The pages underneath

In an undergraduate English Lit class, selected simply because I needed to satisfy a graduation requirement, I learned a new word. Palimpsest. I liked that word immediately.

First of all, Palimpsest has a nice ring to it. It makes you take notice. But the main reason this word sticks with me is thanks to a most eloquent definition provided by our instructor, a graduate student in English Lit. I paraphrased (poorly) her eloquence in this quote thingy:

Imagine a notepad with sheets of paper. As you start anew on one page, sometimes the words written on the previous page are visible as indentations. In fact, if you rubbed a pencil over the indentations, you can reproduce the original text but with varying quality. Like memory.

I like to think that the things we experience daily in our lives are like pages torn from a big notepad. The really memorable lessons are visible long after. In fact I’d argue that our own Palimpsests define us: Important lessons learned, meaningful experiences, highlights and (unfortunately for us all) failures.

There are really practical applications of a palimpsest too. NOVA devoted a special on a recovered text from Archimedes, considered one of the earliest examples of the great mathematician’s work.

Writing about Palimpsests is tricky: They may only have meaning to the original author, as “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski learned when playing detective (fig 2).

So I’ll try to keep my entries universally relevant. And Rated PG. Mostly.

Jackie Treehorn writes a mysterious note

Fig. 1) A mysterious note. . .

An obscene palimpsest

Fig. 2 ) "The Dude" discovers the contents of the mysterious note.

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