Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Art of the Philosophy of Art

The intersection, while looking normal to those who used it everyday, from a bird's eye view looked as anxious as an intersection can look. Its two roads were not at the proper right angles to each other. The one running east to west was lying at a slight skew to its mate. A higher vantage point would reveal that this intersection had been developed with others to join two disparate sections of the small town. This town did not have the budget and therefore the luxury of long term city planning. Thus, the slightly non-right angle of the intersection was a result of joining two sections of the town whose roads did not match up with each other by just a smidge.

This was the source of the roads seeming anxiety.

The people in the cars stopping at the stop sign and standing at the corners waiting to cross were by no means a spectacular breed of people. However, not one of them walked or drove across the intersection with an air of frivolity. The young woman who rolled through rather than stopping at the stop sign was hurrying to the day care to pick up her daughter. She had called ahead to apologize being late. She was a secretary whose boss had spent some time joking around with everyone at the office oblivious to the possibility that some of them had more urgent matters to which they needed to attend. The elderly gentleman jaywalking from one corner to the opposite corner was on his way to the hardware store. He was expecting a visit from his grandson this weekend. He was going to buy some miniaturized tools so they could work on building a birdhouse together.

It was amidst all this that the man in the suit entered.

His attire was quite fashionable. This was all the more so in comparison to the dress of the individuals who now surrounded him. He wore a Dior double-breasted suit. It had short lapels and was wool voile so he was not stricken in the spring sunlight. He wore a thinly striped light-blue button down shirt underneath without a tie. The suit had a prince of wales check pattern. He had never met the Prince of Wales. He had never even been to Wales, though he was incidentally privy to some of its history. As it happens, one of his interests happened to be similar to work that was done by a 13th century friar by the name of John. Though he was unaware of the connection.

What is unexpected is that despite these loose connections he had with the Prince of Wales, he did not buy the suit because of its pattern. The largest impetus for purchasing this particular suit was that amidst the elegant descriptions for the suits various particulars; the color was listed simply as grey. To see long lines of clothing verbiage borrowed from various languages mixed in with: “Color: Grey” to him, gave the suit an intrinsic character.

So here was the man, a stranger to the town, whose strong personality was matched by that in which he chose to wrap himself.

He carried a briefcase and a smile. The briefcase was foldable. It was thin and seemingly light. Light just as his smile which looked to be so comfortable resting on his face that it didn't seem it could be a part of anything as permanent as a face.

He walked to a corner of the intersection and set down his briefcase but not his smile. He stood there looking so very odd in this environment. It was as if he were a cutout from a magazine that had been pasted onto a photograph by a child who had little experience with social norms.

He was standing there watching various cars and people walk the intersection.

A woman holding the hand of her daughter walked up to and stood next to him. She had not yet actually studied him, but rather just noticed someone standing at the intersection so she assumed he was waiting on the traffic. When she took her eyes off of her daughter she noticed the intersection currently had no traffic. She was about to cross when she realized the man had no apparent reason to be waiting. This made her nervous as she worried that he knew something she did not know. She quickly decided to cross; still troubled and a little absent-minded. She was so absent-minded that she continued straight through an entire block instead of taking the left required to arrive at the clothing store. She was meeting her sister and her sister's two daughters for a day of shopping.

It continued in this way for a short while. The man stood watching the intersection with an almost other-worldly amount of attention at the various people, cars, animals … He even seemed to analyze the trash on the curb. This profound attention only lasted so far as the object was within the intersection.

Even though he had a slight smile and held his head with a relaxed tilt, the situation made him appear rather non-personable. Some individuals noticed him and some did not. Of those that noticed him were, like the woman, briefly inundated with mental distraction.

Nobody yet spoke to him, but after 20 minutes the people in the hardware store located diagonally to him began speaking about him.

“What a strange young man” most would say.

“What is he doing?”
“Doesn't he have anything better to do than stand around all day?”
“He's prolly not very smart.”
“I think he's cute.”
Were some of the things said about him.

A police car drove by. The policeman noticed this man standing with his hands behind his back. He decided to drive a couple of blocks down then loop around. On his second pass, the policeman saw him still standing there and decided to investigate. He continued for half of a block then parked.

He approached with an air of curiosity and no pretenses.

He was crossing the street when the man in the suit noticed him. With the policeman noticing the other noticed him he greeted the man in the suit with a 'Good Afternoon' and a courteous tip of his hat.

The man in the suit smiled warmly then looked to his left and up a little as he said with a casual blink: “Yes, I also think so.”

“I don't think I've seen you around before. My name is Officer Wilman” said the policeman with an extension of his arm.

