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The Theater of Semantics

The house lights are down. The audience an invisible mass gathered with a low jumbled murmuring sit restless, somewhere out there in a cloud of black nothingness. A lone, bare bulb hangs down, center stage, trying to cast light somewhere. Anywhere. A slight electrical pulse, a heartbeat of electrons, visible to anyone who might be casting their eyes its direction, the only evidence that the bulb is succeeding in its life purpose.

A lone figure comes out. He heads toward the microphone stand, taking care not to trip on the cable going from the stand to some magic port off-stage. His steps are cautious, but fueled by a purpose. It is a purpose he has either just learned, or just remembered. Having forgotten since the days before he was born. His movements are slow, deliberate, some would say timid. The shyness is not all his. He doesn't want to spook anyone that might be in the audience. Be they eight or eight-thousand.

A finger comes up. The mic is tapped. One time. Two times. The third time is three rapid taps. A loud thumping heartbeat reverberates through the theater. Bump. Bump-bump. Bump-Bump-bump. Followed by a high, piercing tone cut short by gruff throaty hrrmrumph.

"Good evening. Uh. Hello... Is this thing on?"

I can't believe it's been over a month since I blogged. Why didn't anyone tell me it had been that long? Did you guys stop loving me? Did you even miss me?

I jest.

I don't have a good reason for not posting anything in August, I really don't. I could say that lunch breaks were spent working on 18 Clocks which is true. I could say that I've been busy unpacking yes still and adjusting to life with a roommate which, while true is kind of a cop-out. There's very little adjusting needed, my roommate is one of the few people I think I could live with and not actually go nuts. So, there's that. 

Truth is, I just haven't made the time like I used to for the bloggy blog, but I realized this week that I need to. This is a good outlet for me to just get some things off my chest and just clear some cobwebs.

I know there's a great deal I could go off about right now. From the antics of our current tenant in the White House, to the stuff going on with Nike, to any of a dozen things that people are getting shitty with each other over on Social Media.

First though, a moment of silence for Burt Reynolds.


Smokey and the Bandit is one of my favorite movies. Always has been.  And other than a 1971 Pontiac GTO Judge, the Trans Am that's in Smokey and the Bandit is really the only other Pontiac I've ever wanted. There is a scene in an episode of My Name Is Earl where Jason Lee and his brother have their moment of nirvana by getting to drive the Bandit's car. I get that. I totally get that.

So, the topic at hand...what shall we talk about? OH, right. Semantics. The way in which something is said and interpreted. It's not an exact science. Well, maybe it is. But it's not one I ever really took. I just like fucking with people sometimes by taking exactly what they said literally. It messes with some people, but to be fair-sometimes people need to be more clear when they ask or declare things.

Case in point, if you have spent more than fifteen seconds scrolling on your bookface wall these past two weeks, you've no doubt seen something like the following:

Can you answer this? There are 5 people in a room, you go in and kill 4 of those 5, how many people actually remain in that room. Comment with your answer and I will inbox you if you're right or wrong. If you're wrong, you have to repost it with the name of the person to whom you lost.

Now,  my response to this on a friend's post (after having passed by it so many times on others') was to comment to the post by simply saying "your answer."

I was inboxed with the reply that I was wrong. And what they thought the answer was. I was then instructed to post it on my wall and see how many other people I could 'get.'  That's dumb. I'm not doing that.

What I am going to do, though, is point out that the 'right' answer really depends on which part of the paragraph you're dealing with.

Let's break it down.

Can you answer this?  Yes, yes I can answer this.  <--this answer.="" bullshit.="" by="" is="" p="" right="" the="" way="">
There are 5 people in a room, you go in and kill 4 of those 5, how many people actually remain in the room. Typo, or intentional admission of a question-mark aside, this is the part of the post that most people get wrapped up in.

So, breaking it down. 5 people are in a room. I walk in. That makes 6 people as of the time I walk in. The question is how many people remain in that room (presumably after I kill 4 of the 5 that were in there).

