A man and his child walk into a coffee shop. The barista chats with the child, excitedly, as she gives him his dad’s coffee. The dad chats with the barista. The child walks over near me and tells me that the coffee is his dad’s. He’s only holding it for his dad. He’ll stop growing if he drinks it.
“Oh, that’s not good,” I say.
“Yeah. I’ll stop growing if I drink it,” he says.
The dad and the child walk out of the shop. I am drinking coffee; have I stopped growing?
Whenever a parent lies to their child, I think of my close friend’s child, and wonder whether I’d lie to him. Some, citing Kant, think that lying breaks the “categorical imperative,” and so subverts the concept of any ethic at all. Others, also citing Kant, permit it. Some Buddhists thought that lying was okay, as long as it helped you escape Samsara. Christians say that they believe liars go to Hell, although some others believe that God lied to Abraham about needing to sacrifice his son. I think I’m more concerned with finding new words to teach my friend’s kiddo, so that he can think in figures.
I read a poem about a flower. A “turbulent stasis on a blue ground,” it reads, “Fire of spun gold, grain,” “petals curling into licks of fire.” The ochre sprawls. I imagine that if I saw a real flower like this, burning and sprawling, it would be immense. Literally, it would be on fire. But, presented with a sunflower—as the poem describes—a real life, or google-image searched, sunflower, these are words become exaggerations, extending beyond the image of a real flower. That slippery and expansive language, or lies for those with truncated imaginations, hides in metaphor.
I think of a “literal” description of a sunflower, helianthus annuus. Get as close to the real thing, a stale form of flat sensual perception (if that’s what “real,” to those empiricists, means), as possible; a 34-seed spiral against a 55-seed, Fibonacci’s flower. Still: inescapable figuration, the mechanism of language.
The true sunflower stands tall and mute, outside of figuration. It would not recognize its name. Nomination turns towards those who name, to those who measure reality. It turns towards us. If this flower burns, it burns inside us.
I did not stop growing. The dad’s coffee was rigged, not mine.