The Illimitable Ocean of Inexplicability

Month: April, 2011

The Extenuating Circumstances

“Knowing that there may be no end has not dissuaded me from my journey into the depths of meaning that lie between the covers of the Slightly Varying Circumstances Sketchbook. After all it is not the end I am after, it is the beginning, the origin of the idea that started it all, and the absolute truth about each and every possible slightly varying circumstance no matter what obstacles may be ahead or hardships I might face. To look through the Slightly Varying Circumstances sketchbook with the hope of understanding is to travel through a maze within which every corner is only slightly different from the next and to make it through you must recognize each of these differences and understand their relation to the whole as well as grasping their own individual meaning. To turn back is not an option, no string could stretch far enough, and not all the bread ever baked could produce enough crumbs to mark the path you would be on.”

– Jack Olson





 Then, sir, said she, follow even this highway, and it will bring you unto the Chapel Perilous; and here I shall abide till God send you here again, and, but you speed, I know no knight living that may achieve that adventure

Le Morte d’Arthur Book 6



I have become lost in the maze. I must admit, at this point, my thoughts about what I am doing have taken an unforeseen turn, things seem to be falling apart. My initial beliefs in the direction my investigations were headed have been overwhelmed, drowned by doubts; my convictions about what I thought I knew are lost. I wonder what this revelation could mean for all the slightly varying circumstances, and what lies ahead, if anything. As I think on this a dark image troubles me, its dominating presence pitilessly burning through all I had learned. That the discovery of an object I had made could bring such a nightmare, a nightmare slow in coming but coming none the less, is something I had never considered, but now as I do consider it, as it moves lazily through my mind I find myself wishing I could somehow abort this rough beast before it is born, but I’m afraid that it is too late.


This object was not so much discovered as it was remembered. Only days ago as I paced the floor of the room within the red shop building I recalled this object and where I’d left it months before. Behind some heavy oil soaked boards and a stack of abandoned paintings on plywood sat this object, a small wooden house I’d built nearly a year ago. As I reached out to retrieve the house ideas formed and connections were made. In an instant I believed that this was the turning point into a new and unexplored area of the maze which I believed would lead me quickly to the end, to the answers I was looking for. Immediately, with the house in hand, I hurried to one of my composition books in which I proceeded to write out all that had come to me.


“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. Which road do I take? She asked. Where do you want to go? was his response. I don’t know, Alice answered. Then, said the cat, it doesn’t matter”

-Lewis Carroll


It doesn’t matter. Turning down this new path without looking, running from the start, eyes set firmly on nothing in the distance but a belief that what I was after lay there waiting. The words I wrote came quickly, misspelled and run together, I’d fix it all later, I thought.


The original Extenuating Circumstances


Below is a digital image of the house which is constructed from wood and painted in a haphazard manner. Although I can recall the building of this replica of the representation that symbolizes an idea as of yet determined the exact plan I had in mind for its use is not known to me now. I do remember soon after its completion once or twice holding the house in a manner much like how I imagined a giant monster would hold a house he had just torn from its foundation. While holding the house, like a giant monster, I would laugh while shaking it as if trying to dislodge any occupants, one of which I imagined I was after for his inability to adequately answer some question I had asked regarding the mysteries surrounding certain slightly varying circumstances. On several occasions, when not imagining myself as an angry giant monster, I made photographs of the house all the while unaware of its connection to the Slightly Varying Circumstances drawing, but thinking at the time that there was a reason for this house that would eventually come to me, and it did! That is, I have now decided that my original intention (unknown to me until now) was to build a model of the Slightly Varying Circumstances drawing for the purpose of examining the interactionof the various symbols within the drawing in a 3 dimensional environment. The reason for
this is that seeing something in 3 dimensions is very different than seeing it in two. Imagine you are looking at a postcard of a carousel located in the 19th Arrondissement at the bottom of a hill atop of which sits the Sacre Coeur. Now imagine instead of looking at the postcard you are actually on that carousel riding one of the brightly colored creatures while waving at an attractive person who is on holiday with you in the city of lights.  Or, imagine you (somehow transported back in time [because I don’t know any current models name and must go back 30 years to make this example work]) are looking at Cheryl Tiegs in a copy of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition and then compare that to sitting comfortably in a swank penthouse apartment as Cheryl brings you a cold beverage of your choice. Are you getting the idea? The reason for building the replica is because three dimensions are what we all live in, it is what we know, if not well, at least best.




