Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's all relative.. Wait what?

This is the most important picture you will ever analyze.  No seriously.  For those who don’t speak French ceci n’est pas une pipe translates to, this is not a pipe.  If you are anything like me the first time you faced this picture you’re thinking “um no actually it is a pipe but thanks for trying.”  So here’s the deal.  This is a painting by Rene Magritte and that is the key.  No, not the Magritte part, the painting part.  That is a picture of a pipe not a pipe itself.  Famously when asked Magritte said, “Of course it is not a pipe.  Just try to put tobacco in it.”

Alright so why is that idea so important?  Well as a future English teacher this directly relates to language.  All language is metaphor.  By this I mean, when I say pipe we both know what I am implying but, the word pipe is not the thing pipe, and second, my idea of a pipe could be drastically different from your idea of a pipe.  Enter exhibit b: A parody of the work by Magritte but still totally fitting.  (I am sure students will love this one)

Our world is based upon language and communication.  Everything you can touch, taste, see, or smell is a derivative of language.  The very way in which we process information is based upon this concept.  We think in language and yet these very building blocks for the foundation of all cultures are subjective.  When it comes down to it why is it that we have this communal agreement that the thing pipe should be called a pipe and be spelled with characters pipe.  Why can it not be a florgydorfal or a trug.  It is an interesting concept to say that everything we know is not only relative but essentially arbitrary.  It is really amazing to see what the human species has accomplished based upon random noises.


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