My emblem for multiplicity is the image of the family tree. At its core, or beginning, you have an original point of origin, or couple. This couple decides to have a child, or two children, or maybe many children, but they decide to have children, “multiplying” the size of their family. Then, these children grow up and have their own children and so on and so forth. Eventually, you have this tree of families with many branches splitting off and creating leaves of their own. You have this idea that everyone is interconnected in some way. Everyone is linked.
If we are thinking about this more abstractly, a family tree not only represents “multiple” families, but multiple lives, thoughts, actions. There are multiple things happening at once – someone dies, someone is born. While some branches might be cut off, others are constantly being added. There is this idea of birth, life, death, rebirth. The cycle will continue as long as the families continue to “multiply,” or reproduce. Here, we have this idea of reproduction, as a sort of multiplicity. We are reproducing, to a degree, something we already have. However, this “something” is a bit different. It is a different mix of genetics. While certain traits have been multiplied, others have not. Multiplicity can be selective.
Multiplicity is complex. It is not easy to separate the parts that make up a family, or story, or image. When multiple people, words, ideas, exist, they can be hard to separate. However, a family tree provides a sort of outline for multiplicity. It shows us how multiplicity can visually look, how people can be connected. It takes a dense concept and attempts to present it in a clearer fashion. A family tree is complicated, though. People divorce, remarry, move away. You can lose track of some of the branches. The key, though, is trying to find these connections, always trying to find them. Like the E-lit with it’s “I” center, Bananagrams with the same 26 letters at its core, and the originating couple of a family tree, as long as there is some foundation to grasp onto, multiplicity can remain grounded. The tree can plant its roots.
An analogy for the idea of multiplicity can be found in a game called Bananagrams. This game is somewhat similar to Scrabble, but different in the sense that the pieces on your imaginary board – there is no actual board, you just use a desk or table, or some sort of surface – can move. Each player starts out with a determined set of letters. Then one player shouts out “split,” and all the players flip there letters over to reveal what they have. Once their letters are determined, a player has to start forming words. The words must connect to one another. For example, if you used the word APPLE, you could use the “P” to form PEAR underneath. Once you use up your letters, you shout out “peel,” and everyone must pick up another letter and somehow make it fit on their board. The idea is that you have to constantly move the letters around on your board to accommodate the new ones you are adding. Therefore, while the words, or the meanings, are constantly changing, they are all interconnected in the sense that the letters are not changing, only more are being added. The amount is being “multiplied.” People keep shouting “peel,” until there are no more letters left. At that point, when someone has used all of his/her letters to form words that are interconnected, he/she would shout out, “banana.” The game would then be finished.
I know this is an odd analogy for the idea of multiplicity, but as I sat at my desk thinking of ideas, I noticed my Bananagram set next to my foot on the floor. And suddenly I remembered playing the game with my parents – feeling this rush of adrenaline as I shape-shifted the letters to form new words, that really weren’t all that new, only a variation of what I had already had.
Now that I am thinking about it, I think the most obvious example of multiplicity is the alphabet. I guess this is what I was trying to illustrate in my Bananagram example – this idea that we have only twenty six letters. We sculpt them, mix them up, manipulate them – we have a limited source, but endless possibilities. The English language, itself, gains no new letters. But from these letters, arises “multiple” meanings.
I wrote this in my other blog a couple weeks ago:
There are only twenty six letters in the alphabet. I read in a book the other day how Newton, or maybe it was Galileo – I can’t really remember – likened letters to atoms. He said they are the smallest unit of communication and spin in circles forming new combinations, new meanings. In a way, words create a body, an object, something tangible, in the same way that atoms give weight to the world.
But, since there are only twenty six letters, there are only so many ways in which we might sculpt them, use them, manipulate them to say something we think is important, or maybe not important, or only of semi-importance. We can decide these things, to an extent. The audience, though, will take out of the words and the letters and the passages, what he or she pleases. A writer only has so much control.
With twenty six letters, a sort of cycling will occur, much like the circular image of a clock. Imagine, instead of numbers on the clock, 26 letters. And then imagine several hands on the clock moving from one letter to the next – forming new combinations with each tick or tock. So, while words may be timeless, there is also the sense that they cycle over and over again and maybe it is this cycling that is timeless. Maybe history repeats itself not just because of our actions, but our words.
Like the “I” is the grounding factor in the ever-changing cube of this E-lit, the alphabet, or the limited possibility of letters one can use, is the grounding factor in Bananagrams. Despite a changing board, the letters don’t change, only the combinations do. The letters are interconnected on a sort of grid, must like the “I’s” and “You’s” and “We’s.”