“Only the unknown frightens men. But once a man has faced the unknown, that terror becomes the known.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery



Now, since I have not built the Slightly Varying Circumstances diorama it is necessary that I get inside my own head and try to imagine what it is I would do with the diorama that would help me to better understand the original idea that lead to the idea of the diorama that has not been built because of my misplacing of the model ‘house’ at some time in the past year. Before moving on I would like to say a few words about my use of the word diorama to describe the 3 dimensional representation of the Slightly Varying Circumstances drawing. If one were to look up the word diorama in the Oxford dictionary they would find the following definition, “a model representing a scene with three-dimensional figures, either in miniature or as a large-scale museum exhibit”. As I have no intention of ever building a large scale model for use in a museum we can remove that part of the definition, and, since there will be no figures (if by figures one means human or animal forms) in my scene that part can also be removed from the definition. This leaves us with “a model representing a scene in miniature” as the definition of diorama. Unfortunately this definition does not exactly work either for the reason that my 3 dimensional representation would not be a scene in miniature because it would actually be larger than the drawing it was attempting to represent. So the definition for diorama, in the case of my model, is “a model representing a scene”. For the sake of brevity I will not go into the definition of the word ‘scene’ within my definition of the word ‘diorama’, but mention it here only to let you know that I thought about it and that if I was to choose a definition it would be “a place or setting regarded as having a particular character or making a particular impression” although there are many problems with this definition I have chosen to ignore them here and would appreciate it if you did the same.


In order to begin the diagrams of the diorama that has not been built I had to first establish the exact measurements of the ‘house’ that already is.  Below is a diagram illustrating the measurements of the 3 dimensional ‘house’.  (All measurements were taken using the United States customary system.)



After determining the measurements of the house I then proceeded to think about the dimensions of the box within which the scene will be represented. Of course it had to be large enough to accommodate the already existing ‘house’, but I also thought that the meaning of the numbers should be taken into consideration. For instance the height of the box could be 15 inches and work very well, however, according to Joshua David Stone PhD,  “there are “laws of manifestation” with the number 15 concluding the fourth level of spiritual manifestation. Because 15 may be divided by 3 (which signifies harmony) and 5 (which represents life), this shows that 15 represents matter in its most harminous (sic)form.” while the number 16 according to R. Allendy,  represents “the role of the Karma 6 in the cosmic unit 10. This role consists in creating a current of evolution (1 + 6 = 7) but towards two opposite directions, so that, by itself, 16 even number (sic), is unable to choose.” So, on second thought, after reading all of that I decided that taking all this into conscious consideration would be more than I felt like dealing with and that picking the numbers by what worked would be for the best while also possibly bringing more significance to the numbers chosen if they were decided upon merely by chance or convenience.



“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right”

– Thomas Paine



The quote above is where the original Extenuating Circumstances came to an end; it is written on the side of the path inside the maze I wander. It is where all began to seem lost. Tolkien said “All who wander are not lost” which may be true for some, but not for me, not now. Whether the above excerpts from the original Extenuating Circumstances manuscript makes any sense at all or is leading anywhere but in circles I do not know. The words did seem to make sense when I wrote them, there did seem to be a point I had in mind, but none of it matters now. Perhaps I moved to quickly, became dizzy, a little sick, and only require a quick lie down to feel better, for everything to be right again. Maybe. I don’t know.