The suit took his hand and shook it saying: “I appreciate your introduction.”

The suit began to seemingly analyze the officer from the ground up. It was as if the officer were a jigsaw puzzle and he wanted to make sure every piece fit perfectly.

“Are you waiting for somebody?” said Wilman.

“Some-body?” asked the suit without taking his eyes from his puzzle inspection. “With such an unspecified quantization I can not answer accurately.”

“Are you a lawyer or something?” asked Wilman who became surprised at how he had so quickly become irritated with this man.

“With an operator such as 'or' and the increasingly vague descriptor 'some', I am inclined to answer ...” The man just now finished his inspection and was staring, not looking staring, into the officer's eyes. “Yes” he said with his gaze unbroken.

“OK” said Wilman slowly and more than a little bewildered with such intimacy from a stranger. He continued “Can I ask why you are standing here?”

“Yes” he said with a smile that forced his eyes halfway shut.

The policeman did a little chuckle merged with a sigh. “OK, why are you standing here?”

The suit looked away again with wide eyes and a neutral face. “Why, concerns cause or intentionality. The discussion of the cause of my standing here should not be limited to any scope smaller than the foundational mechanisms of the universe as a whole by any non-privileged effect. The intentionality of my standing here would be a much more limited discussion, and via the powers of empathy I assume it is the latter of the two to which it was your intention of referencing. So in short, I assume you intended intention. Haha.”

The suit noticed the policeman growing impatient.

“So to answer your query, I am studying this intersection.”

“Boy you sound like a professor instead of a lawyer. Why are you studying this intersection?”

“From fear of reciprocated discomfort arising out the tedious nature of full explanations let me say that I am trying to find an hitherto unkown beauty.”

The policeman sighed. “A'right fine. It is not illegal to loiter on public property aside from doing so in order to commit another crime. So, I will let you be, but know that I'll be watching you.”

“I appreciate you allowing me to 'be'” he said with a smile.

The policeman left and the man continued studying the intersection and the people in it; even though he never really stopped.

Those in the hardware store continued to talk about this man. Some even complained to Officer Wilman. He informed them that he could not really do anything. He suggested they talk to him or ask him to leave themselves.

A few did. Some of the time the conversations were like the one with the policeman. All who went to talk to him left very distracted with their minds whirling around. Once they regained their typical composure they all became irritated at the man for causing such a distraction from their important lives. That is, all except for the little girl in the white tutu.

She was 7 years old. She wore white adidas tennis shoes with the logo and shoelaces in pink. She had on capri blue jeans from Wal-Mart, and a blue shirt with the decal of a magical unicorn and an inordinate amount of glitter. She also had on this white tutu. She had not even asked her mother if she could wear it. She simply rushed back into her room once she was dressed and slipped on her most prized article of clothing.

Just 5 yards from the man in the suit, she stood next to her mother who was talking to a friend who had more eyeshadow on her right eye than on her left. No one would tell her. She herself would never notice, and would never make the mistake again. The girl was spinning around while watching her tutu rise up.

She noticed the man and watched him for a short while. She then hopped over to him and tapped him through his pant leg.

“What are you doing?” she asked

“I am studying this intersection.”


“I want to find the beauty in everyday situations.”

She wrinkled her brow and paused. “But its not pretty”

“Beauty is not an attribute that is inherent outside of one's perception. By analyzing this piece of the world and feeling good about the intimacy that arises I make it beautiful.”

She was looking at him with a confused look and her mouth slightly open. She looked down and pointed to some weed defiantly peeking through a border in the sidewalk in order to showcase its measly yellow flower. “I think that's pretty”

He said “I do now too”

They smiled at each other for a few seconds. “Amy! Get back here!” Amy spun around and ran back to her mother.

After a couple of hours a young woman who had been walking the town taking photographs arrived at the corner in front of the hardware store and diagonal to the suit. She was taking pictures of the buildings and the people and cars crossing the intersection. Then she noticed the young man. For the next few minutes she walked all around the intersection taking pictures of the buildings, people, and cars as before, but now she always managed to keep the suit in the frame at various angles.

She ended up back at the hardware store. She pulled out her telephoto lens and began photographing the man's face from across the intersection.

People coming in and out of the store would occasionally mention to her how odd this man was. It was mostly said pejoratively. She always said that she thought he was wonderful.

Once, a woman mentioned this strange behavior to the girl and said: “I wonder what he is doing.”

The photographer said: “Well his dress and mannerisms suggest an air of privilege and importance.”

The other lady asked “But who is he? Who stands on the corner like that for hours just standing and looking. Essentially doing nothing?”

The photographer said: “He's obviously a philosopher.”