And Just a Teency, Weency Bit More About Flockbinkers

by David Kennedy Bird

Throughout the first few posts to this blog, i, The Blogger, have made a number of references to ‘flockbinkers.’ An atmosphere of flockbinker-related expectation has been generated. On top of which, one cannot escape noticing that the BLOG is NAMED after flockbinkers. So, amid all this discussion of ‘flockbinkers,’ a reasonable person might be tempted to conclude that, at some point, someone is going to step forward and say, “Here’s what a flockbinker is. Because we know you’ve been wondering.”

Fat chance, sweetheart.

This post may be about as close as you’re gonna come to enjoying such a clarifying experience. (And i’m not sure how clarifying it’s going to be. Honestly, it’s mostly about unicorns. I’m just letting you know in advance.)

So, to begin with—while we’re on the topic of ‘clarity’—we need to clearly establish something: the flockbinker does not exist in the same way that you and i do.

“Aha!” exclaims the Good Reader, who has been waiting for an opportunity to pounce ever since his humiliation a couple of posts back.

(A Brief Excursus: Even though i keep insisting on referring to him by the pronoun ‘he,’ i strongly suspect that the Good Reader is, in fact, a ‘she.’ This is based on both infratextual, intertextual, and trans-textual evidence. But we digress.)

The Good Reader: Humiliation? That’s not how i remember it. I seem to recall bearing up nobly in the face of rude treatment, even though i was a guest on your blog. You should feel humiliation, for having publicly violated the most basic rules of hospitality.

The Blogger: Ahem, i think you were about to make some sort of point.

The Good Reader: Yes. I was about to say, “Aha! I knew all along that flockbinkers aren’t real!”

The Blogger: But they are real. Well, i mean, it’s sort of complicated.

The Good Reader: What’s complicated? Either a flockbinker exists or it doesn’t. We could ask its mom.

The Blogger: Ask its mom? You realize, of course, that (if the flockbinker is even the sort of entity that has a mom) the flockbinker’s mom would have to be a flockbinker as well, therefore the existence or nonexistence of flockbinkers could hardly be established by seeking out and interviewing their mothers. If they’ve got mothers, the mothers would, by definition, be flockbinkers, so there you go. On top of which, if a given entity ‘x’ is the mother of entity ‘y’ (a flockbinker), then entity ‘y,’ the flockbinker (the one with the mom) having a mom, must, of necessity, exist.

The Good Reader: I was kidding. Jeepers.

The Blogger: Oh. Right. Sorry.

The Good Reader: So you still haven’t explained how flockbinkers can kinda maybe exist.

The Blogger: I didn’t say that they ‘kinda maybe exist.’ I said that they do exist. Well, i mean, it’s complicated.

The Good Reader: You keep saying that.

The Blogger: Okay. So forget the ‘it’s complicated’ part. Flockbinkers exist. Period. End of story. They exist.

The Good Reader: Good. I like that – decisive. Now, since they exist, what are they?

The Blogger: Well, that’s where it starts to get sort of, er, um, uh.

The Good Reader: Complicated.

The Blogger: Yes. That.

The Good Reader: I don’t get how it can be ‘complicated’ that something exists. Call me a moron. Either things exist, or they don’t.

The Blogger: Okay. Let’s try something. Describe a unicorn for me.

The Good Reader: Well, it’s like a horse, and i think they’re usually white, but maybe not, and it’s got a single horn coming out of its forehead, and they like to hang out with virtuous young women, i don’t know why, and you can find them on Medieval tapestries, and if you grind up its horn into a powder you can do magic with it, and, and, i guess that’s about it.

The Blogger: Let’s ignore the fact that you kept alternating between the singular and the plural in referring to unicorns. The more interesting fact, to me, is that you were able to describe one.

The Good Reader: Why is that?

The Blogger: Because they don’t exist.

The Good Reader: Oh. I guess not. Well, i mean, kind of.

The Blogger: What’s that? I don’t understand what that means. “Oh i guess not well i mean kind of.” What does that mean?

The Good Reader: Never mind. You’re right, unicorns don’t exist.

The Blogger: Yet you were able to describe one.

The Good Reader: Uh-huh. Everybody knows about unicorns.

The Blogger: But they don’t exist.

The Good Reader: Right.

The Blogger: Yet you were able to describe one.

The Good Reader: Uh-huh. You know what, we could just record the past few seconds of this conversation, put it on an endless loop, and go grab some donuts and coffee, come back in a few minutes, and no one would ever know.

The Blogger: Unicorns don’t exist, yet you were able to describe one.

The Good Reader: …or, you could just neatly summarize the past few seconds of the conversation and save us the trouble of recording it to a loop. That’s less work for us. Good thinking.

The Blogger: But don’t you see?

The Good Reader: Mmmmm.

The Blogger: You were able to describe for me something that doesn’t exist!

The Good Reader: Yup.

The Blogger: How did you do that?

