As it happened, I started out as a Cartesian. And I didn't even know it. Here is what happened. Before I had ever heard of philosophy, I was an art student in a small college called the "California Institution for the Artists and Others" (CIAO). The atmosphere at CIAO was bright, energetic, uplifting, and Mediterranean. Naturally we were never short of olive oil. CIAO offered an unusual, strange, bizarre, and unexpected major; world-renowned curriculum in Food Art. Being dazzled by the unusual, strange, bizarre, and unexpected, I promptly signed up for it. One day the instructor gave us a challenging assignment. We were to create an aesthetically assertive model of a body part using edible stuff. I could readily think of several body parts suitable to be modeled by fruits and vegetables. But I had to be above the ordinary and the mundane. I had to transcend the level of simplistic thinking that would have had me make tibiae out of celery stalks or fingers out of ladyfingers. I rejected every idea that occurred to me within the first hour of receiving the assignment. I had to refuse to listen to the societal authorities. I had to reject all conventions. I had to dig down deep to the very foundations of imagination and aesthetic assertiveness. I seated myself quietly in front of a fireplace. Staring at the fire, I concentrated. I wanted my project to be so strong that its impact was inescapably real, not only formally but objectively. I struggled for hours. Then suddenly, an idea presented itself, clearly. I would create a model of a retina. Next I had to choose the edible stuff to use. Again I concentrated in front of the fire. More hours passed. Then suddenly, an idea came to me, distinctly. I would use a sweet potato. Once I had decided on all aspects of the project, I wasted no time. After six days of intense work, during which I especially struggled to achieve a delicate balance between the rods and the cones, I was ready to put the final touch on my creation. I went to an open studio to choose a special dye. I saw my instructor behind a large table. On the table was a series of ten bowls containing ten varieties of ink. I examined them all very carefully before deciding on the third bowl from the end. I held high in my hand my sculpture of a retina made out of a sweet potato. I wanted my instructor to know which dye out of those ten I needed and for what use. I pointed to the bowl I had picked and said:
"Eighth Ink, There, For Eye Yam."
(This fictional account is shamelessly based on a very short story by a brilliant extreme story teller, Daniel Giesler. He is the author of the cult classic, Zorr, an extreme story about a strange artist and an even stranger philosopher.)
December 11, 2000
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