I sometimes write in the Notes feature on my laptop, especially if an idea hits me in the moment and I want to get some thoughts down quickly.
Today, I hit the Escape key at some point, having regretfully abandoned what I had thought was going to be a good writing idea, and I noticed that a drop down menu popped up containing a list of words, starting with “I”.
Curious, I hit Enter, then the Spacebar, and then Escape again. Now I was presented with a new word: “love”.
I hit Enter and Space and Escape again. How could I not? And of course “you” was the next word in the top spot. “I love you.”
It’s pretty uninteresting to have your computer randomly profess its love to you, but I sensed some potentiality here for word fun. What would happen if I chose the second word down as a starting place instead of the first one. Where would I end up then?
Here is where I ended up:
You’re the one who has the best thing ever is when you have to be a good day to be a good day to be a good day for me to be a great day with my friends.
The nonsensicality of this sentence in terms of grammar and syntax is beside the point. This sentence feels like it means something; that is one of the mysteries of language. Our brains are suckers for patterns and familiar words/phrases bumping up against each other.
And I did have a great day with my friends yesterday, a day so spectacular I might well indeed have called it a good day three times in a row if someone asked.
But still — maybe there was even more possibility here. What if I colluded with the robot-brain, massaged the results ever-so-slightly to kick free some sort of meaning?
Remember, this is a drop down menu-type deal. There are other words just hovering below the first one. All you have to do is Arrow down and hit Enter.
So I made a game of it, a game whose rules shift and evolve every time I play. I began by choosing the first word in the drop down menu, and then the second word, and then the third…all the way up to ten. I made sure not to look at the “sentence” until I got all the way to ten. Then I hit Enter and looked up:
I love you so much fun and I was just a little bit of a new one.
Obviously that’s more than ten words — “a little bit of a new one” is my contribution, accomplished by allowing myself the luxury of choosing words that stood out to me on the menu until I felt like I had arrived somewhere.
Just like in the first case, there is no literal meaning here. But it feels like there is, a magic trick that works in much the same way a horoscope works: not because of some outside force directing or determining our motives and actions and circumstances, but because of some inside force doing the directing and determining, and usually in ways that are nigh on inscrutable to our waking, walking selves. We ping meaning off the meaningless like existential sonar, navigating the impenetrable darkness of Plato’s Cave. Might as well do it with four computer keys.
There’s nothing like learning to identify significant nonsense when it comes to honing one’s understanding of meaning and sense. Or as Blake puts it, “The fool who persists in his folly will become wise.”
So yeah, I like this game of massaging randomness into meaning. It feels an awful lot like being a conscious being.
Wanna play? As far as I know, this only works with a Mac (I have no brand loyalty; that’s just the computer I happen to own right now) — but since I didn’t know it even existed before this morning, I have no way of knowing what other computers might have this quirky feature.
But if you can and want to play your own version, here are some other variations I came up with:
- Enter your birthday one number at a time, counting down the drop down menu for each digit (7 Arrows down for a 7, 3 Arrows down for a 3, etc)
- “Spell out” your name one letter at a time, where A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, etc.
- This obviously can be done with any letter or number combination. Make up your own games and rules as you go along, and soon you’ll have some very interesting sentences that may even reveal something to you about yourself or your world.
One last thing, which may answer a question some of you are asking at this point: Why do this? Do I simply have too much time on my hands?
To answer that, I will simply copy and paste my favorite “sentence” that came from my playing this morning:
The best part was not enough in that I didn’t know what to do with the same old sameness.