Barring any motivation for walking into a room and killing 4 people, I have some questions. First, seriously, what was my motivation? Why only 4? Were you burned with acid or something? No, ok. Here's the thing.

Right. Semantics.

At the point in time I walk into the room, there are 6 people in that room. Your possible answers to how many remain after my random killing spree are as follows:

  • 6 People.  Presumably the 5th person I didn't shoot is just chilling there with me and 4 dead bodies.
  • 5 People. The person I didn't shoot bugged the hell out, but I'm still there just lording over my handiwork. 
  • Also 5 people. The person I didn't shoot is still there, but I bugged out, because witnesses, dontchaknow.
  • 4 People.   The 5th person I didn't kill bugs out. And I decide to leave, too. I mean, after all, I just killed 4 people for no reason and a witness got away, leaving the 4 dead people in the room. 
  • 2 People. Me and the 5th person I didn't kill. One could argue that since four people are dead, they are no longer people, but instead are bodies. Anything that made them a person, ended when I took their life.
  • 1 Person. Me. Assuming the 5th person bugged out, and the 4 dead people aren't people (for the reason mentioned just above), I would be the only person in the room. I would assume since I was crazy enough to kill 4 people for no reason and leave a witness alive, that I might want to chill among my artwork for a while. 
  • Also 1 Person. The 5th person. This scenario also plays on the dead not being people, but presumes that I would have bugged out leaving the 5th person with therapy bills and survivor's guilt. 
  • 0 People. Again assuming the dead are longer people, this answer assumes that the 5th person and I went off to have drinks and toast to the fact that those 4 assholes are no longer in our lives. And also to work on our alibi. 
So which answer is actually right? 

All of them. That's the joy of Semantics. Depending on your focus, you can make any of the above answers work. 

Except the bullshit "yes" answer. That's cheap. Of course we can answer the question. To me that's just the lowest form of bait and switch smart-assery. It's almost as bad as the bullshit "Your Answer" that I left in the comments.

Technically I followed instructions. It says "Leave a comment with your answer."  My comment was "your answer." Boom. Done. 

I did that because deep down, I knew there was a trick. But, you can do what you want. You can play the game. If you've paid attention you know the "right" answer that this post is looking for. And you also have several other answers and the justifications for why you chose those answer. 

Now, I am not normally an argumentative person OK, that's a lie, but you can do whatever you want, or come up with your own answer for why your friends are full of shit and randomly accusing you of walking into rooms and killing 4 people. It's all on you, man. As my bestie says, you do you.  

The funny thing about this, is that it's really just a small reflection on life. The kind of life that creeps up on us every day. 

First one has the right answer. Everything that is thrown our way is responded to based on the item we are choosing to focus on. Secret sauce time? So is everybody else's. And the likelihood that you and another person are focusing on the exact same thing in a given scenario, identical though they are, is astronomical. 

Secondly, most of the time, the questions in life are poorly worded and for the most part, bullshit anyway. 

How about this?

How about maybe you cut other people some slack?

And how about maybe you cut yourself some, too?

Oh, and if you happen to walk into a room and I'm in there with 4 other people, how about maybe you don't kill anyone?  That would be awesome.

The last words hang thick in the air. The audience is still a faceless cloud of nothing beyond his field of vision, only making its presence known with a laugh here, a gasp there. 

The echo of his final thought, verbalized, finds its way into to the darkest oldest crevice of the theater. Waiting to be the stuff of a recounted memory years down the line. 

The anticipation battles the heavy silence for his last breath. 

Then a clap.

Then two.

Then seven. 

Then a roll as the claps swell and roll to the stage. Crashing over in thunderous applause.

He sets the microphone back in the clip. A hand shoots up in a meek wave. Gratitude that they didn't boo him off the stage, and a seed of hope that maybe one person out there got it. Got him. 

"Thank you." 

Exit, stage right. 


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