D is for Definition

| February 4, 2014

In the second chapter of Tim Ingold’s Lines: A Brief History, the author attempts to formulate his own working definition of what a line is. At the start, I will admit that I was a bit skeptical of Ingold’s mission, simply because a line can be and makes up so many different things. Before offering his definition, Ingold includes Dr. Samuel Johnson’s seventeen varying meanings of the word “line”. Skimming the list, I first notice that Johnson’s meanings range from the very precise to the abstract. His fifteenth definition states that a line is one-tenth of an inch, while his twelfth definition contrastingly states that a line is simply an extension. It was while I was reading these opening few pages that I grew to admire the author’s task. Personally, I have never bothered to think about what a line is. Lines can be found literally everywhere; looking around the room now, I immediately see hundreds of lines. As human beings who have the ability to think and reflect, I find that we constantly feel the need to grasp what we do not know, and we try to give meaning and semblance to those things beyond. But what about the familiar? The commonplace? Perhaps in their expression, we can give greater meaning to our everyday lives. In reading Ingold’s thoughts on lines, I hope to see what surrounds me in greater depth. I hope to think about the millions of lines that fill my room, that fill my life, that fill my world with the hope of reaching some sort of clarity. I expect this to be a fulfilling journey.