Restaurant Reification: You Can’t Eat Their Words

One of my favorite words is reification (now that you can use my most hated words against me). Sounds like a meaningless jumble of morphemes, doesn’t it?

It’s one of the most life-changing words I’ve ever experienced.

You may not know it, but you reify. A lot. We all do. Every time you regard something that’s abstract (a concept, an idea, a word) as the real thing, as something material or concrete, you’re reifying.

Take the number 2, for example. Caught you! “Two” or “2” is a concept, an idea, a word. Except in the Platonic world, there’s really no such thing as 2. Get my drift? It seems as real as the candle on the cake, I know, but “2” stands for the idea of two years. Now blow.

Here’s where I run into real-world practical trouble with reification.

We’re in a restaurant. The menu before me promises every earthly delight from beast to legume. I’m in feast fantasyland, can’t decide, want everybody to order everything so I can taste it all.

Note the menu doesn’t say “bean, slab of meat from cow, cleaned flesh from fowl, piece of pig with hairy root vegetables, mussels with brine and beard recently scraped off.”

Nope, it’s “haricot vert”—and how I love the way the French syllables tumble over my tongue while my word-taste buds salivate to “sautéed in a savory shallot-white wine-balsamic dill-rosemary-caper sauce.” Then the plate comes. And they’re just green beans, after all. Damn.

Even champignon sounds better than “pungent little fungi that feed on decayed matter.” Seems the French are best at this snow job.

Think about it:


It doesn’t taste as good as it reads.

(If only I could eat my words sometimes.)

I would imagine that reification tastes something like sawdust or the empty vacuum of space. Alienation. A separation of the word from the thing.

Thought Quarks

The BeanThis is what I call the mysterious, quarklike appearance of ideas. If I don’t grab a pen pronto they slip out. Gone. To flit into someone else’s brain or dream, someone who’ll write them down into something great, if they’re not lazy like me, or to tunnel straight through the universe on their own unmeasurable trajectory.

That’s my fear if I don’t nail these “thought quarks” down with language. Someone will get credit for something I forgot. I prefer to say, “Damn, I wish I’d thought of that!” That’s when I know it’s someone else’s thoughtquarks I relish.

To symbolize sudden brainwaves:

I like to transform thoughtquarks into words, into language. Musicians translate them into notes measures movements. Mathematicians use numbers–otherwise meaningless symbols, to construct a physical or imaginary yet logical to me illogical event. We all know numbers don’t exist; they’re just a concept, a thought quark gone stable. Inventors give us things like better toilet seats and cool rockets. The first rocket was invented by a cartoonist.

Ah, to translate the thoughtquark into symbols—before the idea subsides—to pop up somewhere else, in and out of the universal mind, pop goes that weasel. Jacques Derrida says there’s no creativity or originality, all thoughts are derivative and come from a chain of something else along the long line of perceiving humans.

Thought quarks: Brain going on and offline, connecting. To? To nothing but our imaginary constructs and if French philosophers toil hard enough they can deconstruct these words, ideas, novelties into subparticles of rote chemical transmissions. Funsucker!

Cheers to the writers who translate epiphany (from the sacred to the profane to the preferably absurdly droll) into words, edification, entertainment, nonetheless.

I have zillions of tiny pieces of papers, receipts, napkins, notebooks, beer-stained dreams filled with these mental senses that pop in unawares and pop out just as quickly.

I thought these senses needed to be worked out in a novel, poem, or short-story; turfed onto some character, setting, plot situation, essay.

Now, I turf them to you. Pop goes the Blog! (how slow and unwieldy language is, and fun).

All art is an object you can toss into the air to admire and forget as it disappears before hitting the ground. Not before changing something else, though, before transmitting something.