Dispatches | May 08, 2008

I was riding my electric bike through the neighborhood last evening at the quiet hour.  No wind, no traffic, no hard pumping up the hills. A few people gardening in their front yards looked up and smiled as I tooled by.   And what was I thinking about?

The meaning of the suffix “-ate.”  Yes, that’s right.  Riding my magic bicycle at the perfect hour of the perfect day of the year, I was thinking not about love, not about vacations, not about the price of real estate, but about suffixes, particularly the one deriving from the Latin that means to cause to happen-expectorate, recreate, congregate, stimulate, cogitate, fornicate, mediate, associate–one could go on forever with the -ates.

What a wonderful thing the mind is.  It is as free flowing and unpredictable as the weather.  If a hundred experts sat in a room working hard for a week, they could never guess what I was thinking about on my ride.  Or if they did, they could certainly never guess both that and what I thought about next.  And to guess three successive thoughts?  No way, except with the help of Borges’s infinite library.

I think that’s why fiction and poetry are potentially more amazing than every other art form. It’s not a single moment, not a work of static art or of the awkwardness of moving pictures, powerful or not, but an unpredictable process of unfolding which a good story or poem can follow with the ease and naturalness of the miraculous weather of the mind.