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I like big lists - The Ex-Communicator

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November 20th, 2009


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09:56 am - I like big lists
I like big lists 'cause I don't want to die
All you other semioticians can't deny


That's an excellent summary (on metafilter) of this article, where Umberto Eco speaks about why our knowledge of infiity and mortality leds us to like lists of things.
The list is the origin of culture. It's part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order -- not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists... The list doesn't destroy culture; it creates it. Wherever you look in cultural history, you will find lists.
I think lists are a way of imposing some order on infinity, for people who don't like order too much. Lists retain a certain provisionality, they invite amendment, and they don't formalise the relationship between elements very strongly. They are less oppressive than systems.

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[User Picture]
From:emeraldsedai
Date:November 21st, 2009 12:02 am (UTC)
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Oh, thank you for saying that! Because I read the sentence, placed as it was under the photograph of the venerable old scholar, and the very first thing that went through my mind after "Huh??" was, "Well, he's a venerable old scholar so he must mean something valuable and I should try harder to understand it," when in fact it really bothered me--for its offensiveness, its absurd juxtapositioning and yes, its implication that one of these things is like the other.

I'm learning, very late in life, to prefer my own gut feelings to what The Man says, or to worrying why that I don't understand why The Man says it.

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