What Streams from Your Pen

“That is not your dog,” you pen in protest. And you say, “That is not even a stream.”

You write further, “A river is not a stream.” And you speak up to remind me, “You are no Lisa Dearing.”

You’re looking at the picture below, having heard me tell somebody that I took my dog yesterday to the Trinity River and he stepped in the stream. You may have seen me upload the photo from “PicturesofPuppies.com” which you know is not my website but is copyrighted by one Ms. Dearing.

My dog stepping into the Trinity

So I wonder if we can agree that this is how we mind our language? What flows from our mouths and what streams from our pens must constitute our talked-about realities.

At this blog, won’t you talk about these things with me? And won’t we remember that Plato had others talking about these things so long ago already? Aren’t we stepping into the same stream of talked-about (and written-about) reality with him (and with them)?

Remember what Plato wrote so ironically? It’s ironic because he’s writing here about Socrates speaking to his students. Remember?

Writing will introduce forgetfulness into the soul of those who learn it: they will not practice using their memory because they will put their trust in writing, which is external and depends on signs that belong to others, instead of trying to remember from the inside, completely on their own. You have not discovered a potion for remembering, but for reminding; you provide your students with the appearance of wisdom, not with its reality. Your invention will enable them to hear many things without being properly taught, and they will imagine that they have came to know much while for the most part they will know nothing. And they will be difficult to get along with, since they will merely appear to be wise instead of really being so. —Phaedrus 275a-b

And Plato goes on to write, Socrates continuing to speak, that “writing shares a strange feature with painting.” Remember what that “strange feature” is? Do you think my photo above (or Ms. Dearing’s) shares this feature too? Writing is the same as painting? And painting is the same as photography? And the photo is what Socrates was talking about, at least in terms of Plato’s ideal albeit strange feature?

Plato also writes his Socrates as saying what Heraclitus says. Are they saying the same thing? How could they be? “You cannot step twice into the same stream” is what Heraclitus says. Okay it’s what Harold N. Fowler has said, in English, that Heraclitus says. Alright, fine then. It’s what Fowler says that Plato said that Socrates said that Heraclitus said, in English. What Plato wrote that Socrates said that Heraclitus said, in Greek, is something like δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης.  (See Plato’s Cratylus, 402a).

I said it’s “something like” because I think you know that Plato didn’t write using a computer keyboard, which is what I’m doing when I write δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης in 2010 on wordpress and blogspot. I think Fowler, in 1921, must have written his English by hand or perhaps by typewriter before his published pressed it out on paper via movable type.

What font did Fowler’s publisher and printer use to type out “same stream”? And is “font” really the same thing as type font?

I remember getting into the same discussion with a blogger over “penned.” Now, I’m inviting you in. Okay, you’re right, I already put you in at the beginning of this post. Do you see it? Won’t you see what we’ve done, what we do with language?

It’s not the reality of the river or of a dog or of a painting or of writing or of language more generally that’s really important. What is really really important is how we, you and I, can and do use language to make constant our realities. And to let it flow on too.

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