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Friday, June 29, 2012

Empty Line Whitespace

When my computer program sent an error message stating that "empty lines contain whitespace" my first, second, and tenth reaction was that of course they do! Isn't white space the definition of an empty line? But interestingly enough, there is such an error. And as it turns out, if a programming error exists chances are that I've committed it (so it was fortunate that identifying errors comprised a decent part of my last Python exam). Thus an error is not necessarily a bad thing, despite the obvious reaction to the designation. Errors are precisely the result of doing things the hard way, when a task isn't all candy and puppies. They are inherent to real challenge. They may also expose the underlying essential nature of something long disguised in deceptive garb. One simple gaffe, an act out of character, may indeed be that personality's path of least resistance. Errors indicate what it is that you do not know as you skip merrily along, oblivious to the fact that you do not know it. Otherwise, it is useless to be asked if you need help before it is established that you do indeed need it and in what respect exactly, for had you already been aware of what was wrong or missing you would also have possessed enough information to either fix the problem or eliminate its contentious presence and avoid the issue altogether.

A man from a cave enters the city and is caught crossing a busy intersection against the light. When the policeman informs him that he is in breach of the law and will wind up getting killed because of the cars the caveman is perplexed why cars would want the authorities to execute him based on a light's colour. The policeman functions as the pointer for we receive hints from the emissaries who will act as guide in the guise of those jolting beeps and red flashes demanding our attention. But the caveman still has to understand the message in order to break through and make the sirens stop...or they'll just get louder. A telling chapter featuring cave sleepers is in The Qur'an (by Dawood) wherein the sleepers' awakening represents the passage from darkness to light, from ignorance to true knowledge, from worldliness to the spiritual. The cavers have been sleeping their way through mortal life but their reentry into civilization signifies a reunion on a universal scale. The character in The Cave which I like best, however, is the dog. Like The Mahabharata (by Smith), the Qur'an only a select few times mentions the presence of a dog and in both sources the cur is lowly, kicked, ostracized and despised. What if our guidance is not amicable but expressed in conflict? May what is unpopular and distasteful yet be a viable learning tool?

In both Qur'anic and Indic sources that lowly mutt is also the gatekeeper at the cusp of worlds. It is the sleepers' guard at the edge of the cave and it is the king's last companion over the life and death threshold. Though seen by many as base, he is veritably something of tremendous importance in the epic being none other than the king's father, the god of embodied righteousness. Confrontation has a way of startling the one moseying along as usual back into proper equilibrium but what if this unexpected jolt presents itself aggressively, as a transgression, as an enemy? Must we embrace this too? Or do we embrace the anomaly in our otherwise harmonious existence exactly for the fact that the enemy shows us what is dissonantly emanating from ourselves? An enemy is only as good as his title according to you. It is still your creation. That dog god righteousness is so because he is a reflection of the king's righteous behaviour toward a meek creature. In like fashion, the Enterprise on Star Trek once attacked itself in a field which reverse-amplified its own shields. So whatever the state of the "other", be it positive or negative, it seems that the other is just a mirror of ourselves. As such, both can be teachers which show us our current state. And the upside to that unsuspecting glance you cast when you can't conceive that odd shadow in the window is you is that our state is changing from moment to moment. That item which you inputted into the program as...oh I don't know..."Bob" and then called to output as "Bob" rarely has the same computer identity in both instances although we imagine that the two Bobs are identical if only for their namesake. Even a computer-manufactured Bob thing is likely to transform. Your pet can bear identities spanning diverse worlds and planes. And despite another's attempts to remind you, you may just be unable to recall that person who in times past committed said affront. Or did I get that backwards, meaning, that the reminder was meant to show you the moment has gone? You are no longer it. At any rate if errors and conflict are learning tools precisely because they reflect ourselves, when conflict ceases to be our mirror image it is okay to take note and spontaneously high-five into the sky. Who knows what worlds lie there? Perhaps the dog...

-elaine morrison-


  1. @ Elaine - Thank you for the very interesting, well-written, and highly literary post, "Empty Line Whitespace." I very much enjoyed your style of writing. I also enjoyed the manner in which you created powerful characters.

    Thank you.

    1. Thanks for that lovely comment! My dog gave me disdainful looks the whole time I was writing and delaying his outings, so I wondered if I hit the mark.


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