Since you’re reading this blog post online, it’s safe to assume you’re familiar with the Internet, and what’s on it; and that means you’ve likely seen those memes about how, for the socially maladroit or constitutionally reclusive or just really prickly or whatever, quarantine doesn’t constitute a huge change. They’ve been puzzling me.
Memes tend to work—or not work—because of how much, (or how little,) a viewer can identify with whatever it is they’re expressing. Usually, I know exactly how implicated I am in a given meme. This one, for example:
Yeah—no idea. I’m sure this means something to someone, but I can no sooner imagine being that someone than I can imagine wearing such loud pinstripes with such quiet confidence. Whatever this bearded man is up to, it clearly has nothing to do with me. Easy enough. Conversely, there’s this meme:
I know exactly what’s going on here. This is a meme for people who care about English usage. More specifically, though, this is a meme for people who,
a) Care about English usage,
b) Care enough about others’ imperfect mastery thereof to feel assailed by solecistic usage, and
c) Consider their membership in groups a and b central enough to their identity to actually share this meme, or at least chuckle appreciatively at it or something.
While I belong to group a, and am neither especially proud nor particularly ashamed to admit it, I do not belong to groups b and c, and would be ashamed if someone mistook me for a member of either. (I find such people rebarbative in the same way I find people who discuss skiing rebarbative, given that such discussions are invariably predicated not just on the assumption that one’s audience has skied at all, but on the assumption that they’ve skied Aspen’s Highland Bowl or some shit.) Regardless, I understand just where I stand in relation to this meme, and how to interact with it.
1. Not least because this meme is, itself, solecistic. Grammar refers to the system and structure of language, which isn’t a tool, but a set of conventions. One doesn’t use grammar at all. One uses language, and in doing so, either hews closely to the set of syntactical and morphological conventions we call grammar, or doesn’t hew that closely to them. And, even when someone’s usage of language is solecistic, it tends to be way more conventional than unconventional. Imagine an English speaker asking another English speaker else he might find something. He might say, “Where’s it at?” and commit a single solecism, or he might say, “Ἡροδότου Ἁλικαρνησσέος ἱστορίης ἀπόδεξις ἥδε, ὡς μήτε τὰ γενόμενα ἐξ ἀνθρώπων τῷ χρόνῳ ἐξίτηλα γένηται, μήτε ἔργα μεγάλα τε καὶ θωμαστά, τὰ μὲν Ἕλλησι τὰ δὲ βαρβάροισι ἀποδεχθέντα, ἀκλεᾶ γένηται, τά τε ἄλλα καὶ δι᾽ ἣν αἰτίην ἐπολέμησαν ἀλλήλοισι,” which, though not exactly solecistic, is unconventional enough to be medically actionable. To conclude: This is a stupid meme.
But, lately, I’ve been seeing memes like this one,
and, as I say, I’m puzzled by them.
I am a fourth year student at Antioch. My thesis’ subject is the relationship between literary realism and political liberalism. I live alone, in a one-bedroom apartment. I have a wide group of friends, but most of them live out of state, and we communicate largely by telephone as it is. In my free time, I enjoy reading, playing various instruments, cooking, and sailing, all of which are things I generally do alone. I enjoy solitude and, on the occasions I feel lonely, can’t say solitude is to blame. In short, it would appear I’m this meme’s intended audience.
And yet quarantine feels profoundly strange—like an abrupt, inexplicable tear in the fabric of my life, and one that’s occurred very far away from any seam. This is not my “normal daily lifestyle,” yet it’s proved incredibly difficult for me to explain how that’s so. I think I’ve arrived at an answer, though.
Recently, Antioch’s Department of Communications asked me to write a series of blog posts about what it’s like to be a student during the Quarantine Spring. In the process, I’ve had occasion to examine what Antioch’s physical absence in my life has meant to me, and the ways in which I’ve worked to fill the void it’s left. The result’s been a kind of inductive discovery of what Antioch meant to me—what it means to be a member of the Antioch community, and what the Antioch community even is.
Of course, I don’t claim to have arrived at a definitive answer: I can only say what Antioch means to me, and what Antioch is for me. But, if you’ve made it this far, goodness knows you’ve got either a lively interest in this school or, for some reason, in me. Either way, the posts to come this week may interest you, so why not stick around? There’ll be another post tomorrow.
Seriously. Stick around. I need the company.
About Ben Z. ’20
Ben is a member of the class of 2020.
He’s studying literature.
He enjoys a good club sandwich, and once got a chicken elected to Comcil.
Antioch College Admission