Curious Forgery Letter, 6/4/2018


Dear Todd,

My favorite statement of the Theseus Paradox isn’t a statement of the Theseus Paradox.

I have always loved the Quiet Riot song “Cum on Feel the Noize.” It typifies that “harder than Cheap Trick, softer than Mötley Crüe, similar to both” niche that Quiet Riot fits into like the indigo in rainbows, nestled between violet and blue because something needs to fill that stripe in the gradient.

I think that a lot of us who like Quiet Riot like them because of this song. Partly, anyway. I mean, it was the song that I heard first by Quiet Riot, and I wouldn’t have been a fan of the band if I hadn’t been excited to go shout out to girls to rock their boys. At twelve, I didn’t know what that meant, but I thought it was a pretty good line, you know? Now that I’m older, and I do know what it means, I think it’s as important to warn everyone nearby that it’s about to get loud, loud, loud as I ever thought it was.

It’s a good song. When hair metal sings of love and making a scene it doesn’t mess around.

Also, the song draws up the outlines into which a very good question neatly falls.

That being: When a forgery exceeds its progenitor, then what does that say about the Argo?

I mean, when Heraclitus proposed replacing all the parts of Theseus ship and asked whether, when the pieces had all been replaced, you still had an Argo anywhere, I think the answer is obvious: doesn’t matter what you call the boat, so long as it still floats.

The really sticky question to me is this: If you set out to make a copy of the Argo, but you get a slightly better shipbuilder the second time around, and a slightly better sailmaker, and do a cover of a party anthem done by a  slightly obscure glam band of the half generation earlier than you, then is your version of the boat more real if, in thirty years, it’s impossible to listen to any Slade albums on Spotify, while people still remember Quiet Riot as that stripe of indigo from back in the day? That’s what I want to know.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Some things can get flattered right into oblivion.

I don’t know whether this paradox has a name. It’s a forgery of the Theseus Paradox--a copy. And possibly makes the Theseus Paradox into a version of itself, because I have replaced all the pieces of the Theseus Paradox and, essentially, restated it. It’s the Theseus Paradox for a new generation, with all its parts replaced.

To me, it creates another question-shaped slot for the question: What is imitation?

I have kind of a backward relationship with curiosity.

It seems like asking questions is the demarcator we use to identify the curious. You know the people: the uncomfortable ones who never seem contented with the information they’re given--the ones who hold up everybody else by interrupting status quo to try and identify root causes. Questioning, uncomfortable people, who do uncomfortable things like incite to change.

I don’t understand those people.

When I say that, I understand them. To the degree that I understand discontentedness with only seeing what I’m “allowed” to see, I understand them.

What I don’t understand is the need to interject into everyone else’s day with what often appears to me to be a self-serving desire to be the one who noticed, when they weren’t the only one. There are hundreds of us back here who are also noticing, and we are planning what we are going to do about it, but we are also recognizing that our interruption won’t create enough hullabaloo today to make a difference.

Or I usually presume I’m one of a silent majority of people with common sense, anyway. I assume that I’m one of a million people who spend all their time asking why things are that way and whether it’s a good idea for them to stay that way. Who then wait for their turn to talk.

Passive curiosity. I think of it that way. I feel curious about everything pretty much all the time, and when I do seek out answers I do so only rarely and with as little public demonstration as possible.

I do it out of politeness. I don’t care to destabilize anybody. I like my stability, and I figure that everyone else does too.

There’s a problem, though.

The problem is that my dad always says that you ought to ask the questions when they occur to you, because odds are somebody else is wondering the same thing and they’re not asking for some reason.

I am not the kind of person who asks questions. I don’t like them. I live by a philosophy that the important answers will come to me eventually, and I just need to keep showing up.

Speaking of alchemy, working with youse guys in daCunha has caused a weird alchemy in my approach to curiosity.

When my dad cautioned me that I ought to ask the questions when they occurred to me, we talked of school. In a classroom setting, I always knew what question I ought to ask next, because I could always tell what question fit into the silences that the teachers left for the students to fill. I almost never wanted the answers to the questions myself, because my relationship with reading and how I listen to lectures almost always answered the questions for me. Teachers have rarely surprised me.

I never asked questions out of the pursuit of my own curiosity but almost exclusively from a feeling of courtesy to the other students in my classes, who kept themselves from asking the questions for some reason.

After I left school I almost found it a relief to think that I would never feel obliged to ask questions again. I have never stopped being curious, but my curiosity has always been too big for small questions. It’s always been of a soul-wide kind, waiting for enough hints to begin piecing together the ghosts of answers to questions like, “God?” and “Neutrinos?” and “Whiskey?”

In a sense, daCunha fit like a well-worn jacket right from my first contact with it, when its soul said to me, “We wonder too.”

I’ve been learning something from you, Mr. Fox.

When my Dad told me that I ought to ask questions when they occurred to me, he didn’t mean to restrict the idea to school.

Which should have been obvious, since I was homeschooled, and I’ve never actually thought of “school” as a location.

Alas that I am such a ditz and failed to make the connection myself.

Since we live a thousand million miles apart, you haven’t seen it, Todd, but ever since starting to figure out what daCunha is, I’ve started to ask more questions. Out loud, of people, in real life. I’m not naturally inclined to it, but I figure that I can pretend to be a questioning-type person.



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I tell stories.