Circumstances in evidence

Round the world and home again
That’s the sailor’s way
Faster faster, faster faster

There’s no earthly way of knowing
Which direction we are going
There’s no knowing where we’re rowing
Or which way the river’s flowing

Is it raining, is it snowing
Is a hurricane a-blowing

Not a speck of light is showing
So the danger must be growing
Are the fires of Hell a-glowing
Is the grisly reaper mowing

Yes, the danger must be growing
For the rowers keep on rowing
And they’re certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing


-Roald  Dahl





Until now my investigation of Slightly Varying Circumstances has relied solely on one drawing (used this past winter to start a fire) and whatever vague recollections I could stir up in my memory of the events that surrounded the beginning of the idea. Then, just recently, as I was searching through boxes for one thing I found another. Inside one of the boxes stored in an unfinished bathroom on the main level of my home was a sketchbook with the words ‘Slightly Varying Circumstances’ printed neatly across the cover. At first I was surprised and excited and then slightly horrified. I had completely forgotten that this sketchbook existed and its contents at that moment were wholly unknown to me. The prospect of the sketchbook containing information that I had not imagined in my investigations made me hesitant to turn the pages. The thought that what lay inside could destroy all of my theories, all of my beliefs about the nature of Slightly Varying Circumstances made part of me want to place it back inside the box and pretend that I had never seen it. Yet, even with this fear, I knew that I must look, and so, with sketchbook in hand I went to find a comfortable spot for where to see what I did not know.


Soon, what I did not know transformed into what I did not understand. This sketchbook, filled with drawings and writings which I had no memory of producing, filled me with a fear that the answers I was looking for would be forever beyond my reach. Page after page I turned, and while many of the drawings were merely variations on what we know as the finished piece, their slight differences offered no apparent answers and created in my mind questions I had never considered. The time it would take to examine each page thoroughly would be immense, and then, even then, having forgotten the act of filling these pages, it would seem that any answers I came up with would be, just as before I found this sketchbook, simply guesses. However, having looked upon this book full of riddles I was determined to make some sense of it.


Below is a page from the Slightly Varying Circumstances sketchbook which I have chosen as an example in order to illustrate the methods I will use in examining each of the pages in the hope that by doing so a better understanding of the origin of the idea will become clear.



I will begin with what is familiar, and that is the formally framed drawing on the lower half of the page I have titled example one. As you can see it shares many similarities with the finished piece I have examined previously. There are the words ‘Slightly Varying Circumstances’ centered and at the top of the drawing, the ‘house’ in the lower left hand corner, and the ‘horizon’ line starting at one side of the picture frame, passing behind the ‘house’ and ending at the opposite side. The one thing that is not like the other is the object that occupies the space which in the finished piece is an ‘arrow’. This object, not immediately recognizable as anything, also differs from not just the arrow, but also from the ‘house’ in that it casts a shadow. As I had determined before that this drawing and specifically the objects that make up the drawing were only symbols the shadow creates the illusion that this object has substance and is more than merely a symbol for something else. So, if the object is, as is suggested by its ability to cast a shadow, to have substance then its substance would suggest that the object, though part of the drawing, is somehow not governed by the same rules that apply to the rest of the drawing. The meaning of this object’s difference can only be determined by first concluding what the object represents. The two choices that come to my mind for what it is are either a cloud or an unidentified flying object. The object’s shape may be too symmetrical for an actual cloud, but there is the possibility that while this object casts a shadow, as clouds do, it could be both a symbol and an actual representation. A combination of the two possibilities while expanding its meaning also makes the determination of the meaning illusive. However, if, in fact, it is a cloud this brings to mind certain ideas about the appearance of clouds in the sky such as the disappearance of light and the threat of a rain storm that  could cause someone to have to seek some form of shelter in order to not get all wet. Therefore, the cloud, if that is what it is, can be seen as a threat and in turn make the ‘house’ a structure for which to escape to. If the object is an unidentified flying object which at this point, within the confines of the drawing it is then I believe it still represents a threat, but a threat unlike the cloud in that the structure of the ‘house’ appears a paltry defense against the threat this object exemplifies. Of course there is no way to know for sure which of these choices is the correct one, but, as I think I have shown, both of the choices that I have presented share in common the idea that this object that casts a shadow, this object with substance, is a threat.


