ground”
The next term we’re going to deal with, for better or for worse, is “open,” of which there are numerous definitions, but the one, or several that interest us here, of course, must appositely modify “area of ground.” I found three of them relevant to our investigation. “Open,” for our purposes, could mean the following: “(1) allowing people or things to pass through freely, [or] (25) free from blockage and therefore allowing unobstructed passage, [or] (39) … that part of the field beyond the line of scrimmage where a ball carrier encounters fewer potential tacklers.”
Before we get started in earnest, though, if we want to work with (39) – and I foresee that we do – we are going to have to deal with the phrase, “beyond the line of scrimmage.” The “line of scrimmage” is, “in [American] football, an imaginary line across the field at which the ball rests and where the players of the opposing teams line up facing each other.” But if it’s “imaginary,” it “exist[s] only in the mind, not in reality,” and if it does not exist in “reality,” it does not have “actual being or existence”; therefore, “beyond the line of scrimmage” means “beyond the line that does not exist in reality, does not have actual being or existence,” and that is just total nonsense: some physical point cannot be beyond something that does not exist in reality. Thus, we can banish the phrase “beyond the line of scrimmage” from (39) for nonsensicality, and we are left with “that part of the field where a ball carrier encounters fewer potential tacklers.” I realize, of course, that (39) was designed with American football in mind, but because we can, and have removed the incriminating phrase, and because “field” is not modified by “football,” the definition can now be, I submit, generalized. But more on (39) in due course.
All right, now we are ready call to mind a stadium “parking lot”: what, exactly, are we going to say about the presence of things like those little concrete parking headers, light poles, signs, sign poles, curbs, little esplanades, trees, and the like? The ground may, at first blush or from afar, appear to be “open,” but it’s not open enough to allow “people or things to pass through freely” (defying definition (1) of “open”), and it’s not open enough to be “free from blockage… therefore allowing unobstructed passage” (defying definition (25) of “open”) because a thing like an automobile, for example, clearly cannot pass freely and unobstructed through a landscape of such obstructions; evasive maneuvers are required; the same goes for motorcycles, and the same goes even for people because, but for these things, they would be able to step anywhere without concern. This means that, on these two definitions of “open,” (1) and (25), a stadium parking lot, with concrete parking headers and the like, is also not a parking lot. A largely featureless stretch of earth or concrete, with no automobiles parked on it, might be “open” enough under (1) and (2) to be considered a “parking lot.”
Oddly enough, then, it may be that definition (39) is the most appropriate definition for “open” in the context of the formation and formulation of parking lots because all it’s saying is that a person can pass through such an area with fewer potential assailants. Now, granted, what comes to mind when we think of a “field” is not an area of open ground that is concrete; we think of grass and dirt and wheat and whatnot. However, one of the definitions of “field” is: “an expanse of something such as ice, snow, or lava,” and since the definition says merely “such as ice, snow or lava” [my italics], we can just ignore that section of it as merely exemplary and not dispositive of the types of things that are expanses, and then a “field” is just “an expanse of something” [my italics], which, if a bit general, is obviously inclusive of, among other things, concrete.
In any case, if we use definition (39) for “open,” we may be, so to speak, in the clear because by doing so we may not only obviate the need to wring our hands over fixed boundaries and obstructions, like those concrete parking space headers, but we might also obviate the need to worry about whether, once a number of automobiles, or even just one automobile, is parked in the parking lot, it is no longer technically an “open,” i.e. unobstructed, area of ground, and therefore also no longer a parking lot. And the reason such an end-around, as it were, might work is that, arguably anyway, the spaces between the automobiles and the other obstructions are still a “part of the field” through which such a ball carrier could continue to maneuver, at whatever speed, un-assailed, for an automobile or a concrete parking header do not potential tacklers make; although, an automobile does represent a potential tackler or tacklers, i.e., the driver and/or passengers thereof.
I have to back up and acknowledge that one might argue that definition (1) of “open” still works in the case where there are no concrete parking space headers or other obstructions, and there is but, say, one other automobile in the parking lot because the presence of one automobile does not jeopardize other people or things from passing through freely; but it does because “freely” means “without restrictions, controls, or limits,” and the presence of just one other automobile in that lot restricts and limits not only any other automobile from parking just where it is parked, it also restricts and limits a variety of trajectories across the parking lot which it might, for whatever reason, be in the interest of the driver of a rival automobile to pursue or follow or track or what have you.