The Good Reader: How did i describe a unicorn? Easy! Who doesn’t know what a unicorn is?

The Blogger: I don’t. I don’t know what a unicorn is. Because a unicorn isn’t. There is no such thing as a unicorn. Or, we could use the plural, since you seem to like that just as well: there are no unicorns. No unicorns. Unicorns don’t exist.

The Good Reader: Mm-hmmm.

The Blogger: So what is it that you were describing?

The Good Reader: A unicorn! What’s wrong with you?

The Blogger: But there isn’t a unicorn to describe! You can’t describe a unicorn, because there isn’t one! There’s nothing to describe! You’re not describing anything! No unicorn, no description of a unicorn! No description! No unicorn!

The Good Reader: Calm down.

The Blogger: So is it complicated whether unicorns exist or not?

The Good Reader: Um… no. I don’t think so. Unicorns are fictional. Just because i’m able to describe one, that doesn’t mean they’re real.

The Blogger: How is that? How are you able to do that? What exactly is it that you are describing, if there is no such thing as a unicorn?

The Good Reader: Well, i’m describing… hmm. Pictures i’ve seen, and descriptions that i’ve read in books. I’m describing the way a unicorn is always portrayed in books.

The Blogger: This nonexistent unicorn that we’re talking about.

The Good Reader: Yes. That one. He shows up in a lot of books, and based on the way he is generally depicted, i think i can describe him to you.

The Blogger: And other people could do the same thing.

The Good Reader: Sure. Lots of people! Everybody knows about unicorns.

The Blogger: These unicorns that don’t exist.

The Good Reader: You keep harping on that, and i seriously don’t think you have a point. So what if they aren’t real? People can still know about them.

The Blogger: Know about what?

The Good Reader: Unicorns! I’m going to hit you.

The Blogger: I’d like to challenge your assertion that unicorns don’t exist.

The Good Reader: Hey, look, you’re the one who keeps repeating over and over that unicorns don’t exist. I’m just an innocent bystander.

The Blogger: Okay. Let’s pretend that i’ve changed my mind. Now i believe that unicorns do exist. Are you willing to agree with me?

The Good Reader: Uh, wait. I don’t get what you’re doing.

The Blogger: I’m saying that unicorns do exist, after all. And i want you to either agree or disagree with me.

The Good Reader: Wow. What is wrong with this guy. Okay, i’ll bite. I disagree. I don’t think unicorns really exist.

The Blogger: These unicorns that you and everyone else seem able to describe in great detail. They don’t exist.

The Good Reader: Well, they don’t REALLY exist.

The Blogger: Hah! Now we’re getting somewhere. So there may be a difference between something that exists, and something that REALLY exists.

The Good Reader: You’re exhausting.

The Blogger: So maybe unicorns do exist in one sense, while utterly failing to exist… to REALLY exist, as you so eloquently put it… in another sense.

The Good Reader: Sure. Okay.

The Blogger: And how about this. What if the unicorn doesn’t REALLY exist because he is not a physical, concrete, reified entity occupying a kind of physical-ontological space in the real world of real, concrete objects.

The Good Reader: Wow. Just wow. I have no response to that.

The Blogger: But what if he does exist in another sense: as an idea, a concept, an archetype; as an indispensable feature of our Western storytelling tradition; as a kind of placeholder in our collective cultural imagination; as a character on the stage of our literary-historical consciousness.

The Good Reader: Fine. That.

The Blogger: So if i were to ask you, “Is the unicorn real? Does he really exist?” you would be justified in answering either ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ depending on how you were able to nuance the question.

The Good Reader: Uh-huh. Sure.

The Blogger: So you were wanting to know whether flockbinkers exist.

The Good Reader: Uh…No. No, you must be mistaken. That never happened. I’m fine. We don’t have to talk about flockbinkers. Oh, will you look at the time! The hours just fly by, don’t they? Gotta run.

The Blogger: You can only temporarily defer this conversation, Good Reader. After all, i’m the Blogger, and i can re-introduce you into the dialogue anytime i want to.

The Good Reader2 : Well, that depends on whether you are addressing me as The Good Reader1, a completely fictional character of yours who enjoys no real existence outside of the blog, or whether you’re addressing me as The Good Reader2, an actual individual person who does exist in the real world and does, in fact, happen to be reading the blog at the present moment…(and you know who you are)….

The Good Reader3 : …or whether you’re addressing me as The Good Reader3, who really does exist—although it’s sort of complicated—as a kind of idea, an archetype, a placeholder in our collective imagination as readers and Bloggers, a character on the stage of our Calling All Flockbinkers consciousness.

The Blogger: Wait. What’s the difference between The Good Reader1 and The Good Reader3 ?

The Good Reader2: You’re supposed to be a philosopher. Figure it out.

Ouch. All i can say, Good Readers1-3, is that i shall now retreat to lick my wounds and await our next encounter. And when that day comes…may the best archetype win.