Gaylord Guenin: Community message board crackles with life
I’m troubled, but only slightly, by the word “inanimate.” Perhaps it would be better to say that I am slightly confused by that adjective because of certain contradictions that seem to accompany it at times.
You may decide, if you stay with me for at least a little while, that I am simply nitpicking, which is one reason I am inviting you to come along. I was raised to believe that one does not pick the nit by oneself. “If you are going nitpicking,” my sweet mother used to tell me, “you take some of your little friends with you!” And of course I always did because I was raised to respect my mother.
But we must get back to that troubling adjective of mine. I assume that all of you know the definition of inanimate, at least its common definition (it also has a place in linguistics, where it is defined as “belonging to a syntactic category or having a semantic feature that is characteristic of words denoting objects, concepts and beings regarded as lacking perception and volition,” but I see no reason for us to go there).
It seems sufficient simply to agree that an inanimate object is pretty much the opposite of an animate object, which is one that is alive. We could be wrong, of course, but discussing that probability would simply lead to more useless verbiage and I am already prepared to offer up a great, heaping plate of that stuff as it is.
This whole business of the inanimate object came about as a result of the considerate folks at the Woody Creek Store (that would be George and Patti) attaching a large bulletin board to the front of their building. It is 3 by 4 feet, although I am not quite certain why I would even mention that. At any rate, it most certainly was an inanimate object, or at least we would have agreed on that when it first went up.
There it was, a big piece of cork backing held together by a wooden frame. And then miraculously it began to come to life, suddenly telling us about upcoming fund-raisers and other special events, and helping people search for apartments and jobs, and doing more or less the same for those at the opposite end of that spectrum, those seeking roommates and employers after employees.
It contains sad announcements, often accompanied with heart-tugging pictures, of lost pets; it offers up an endless collection of stuff for sale, from cars and tires to washing machines and old couches; it invites you to vacation in Spain and graciously offers to care for your animals or to baby-sit your children and will even urge you to vote for certain candidates.
It is inanimate, perhaps, yet it is as alive and vital as anything in our little community of Woody Creek, which is what I was talking about earlier when I mentioned contradictions. It is as inanimate as a park bench until three or four old friends sit on it and begin exchanging ancient stories about giant fish and long-forgotten athletic heroics and beautiful women who may or may not have ever existed. Once those friends gather, the bench takes on a life of its own. And even when it is empty, you can hear the invitation it offers: “Come, sit and relax and tell your friends unbelievable tales so that I can eavesdrop and enjoy your stories also!”
I can’t help but believe that most everything has a life of its own. It may just be a matter of our being unable to discern life if it is disguised as something that doesn’t fit the paradigms so carefully laid out those many years ago in junior high biology classes. Not only am I convinced that our bulletin board is alive, I suspect somewhat uneasily that the damn thing may also have a soul.
But it is far from perfect – bulletin boards do have their flaws, or at least those who use them do. People post notices with diligence but they almost never return to unpost their notices.
The Woody Creek Store’s message board belongs to George, as does the building upon which it hangs, thus George can be considered the legal owner of the board and he can establish rules for it as he sees fit. And while he is the recognized owner, he allows me to act as a “Bulletin Board Deputy.” I check it almost daily to remove dated material and to police outrageous attempts at commercialism. Someone attempting to sell their old pickup or their kid’s bike is one thing. The real estate broker trying to peddle dirt is something else.
I pretty much restrict my deputy duties to removing outdated stuff and leave the more complicated decisions about what is acceptable and what is not to George. It is his board, after all.
So I may be exceeding my authority here, but I feel compelled to offer up our bulletin board’s first award for “bad timing.” It appeared on the board before the Iraq invasion and in the middle of our heated dispute with France in the United Nations. The notice offered tutoring in French and the introduction of a French conversation group!
That notice is still on the board, which says a lot of good things about the tolerant nature of Woody Creek residents! Like it or not, that board does have soul!
This is the 286th article in a two-part series devoted to the community of Woody Creek, a place where, if you look closely, everyone is something of a bulletin board in their own right.
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