Moving upward on the page we come to the phrase “As it was intangible necessity obliged I imagine some form”.  Due to its proximity to the drawing this phrase could be a commentary on the drawing which suggests that the symbols were used because what was trying to be conveyed has or had no physical existence, and that whatever the ‘Slightly Varying Circumstances’ were or are, they exist completely in the mind. This conclusion is backed up by the use of the word ‘intangible’ which according to the Oxford dictionary is something that is “unable to be touched or grasped; not having physical presence”.  This would explain why I had to “imagine some form” , however another definition for intangible, again from the Oxford dictionary, is “difficult or impossible to define or understand; vague and abstract” which may explain why the meaning of ‘Slightly Varying Circumstances’ has proven to be so difficult to grasp, and that if the original idea was intangible any attempt to relate it in a physical form through a drawing would be very difficult, and that doing so would in no way make any understanding of the original idea easy to come to by either for the viewer or the creator who could not remember creating it in the first place. Having said that it seems apparent from the rest of the phrase that at the time of writing I felt compelled to imagine a form for what was intangible. The word ‘necessity’ defined by the Oxford dictionary as “a state of things or circumstances enforcing a certain course” suggests that events set into motion by this thing with no physical presence then set in motion events that , as the word ‘obliged’ is defined, bound me to an action or course of action. This action being the creation of the finished Slightly Varying Circumstances drawing as well as this page from the sketchbook I am now writing about. In fact, this very action of attempting to make clear what is unable to be touched or grasped is also part of that action I am bound to. The cause for my being bound to this course of action could have been, according to the Oxford dictionary definition of the word ‘obliged’, either because of lawful or moral reasons. I don’t think it was either, for I have had little to no trouble with the law or with obeying the law during the course of my life, and it is highly unlikely that there were any moral reasons that would necessitate a drawing being made and if there were what good it would do to do so is beyond me. So, it seems there are more questions to be asked.


Again, we move upward on the page coming to the words “time line” sitting just below what is a line, or, two lines running parallel to one another to be exact. This, it seems apparent, is a time line the likes of which you might find in a history book describing the rise and fall of the Roman Empire or the duration of a world war. Taken on its own the time line offers no clue as to why it would be there. However, with a slight shift of the eyes upward its purpose may become apparent.


Looking up from the time line our eyes fall upon the phrase “Nothing has occurred to me”.  If this phrase refers to the time line below it may explain why there are no times, dates or events listed on it. That in attempting to create a time line I was unable to think of anything of importance to make note of and therefore left it blank. What events I may have been trying to think of though remains a mystery. Whether they were events having to do with the Slightly Varying Circumstances that lead to the idea, and subsequently to the finished drawing, I have no way of knowing for sure, and like so much of the contents of this page and the other pages within the sketchbook, this phrase only raises more questions than it answers.


“The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a wide-spread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible”  

 -Bertrand  Russell



As I write this, wondering if there is any end in sight, a horrifying thought about the time line passes through my mind. What if the time line was meant for charting the course of a previous and now forgotten investigation into the nature of Slightly Varying Circumstances and the words “Nothing has occurred to me” is a result of all my efforts being in vain? This question rings in my head now as the time line on the page grows infinitely long and the words above it take on a menacing aspect making me wish with all my heart that I had never opened that cursed box.






Knowing that there may be no end has not dissuaded me from my journey into the depths of meaning that lie between the covers of the Slightly Varying Circumstances Sketchbook. After all it is not the end I am after, it is the beginning, the origin of the idea that started it all, and the absolute truth about each and every possible slightly varying circumstance no matter what obstacles may be ahead or hardships I might face. To look through the Slightly Varying Circumstances sketchbook with the hope of understanding is to travel through a maze within which every corner is only slightly different from the next and to make it through you must recognize each of these differences and understand their relation to the whole as well as grasping their own individual meaning. To turn back is not an option, no string could stretch far enough, and not all the bread ever baked could produce enough crumbs to mark the path you would be on.