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Saturday, February 4, 2017

ish

I got an issue of Bon Appetit that promised to talk about "healthy-ish" food. That's great, in a way.  Even unhealthy food can by healthy-ish, right?

Yet when I evaluate my own capabilities, I find them mostly either strongish or weakish. Nothing is an absolute strength or weakness, but everything is on a continuum.  You have to work on things that are weakish, but also on things that are strongish.  It's just some arbitrary level where you think a particular dimension becomes an asset rather than a liability.

So 49% vs. 51%.

You are also free to define anything you want as strongish or weakish.  It is amazing that we accept other people's definitions about things in our own lives.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

Perhaps it would be useful to think of strength and weakness as relative terms. We are always stronger or weaker than other people, not as such. More importantly, we are stronger in one area than we are in another, and weaker on day than we are on the next. Finally, and most importantly, there are activities that make us weaker and activities that make us stronger. There are ways of doing things that strengthen us and other ways of doing the same things that weaken us.

I don't like the "ish" talk. It seems to be ambivalent precisely about whether the food you are eating is making you healthier or not. People who say they are strong-ish or weak-ish are (unwisely) avoiding the question of whether they are getting stronger or weaker by (wisely) rejecting the notion of absolute strength and weakness.

I must say, however, that this sort of ambivalence sometimes makes for good poetry. I'm thinking of O'Hara and Ashbery, I think. And sometimes Murakami's prose, actually. Harold Bloom says that "Ashbery's mingled strength and weakness" was a kind of "deliberate pathos". (I once thought I had spotted the anxiety of this influence in Tony Tost's work. And Ben Lerner's.) I guess we might say Ashbery isn't a "strong poet" but a "strongish" one. Perhaps it's the only claim we can make, belated as were are. As Mark Knopfler sings, "The Man's too big, the Man's too strong."