Monday, June 17, 2013

Appearances

When a thing or condition is apparent, the trouble begins.  To whom, for instance, is that thing or situation apparent?  Yes, of course, apparent things seem to be where they are thought to be, but there's the question again--to whom do they seem to be in place or even in an emerging condition?  And don't forget this question:  Is that person a reliable witness.

We're used to speaking of appearances, the coming into view or perception of some quality or person or place, for that matter, any noun.  We're not so used to speaking of apparentces.  Your spell checker is not used to seeing apparentces, will have no truck with the word, much less its meaning.  And because apparentces is a neologism, a word coined for this blog post, it may never come into view beyond these few lines, although you do believe it is an easy new word to interpret.

But look, will you, at the mischief caused by appearances.  If a thing is apparent, its presence can be felt if not seen.  How long will this appearance last?  If this presumed thing is apparent, can it become non-apparent after a time, perhaps overcome by some forceful logic or even a lessening of interest?

At some point during your reading of one of your favorite genera, the mystery, you may be delivered the appearance that the proverbial butler did the proverbial it, killed the individual whose corpse was discovered in the main salon, some imaginative prop, say a champagne cork, stuck between his rictus sardonicus death gaze teeth.

Good luck with that.  You are being manipulated by the author, which is one of the reasons you were reading the mystery in the first place, no?  Yes.  You are also being manipulated by those sublime forces contributing to such aspects of you as your curiosity, your level of cynicism, and such abilities as you have to gauge apparent (there's that word again) motivations.

As a reader of mysteries, you're aware of the big three of mystery deconstruction, Means, Motive, and Opportunity.  Who among the ensemble cast of characters had the means of access to the victim, the motive for committing the crime, and the opportunity to do so?

In a successful mystery, everyone at one time or another is an apparent suspect.  Indeed, in at least one Agatha Christie mystery, pretty much all the ensemble cast had the means, motive, and opportunity to do in the corpse discovered in a railroad drawing room coach.

So far as mysteries are concerned, you enjoy being led down what you call the garden path, led to believe by dint of your own prejudices, your own bigotry, your own misanthropy to suspect the apparent worst in everyone.  Of course you get a chance to realize how you were being played.  This has happened often enough, because you've read any number of well-constructed mysteries, that you enjoy the game of being caught out, but apparently you will have learned something of enough significance to move you away from your prejudices and closer to a rational, reasonable person.  Good luck with that, too.

With apparent elements in play, you are dancing as well with another weasel word, seems.  A fitting synonym for seems is appears.  Something apparent or appearing seems to be emerging, seems to be in place, seems to be orderly or logical or sensible or even tangible.

Ever hear of the rationalization, Seemed like a good idea at the time?  What about, We seem to be in substantial agreement.  Watch out for those appearances because in the long run, we have to face the apparent reality that what seems apparent may only be provisionally apparent and what is actually apparent is--here it comes--what is merely or barely or some other adverbial weasel word undercutting what can be seen and examined.

When you having a debate-type argument or discussion with someone and your conversant nods, maintains eye contact, and even makes vocal and sub-vocal sounds of agreement, you have considerable cause to think you are in apparent agreement on the points under discussion. This seems more evident as the conversation continues, adding more fuel yet to the apparent argument you might engage in the future when each of you discovers the apparent concord or accord was no such thing.

A story doesn't seem to be working out as you'd thought earlier in the game because apparently there are elements missing or too many divergent elements present.  You appear to have lost control.  You appear to be on the wrong end of an argument.  You seem not to be able to do anything about it.

All boils down to perception, doesn't it?  But whose?  We're back to that again, don't you think?  Seems to get more complicated when an answer appears to be closest at hand.


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