from The Russo-Japanese War, 1904

Can You Unpack That?

One of the most popular phrases of people around me these days. Sometimes, I’d like to shout no! I feel like I’ve become lost in a Peircian forest, where everything is spiraling out of sight. Cognition building on cognition until it becomes hard to figure out where I began. It’s like this weird journey that can only happen after your bags are packed. If you continually walk back inside to check your luggage to make sure that you’ve remembered your toothbrush, you can never leave. I know it’s part of the process, but sometimes it seems like I’ll never get the model I’m thinking of together if I keep unpacking.

Of course, I can see the bold overconfidence in saying something like that. It’s the job of your peers to keep you honest—to make sure that you haven’t thrown in a toaster instead of a hairdryer. But I feel strangely close to having a complete bag. I’d like to carry it somewhere instead of just continually picking it up and putting it down to check the contents. I was reading an article by McMullin on models yesterday that argued convincingly that a model precedes a theory, not the other way around. I’m light-years away from a theory, but reasonably close to a model that I can look at and test. I know that no one outside my head can see it; it’s hard to talk about. But for some reason I can’t stop trying—hence, the continual solicitations: Can you unpack that?

I can’t get Tom Wait’s Train Song out of my head:

What made my dreams so hollow
was standing at the depot
with a steeple full of swallows
that could never ring the bell

I think I’ll be happy when I can just find the bell, let alone ring it.