Friday, March 3, 2017

Abstractions every day in every way

We tell each other we love the other each day, but the love we mention is an abstraction.  I apologized to my friend for being late for our walk, but he said being late is always just in the mind.

I am interested in the abstractions that influence my thinking.  The book "Sapiens" refers to rank and position as abstractions.  When I feel loyalty to my team, I am feeling loyalty to an abstraction, not something that can easily be pointed to. If one of the players is sick, the team is still there.  If all of the players are replaced, the team is still there but with new players.

Words, even words that refer to real objects such as bricks, are themselves abstractions.  Reading a word or saying it aloud or writing it relates to the word and to forms we use to express or refer to it but there is some word that is related to the writing and the pronunciation.  We can separate the written form from the spoken and still talk about the word that is expressed by either.

It is common to say that anything in the past is an abstraction, a memory only.  Anything in the future is an abstraction.

Some traditions focus on what is here and now as healthy.  It does seem to be a relief to think about the genuine, actual roof and the genuine actual bread that I am genuinely biting and swallowing beneath the genuine, actual roof.  But in any hour of the day, I chafe at the limitations of the present.  My mind suggests the good time I had last night.  I agree that I only have memories of last night and maybe a few crumbs and smears that are evidence of the party.  But memories or not, I am glad my friends came and I remember their clever remarks.  I don't want to remain in this hour only.

The breakfast is using up the last of our eggs and I plan to go to the store.  The eggs I want and the store are abstractions right now but I still want to plan to get some groceries.

The abstractions are not real in the way this desk is real but they matter.  My future food supply is abstract now but I know that planning ahead helps me avoid unpleasant hunger.  I know that the speed limit is an abstraction.  Steven Wright said,"How can I have broken the speed limit?  It is 25 miles an hour and I have only been driving for 15 minutes."

We use abstractions because we can think.  We use them well and to our profit, even though it pays to take a break from them once in a while.

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