On the other hand, upon closer inspection, there are some real issues with definition (39). For example, if I enter an empty parking lot in my automobile, park, get out, and go inside the adjacent building to go to the dentist, then, upon my return to the parking lot, find that there is now one other automobile parked there, then the part of the field, or area of ground, in question is no longer “open” because the number of potential tacklers – the people affiliated with that automobile – has not become fewer; it has increased, from zero to one (or more), meaning, therefore, that, because it is no longer “open” under (39), that which was a parking lot upon entry is no longer a parking lot upon exit. Respectively, if I park in a parking lot with fifty automobiles in it, and when I return, find there are only twenty-five automobiles parked therein, then the part of the field, or area of ground, in question is “open” because the number of potential tacklers this time has decreased, become fewer, meaning that the parking lot, this time, is a parking lot.
But it is, of course, I’m afraid, still more complicated than that because, you see, whether an area of ground is “open” under definition (39) is entirely a function of whether the number of potential tacklers increases or decreases as one passes from point A to point B. So if a “parking lot” has fifty cars in it, but the concentration of cars decreases as you head from east to west, then as you head east to west, the number of potential tacklers decreases, the area of ground is thus open, and therefore you are in a parking lot; if, however, you head west to east, the number of potential tacklers increases, “closing” the area of ground, thereby rendering what was once a parking lot, no longer one. You might be able to stop this madness, of course, by standing still in the less concentrated area of the area because there, relative to the more concentrated area, you will encounter fewer potential tacklers, but ultimately, that is, over time, the fix will, with the influx and efflux of vehicles, fail, leaving you, at some times, standing in a parking lot, and at others, not, despite the fact that you have not moved.
So with definition (39) of “open,” then, the problem is that you have to establish spatial limits and limit the temporal range, or window, in which to make your determination as to whether you are in a parking lot or not. If the “parking lot” has boundaries, they will serve as the spatial limits. And just think: if you could establish no spatial limits, you would never be able to know whether you were moving in the direction of fewer potential tacklers or more potential tacklers. You could be moving across an area where you see the number of automobiles and potential tacklers decreasing, but unwittingly, because you are not taking into account the four hundred and fifty thousand automobiles in the area on the other side of the building, actually be headed in the direction of a greatly increased number of potential tacklers. In this case, you would think you were in a parking lot, but you would be mistaken; you would not be.
The question sits like an appalling sore out there, though: if no one tells you there is an increase in potential tacklers out of your view, then what difference would it make? To you, you are in a parking lot under definition (39). The bounds, in this case, are set by the spatial scope of subjectivity given a particular physical situation: the subject need not, then, go to such lengths as to consider what he cannot easily see, perceive, expect, foresee, or infer. And if the physical bounds are set, then so are the temporal bounds because the subject is, presumably, within those physical bounds for some ascertainable period of time. He cannot, however, himself, do anything about the increase or decrease of automobiles and potential tacklers in the area while, over the period of time, he is at the dentist. He can intentionally park in an area where there appear to be fewer automobiles and fewer potential tacklers, such that he parks his automobile in a parking lot; however, fate can only determine whether, when he gets in his automobile to leave, he starts his engine in a parking lot or not.
Under definitions (1) and (25) of “open,” it’s not a parking lot unless it’s either an empty area of ground, completely free of obstruction, including other automobiles, esplanades, but capacious enough to fit at least one automobile; or, under definition (39), it’s an area of ground with fewer potential tacklers. Under (1) and (25), totally empty and featureless areas of ground are parking lots, and under (39), only those areas of ground with fewer potential tacklers are parking lots, and we’ve seen how mercurial and protean the situation is in these circumstances.
