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August 5th, 2003

I like those pet store hamsters who look like panda bears. Notwithstanding a high school and college literature class career filled with enough 'appearance v. reality' to kill the wayward boyfriend in the Dorothy L. Sayers novel "Strong Poison", I posit that appearance sometimes exceeds the reality. I am sure I'm not the only one who prefers David Bowie's parody of "Let's Spend the Night Together" to the original Stones version, and I believe I am not the only person who frequently finds myself more attracted to ethnic restaurants in my own country more than to the restaurants of the native "ethnic" country. I am nothing if not conventional, and I am easily attracted to the look of the thing rather than the thing itself. It's the sort of aesthetic that makes one prefer Middle Earth to good old Earth, or makes one like the New York Dolls at all.

Lately I wonder about the power of metaphor in my life. I like the use of ideas to express feelings for which I have no literal description. Sometimes I notice that I figuratively believe things that others literally believe. Sometimes I wonder if this "metaphoric" belief is somehow lesser or wrong. I rarely am worried about the literal verities, any more than I worry about integrated circuits when I turn on my television. I do not mean to imply, or rather do not mean to fully imply, that facts are irrelevant. I love facts. Facts and science and hard core knowledge matter. But how often in my life are facts only narrative?

I sometimes feel that everything is merely preface and prologue for a story I'm narrating to myself. This story has faith and fortune and facts and fictions and feelings and curious uncertainties all throughout it. But for all the gold and dross intermixed, the goal must be some kind of truth. Not the literal, place in a baggy, if you can't touch it, it ain't real truth, but a truth based on things that go beyond the number of meters in a kilometer. A truth of the heart, if you will. A truth that pretends that a heart does things other than pump blood for a very short while.

But I know the paradox inherent in focusing on fool's gold as well as gold. Sometimes the pyrite overwhelms. It's shiny, all right, but it's not "real" in either of my senses. How much can I mine before I am no longer true? Time will tell,and my mental prospector's hammer is still sharp, and hammering rock.

Is it okay to lack literal belief, and yet address someone who has a literal belief in the language of what for me is metaphor and "visualization"? I hope so. But did you ever see those panda bear hamsters eat bamboo? I wonder if they could.

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