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I’m at an age where I really enjoy forewords in books. I know that’s an odd thing to say. When I was a kid I used to read them because I was a completionist. I felt that if I didn’t read every word in a book, I hadn’t fully enjoyed it. Which is odd, because at that time I hated forewords, finding them dull, pedantic, and unrelated to the book itself. Once, I even abandoned a book because the foreword left me so completely and furiously bored. It was Frankenstein, which to this day I feel irresponsible having left it unread.

Now, I see all new purpose and meaning in a foreword. I’ve been reading a lot of books for reference and research, preparing for a new webcomic to release (hopefully) in 2015. I find myself soaking in the forewords as fascinating windows into the context of the book itself. The world it was created in, the time and place in history that shaped it, the significance it had in that moment and from then on. In the book I just started reading, the foreword was written by a woman in the 1980s commenting on how the original printing in the 1960s was fairly even-handed in avoiding sexist bias that would have defined the man researching it and writing it in the 1950s. She went on further to point out that her own times were much more advanced, yet she fully expected that a person in the 21st century would look back on the foreword she was writing and have an entirely different perspective on her words. It was a surreal moment to realize that I was that reader, as though she had her own window of time and had seen me reading.

I find myself more interested in the contexts of things as an adult. It’s a new layer that I never knew existed before, yet it was there all along. I just didn’t know how to look. I didn’t have the context to see the context. Now that it’s all shifted, I look on things that were once familiar and see them with new eyes, with both good and bad results.

How has context changed your experience of things in your life?

12 Comments

Children visit this site. Moderate your language accordingly.

In too many ways to count XD Age and experience definitely change the context with which we look at things. Things that were boring become fascinating, things that were fascinating seem childish, things that seemed impossible become undoable, things that seemed unfair become just-the-way-things-are. I find that every time I pick up a book I haven’t read in a few years, it seems like a whole new book – I see things in it I never saw before, or discover how shallow it really is and relegate it to my to-read-when-too-sick-to-think pile. A similar thing happens with movies I haven’t seen in years. Or I find myself relating to different characters – you can bet I felt old when I found myself empathizing with Thom Merrilin last time I got into Wheel of Time!
As for more practical matters, I barely notice colds anymore, when I’ve worked through so much worse. This is both good and bad – it allows me to show a good work ethic, and get more done in the short-term, but since my immune system still isn’t fully up to snuff it also tends to result in pushing too hard and getting REALLY sick again periodically. It’s like I’ve forgotten how to relax.
I find that the more my context changes, the more I learn about life, the more I want to help others to avoid my mistakes. But sometimes I wonder if that’s a good thing – I wouldn’t be who I am, or as strong as I am, without those mistakes and the lessons learned from them. By trying to help others learn the lesson without the mistake, am I denying them the chance to gain that strength, to learn the lesson as well and truly as I did? Or am I actually helping? I’m not sure there’s a way to tell, without waiting a few years to see the long-term results…

I’ve struggled with that same question. Should I try to teach someone to avoid a mistake I’ve made, or is there more value in them making the mistake and learning it on their own? What I’ve concluded is that unasked for advice is rarely used anyway, but compassion and support is always welcome. If somebody asks, I can supply my past experience, but generally it’s only truly relevant to me. Everybody has to find their own way. In my opinion, at least. 🙂

Classical music has more context to me now, simple home cooked meals as well. Soap. As a person who’s job is cleaning, and who has a good dose of OCD on the side, I can inform you that you have no idea how complex, diverse, and subtley nuanced different soaps can be. I also find that the more I age, the more things make sense, and the less good it does me. Why part the living room curtains for a person who no longer needs to see what is coming up the walk?

I confess to never having thought much about soap…but I expect I will now!! What do you usually notice? Is it a texture, or scent, or scientific chemical make-up that you usually note?

Chemical make up determines how it reacts to different greases. Grease from an engine is vastly different from chicken grease, or just the oil our skins/hair produce over the course of a day. The density of the soap plays a large part too. For car grease, you want a bar soap, that scrubs, such as Lava. It has high astringents in it, as well. For food grease, a runny soap with a fruit acid works best. Skin, hair, a gel with a base (think, baking soda), works great. High content soaps for general cleaning should be bubblier and a little thicker than a food soap, sanitizing soaps should be just a little looser than a body/hair soap… Yeah, I spend a lot of time around soap.

Hnn.
Father’s secret girlfriend had just been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer when I first met her.
With that it mind, it was perfectly reasonable for them to get married so soon after my folks’ divorce was made final. And don’t me wrong, she is an awesome stepmom, and I was very glad when the chemo treatments were successful.

But man, was it hard for me at the time. 🙁

Not really related to the topic of discussion, but I have to say that the afterword found in my copy of Flatland: A romance of many dimensions, was the best preface, forward or afterward I have ever read. It revived my interest in the whole, “genre” of forewords.
Basically it talked about putting everyone on a straight line that measures some personality variable. People to the far sides are strange, those in the center are normal. Now draw two lines to create a graph and repeat the experiment. Now a much smaller portion of people are in the section labelled “normal”. Repeat the experiment with a model of many dimensions and you’ll find that everybody’s a little weird. Since real people have endless dimensions, we can therefore conclude that nobody’s really normal.

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