Checkstand tabloids do not qualify. Nor do commentators who dismiss environmental concerns. Neither are frivolous in my book. On the contrary, both are hazardous to democratic health. In a democracy, one must not get mentally flabby.
The public mind is a terrible thing to deceive. If you have one of those (a public mind), watch out. Education may not be enough and can be quite powerless in the face of daily doses of intentional ignorance fostered by the media.
Our best defense against reckless
disregard for veracity
is reasoning. Which takes practice -- mental
aerobics, I think. Follow
along in a few self-imposed, low-impact exercises --
what some benighted
souls will consider to be frivolous.
One day, a disciple of Carl Jung told me how to recognize the four personality types set forth in the titles below. To help in remembering, I decided one morning to write in limerick form how each would say "Have a nice day."
Says the kind who prefers
to take charge
"May this life for now
"Let your thoughts both
second and prime
"In the fullness of this
You are on your own for the next exercise, which I thought up one day as a lark. Insert the missing entries in each series.
A, H, I, M, V, W
Need some hints? Here you are...
Mirrors help with
Here is a familiar sentence which once held the world record for the number of prepositions it is ended with.
"Mother, what did you bring the book that I did not want to be read to out of up for?"A different challenge: Write a sentence that begins with the same exact word in triplicate: operating as an adjective, an adverb, and a noun.
"That that that that appears as the third word in this sentence follows the previous two should not surprise anyone who knows the challenge -- so much as the appearance of that fourth that."All warmed up and ready to jog along a path of discovery? Try this explanation, starting with a parallel -- self referent -- sentence:
"That some noun which appears as the third word in this sentence follows the previous two words should not surprise anyone."Hardly an extraordinary case. And here is a sequel.
"That this dog which those who live next door allow to roam the neighborhood defecates on my lawn should not surprise anyone."Which invites another parallel -- self referent -- sentence:
"That that that that that that follows three words later is the third word in this sentence should not surprise anyone."Somehow, the 6-that sentence seems more understandable than the 4-that sentence, perhaps because it is easier to express aloud:
Comparing the 4-that version on an
______that___________________________...with the 6-that version.
Lacking rigorous design rules, the
intermixes syntax and semantics, which will doubtless
"parsers" and "understanders" the stuff of dreams for
decades to come.
All right, I've caught my breath. Time for today's palindrome. Write a passage which reads the same backward or forward, as "A man, a plan, a canal, Panama!"
It's open ore! Push a pot amid fire-vote. Get over, if dim atop. "Ah, super one," post I.Maybe tomorrow's palindrome will make sense, although, as art, there is no official requirement for that. Meanwhile...
Must be born on December 31, 1881, live throughout 1991, and die no sooner than
January 1, 2002: 120 years and 1 day.
In terms of productivity and usefulness, most people will say that such activities are frivolous indeed. I don't think so (see Puzzles with a Purpose). There can be no doubt that solving word-challenges and mathematical puzzles are exercises which build one's resistance to the irrelevant thesis fallacy and other lunacies.