But now if we think of the world-at-large as “the field,” “the expanse of something” with which we are concerned here, then, still looking at definition (39), maybe all areas of ground where we are accustomed to seeing people parking their automobiles should be understood as having fewer potential tacklers in them because, compared against, or relative to, the world-at-large that surrounds such areas, when we enter one, we are always already going from an area of the field, or expanse – the world-at-large – where there are always more potential tacklers to an area where there are always fewer; that is, perhaps if we look at such areas as little enclaves, or oases, of always fewer potential tacklers as compared against the always much greater numbers of potential tacklers just waiting to pounce out there in the vast expanse of the world-at-large, then – the remainder of definitional things being equal – all such areas are “open,” and thus, once again, also candidates for official, definitional parking lot-hood. And I can see nothing (so far) preventing us from adopting this perspective, this interpretation, so it is the one – provisionally, anyway – that we shall use to support moving on. Taking this position, however (and of course) does not come without its problems and its price.
Before I got into the analysis of “open,” my tacit expectation was that it would actually serve to limit the space with which we are concerned to a certain type because we all think that a “parking lot” is “open” in some way or another, but under definitions (1) and (25), as we have seen, the limitation went too far; so, we turned to definition (39), and though with it we succeeded in getting a place to park cars, plural – that is, more than one car – we exposed the issue of the size limits of “parking lots.” The problem under (39) is that probably any area distinguished from the rest of the field, the expanse, the world is a parking lot. Even if it’s 100 miles x 100 miles large – if it contains fewer potential tacklers and I can park my car in/on it, whatever that area is now, or had hitherto been considered, e.g., a continent, a nation, a football field, swamp, wildlife preserve, skyscraper lobby, your front yard, etc., it is a parking lot. Granted, at least under (39) we are not faced with something like a world parking lot; nevertheless, what we’re hoping is that the (few) remaining words left in our definition of “parking lot” can provide us with limiting conditions such that the definition ends up being more consistent with our ideas of parking lots and with our perceptions of them as we seem to experience them in the world.
Before I get on to those remaining words, however, I have got to stop again and double-check that I have been as exhaustive as possible with regard to “open”; it, apparently, bears a fair load here; my conscience beseeches me, and I would be remiss were I not to look back one more time at the forty-two definitions of “open” we have before us in our dictionary. And if you are in any way up for it, I want you to look at them with me and check my work, for it is not with great confidence, just with a modicum of pleasure that I say that the only other definition of “open” which I find relevant to our discussion is number (10): “having no boundaries or enclosures,” and I am mildly embarrassed to have to admit having missed it the first five times through. Sometimes, I simply do not want to see the obvious, and very often the reason for this is just plain old laziness. I get tired and I want to be finished, so I finish.
In any case, however relevant number (10) may be, it’s pretty obviously hurtful to our everyday thoughts and experiences of “parking lots.” Maybe it wasn’t laziness, after all, that caused me to ignore number (10), but a lightening-fast perspicacity that determined immediately that such a definition could not do because it would rule out as parking lots all of those which are bounded or enclosed in any way, which is to say, not only the ones with obvious boundaries or enclosures, but all of them because, with respect to automobiles, there is no area on the surface of this world that is not bounded in some way and that would not, ultimately, present a boundary issue for an automobile.
Yes, what number (10) contemplates is empty space. Indeed, it is as if each definition of “open” has, hidden in the background, some secret, tacit subject matter that it is contemplating and that is the motivation behind its construction. And it appears that none of them (explicitly anyway) contemplates the “open” that somehow applies to parking lots. I can only “conclude,” then, that definition number (39) of “open” is, remains, until further notice, the best we have to work with, and that our hopes for greater limitation are pinned to the remaining words of the definition of “parking lot.”
Moses Guest at Continental Club – Houston on Saturday, March 1o, 2018, 10pm – 2am. Tix $15.
This is a special short appearance by Guest at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, CA, as a part of the Floating Records Fall Revue. Guest will play a short solo-acoustic set in which he attempts to play banjo ON a nylon-string classical acoustic guitar. Other performances by: Mark Karan, Marble Party, and Jeffrey Halford & the Healers. Plus, there’s a fashion show at 9:30, produced by Guest’s “cousin,” Nadine Storyk. That’ll be something completely different. But don’t be late for Guest at 8pm.
Graham Guest will be on Berkeley’s KPFA radio at 10am on August 20, 2017. Guest will do an interview with John Sandridge, play a few songs acoustic, and they’ll spin a few songs from the new Moses Guest album, Light.