Just re-read Douglas Hofstadter‘s I am a strange Loop and was blown away, like the first time round, as much by his wordplay and imagery as by the conceptual content (which are inseparable – but I won’t go into that). I won’t give away the story line apart from telling you it’s all about what makes a marble appear in a box of envelopes. What makes for bigger and smaller marbles, and why they take time to disappear (but disappear they will). And he discusses having not only a King of Marbles, but other, smaller ones too. It makes you think about the size and the number of your own marbles. Anyone able to make me reflect on the size of my marble(s) can be but a genius.
When writing the previous paragraph the name we used on my primary school playground for the King, Bonk (must be Brabantian term), escaped from the canyons of my mind. (so it’s weird to me that in English Bonk is used for sexual intercourse and meeting-the-man-with-the-hammer).
However that may be, after such an obscure intro you’re entitled to a bit of musical and visual diversion. What attracts me in these kinds of child like animations is only going to be disclosed if you read on.
Hofstadter is somewhat unclear about the role of age (and I’m mighty proud that I detected this loophole – which happens to be a strangely fortuitous term given the book that I am talking about): on the one hand, size grows with age, which is very much central to his narrative, on the other he describes some who just happen to have bigger marbles from the start, like his hero Albert Schweitzer, but happily ignores the mystery of being-born-with-bigger-marble. Anyway, I gather the two are not inconsistent, the bigger you start with the bigger it can become. So let’s talk about age.
Being Dutch means that I must do with Johan Cruijff as my Yogi Berra. Maar ieder nadeel heb z’n voordeel (but every disadvantage has its advantage) and Johan was sharp as a razor about age: he proudly wore his on his shirt, forever the 14 year old. Don’t remember who pointed it out to me, but the implied idea that we all get stuck at our own personal mental age struck a cord with me. Probably because I realized that I felt, no feel younger. And that’s a scary thought if your marble depends on it.
My parents told me that the witch in Paulus de Boskabouter (the Woodgnome) used to scare me so much that I couldn’t stand to watch her and hid behind the sofa. What does that tell you?
Not much until you know that I was eight years old when the first episode hit the screen. So even then I lagged, may have grown a bit older over time but my preferred film is still either so uncomplicated that it’s cartoonesk, fantasy-land, and for sure oozes happy ending. If not, I get uneasy, restless, and what’s-the-fun-of-watching-thisish.
I know, all a lot of uninteresting personal trivia but I have been taught that narrative conventions dictate that one cannot just jump to a subject without some kinda lead-in (although that everything-needs-explanation obsession is actually quite recent; traditional stories often have a very just-so character. Why did that happen? Well it just happened…). So the above is a lead-in to introduce a favourite movie of mine, stardust – based on a novel by Neil Gayman. Why do I need this movie? Because of a quote: What do stars do? Why do I need the quote? Because of the answer: they shine. So? Well, had to think about that when I pondered age and something I recently discovered about my reactions to it. It was that scene from stardust which accompanied the thought shining with age. And for reasons not really clear to me seems a good label for my intense emotional reaction to old guys like the below.
Will I ever get to have big marbles like them? Or will I have lost them all before I even get close. Am I going bonkers already? Now that’s a question we all should ponder. Thank you Douglas.
But each has to reflect on that question in her own good time. Cannot force you into it and thus will not leave you with it but offer you a voyage into a world of music, colours, dance, puppets, drawings, and storytelling instead. You don’t even have to understand French to enjoy Michel Jaffrennou‘s Mali.
Postscript: my son sent me a one-liner when I posted this saying that I obviously am losing my marbles as it’s losing not loosing. I immediately changed the title, then went for a run and decided to change it back to loosing. Why waste such a beautiful mistake.