A is for Afterthought

| February 16, 2014
1. To be added on after something has been finished. To be inconsequential. An afterthought occurs once the ‘thinking’ process has already ended. Or at least that’s what the word has come to imply.
2. An essay I once wrote about the connection between Affrilachian poet Frank X. Walker and Guy Debord was dismissed as an ‘afterthought.’ The professor did not believe the tenuous connections between Walker’s use of pop culture and Debord’s Situationist method of detournement, reappropriation of popular images in order to comment on the pop culture [see image below from Debord’s film Critique of Separation]. Labeling the essay as an afterthought made me wonder what the original thought could have been.
3. The afterthought has become common as a derogatory term even though its definition does not imply such negativity. An afterthought can be viewed as following a new line of inquiry that has only recently come into light. The afterthought is not simply the arbitrary addition of content, rather it reflects the ongoing process of curious minds. If a work, whether it be art or not, ends without any afterthought, without any ‘superfluous additions’ one might be lulled into thinking that the work is contained within itself, that it has said all that needs to be said on the matter at hand.
4. It is possible that I am justifying the afterthought because of the comment my former professor made.
5. ‘After’ means to be following in some series, as in “10 comes after 9 when counting up from zero.” But ‘after’ can also mean to pursue something, as in “He is after an Olympic medal.” ‘Thought,’ put simply, is activity of the mind. I am going to use the second, more active sense of ‘after’ when thinking of its use in ‘afterthought.’ I will reappropriate meanings to fit my own schema. What does it mean to be after thought? To chase down something as elusive and as present as thought? Is this not the one of the goals of both education and art, to make us think, to make us pursue new and disparate thoughts, trying to make sense of what we encounter?