Monday, October 3, 2011

Triangulation

 Bill Clinton caught hell for it, but there are few things Bill Clinton did not catch hell for. He even caught hell for leaving the legacy of a surplus, which so outraged many of his opponents that they set about co-opting and otherwise converting it to their personal use.

The particular “it” you are talking about is not budgetary, it is instead triangulation, which is a subject you caught hell for when you were in a course in map reading relative to the Reserve Officers Training Corps.  In an amusing irony you did not see at the time, ROTC participation was a requirement during your tenure at the University of California, Los Angeles.  One half a unit short of junior status when you switched over to UCLA, you were required to take one semester’s worth of classes, including the weekly drill, involving you to show up in uniform.  You could find your way in the bowels of the enormous UCLA library, with its vaunted million-plus volumes and its Library of Congress classification system, but you were not sufficient to the task of finding your drill unit.

Of course you failed ROTC I, or however it was designated, meaning you had to take it for the second time, whereupon you became acquainted with the means for locating yourself on a military map by the use of two other points of reference.  You may well have been helped with the concept of triangulation by your then studies in poetry and literature, as they focused on oblique references rather than direct ones.  Isn’t it pretty to think so?

Direct description of a character or thing can help produce an image—no question about it. Description of a character or thing or, for that matter, an emotion, can be accomplished as well by triangulation.  Even better.  You prefer the latter; a destination arrived at by the same kind of failure you experienced in your first semester of ROTC.  You had to fail and repeat your descriptions, even then not getting them to your liking.  You must also admit your liking—by which you mean your standards—were as slapdash then as your appearance in the dress khakis of the ROTC cadet.  Even so, you were not satisfied with what seemed to you the flatness or, if you will, journalistic effect of your accounts.  You wanted presence.  Edge.  Nuance.

The concept of obliqueness was slow in coming, but as it arrived, you began to appreciate the fact of being able to experience the emotions you were writing about as you were writing them.  Hooray.  This meant a greater probability that the reader would get them, too.  You were at that pivotal state of being an arriviste; you knew what you meant to imply.  Now you wanted to make sure anyone else reading the piece would get it.

Even at this remove from those times, your concern is of the nature of triangulation.  Do you get it enough?  Do you give enough reference points?  Have you provided enough handholds for the reader to get it without a footnote or some description outrageous in its length?
In so many words, you are ROTC cadet Shelly, appearing in your Age of Pope and Dryden class in your uniform, already presenting the mistaken impression that you somehow intend to be an officer in the goddamn army as opposed to being a writer who at least doesn’t get lost in the library.

The world of the outer self—Reality, it is called—is a fraught world.  You are often comfortable within it, but it requires constant attention for the IEDs of Life.  Every one of those Improvised Explosive Devices has the potential to break your heart.



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