Excerpt from “Definition”

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Section V:

“Open” & “Ground”

A. “Open”

The next term we’re going to deal with, for better or for worse, is “open,” of which there are numerous definitions, but the one, or several that interest us here, of course, must appositely modify “area of ground.”  I found three of them relevant to our investigation.  “Open,” for our purposes, could mean the following:  “(1) allowing people or things to pass through freely, [or] (25) free from blockage and therefore allowing unobstructed passage, [or] (39) … that part of the field beyond the line of scrimmage where a ball carrier encounters fewer potential tacklers.”

Before we get started in earnest, though, if we want to work with (39) – and I foresee that we do – we are going to have to deal with the phrase, “beyond the line of scrimmage.”  The “line of scrimmage” is, “in [American] football, an imaginary line across the field at which the ball rests and where the players of the opposing teams line up facing each other.” But if it’s “imaginary,” it “exist[s] only in the mind, not in reality,” and if it does not exist in “reality,” it does not have “actual being or existence”; therefore, “beyond the line of scrimmage” means “beyond the line that does not exist in reality, does not have actual being or existence,” and that is just total nonsense:  some physical point cannot be beyond something that does not exist in reality.  Thus, we can banish the phrase “beyond the line of scrimmage” from (39) for nonsensicality, and we are left with “that part of the field where a ball carrier encounters fewer potential tacklers.”  I realize, of course, that (39) was designed with American football in mind, but because we can, and have removed the incriminating phrase, and because “field” is not modified by “football,” the definition can now be, I submit, generalized.  But more on (39) in due course.

All right, now we are ready call to mind a stadium “parking lot”:  what, exactly, are we going to say about the presence of things like those little concrete parking headers, light poles, signs, sign poles, curbs, little esplanades, trees, and the like?   The ground may, at first blush or from afar, appear to be “open,” but it’s not open enough to allow “people or things to pass through freely” (defying definition (1) of “open”), and it’s not open enough to be “free from blockage… therefore allowing unobstructed passage” (defying definition (25) of “open”) because a thing like an automobile, for example, clearly cannot pass freely and unobstructed through a landscape of such obstructions; evasive maneuvers are required; the same goes for motorcycles, and the same goes even for people because, but for these things, they would be able to step anywhere without concern.  This means that, on these two definitions of “open,” (1) and (25), a stadium parking lot, with concrete parking headers and the like, is also not a parking lot.  A largely featureless stretch of earth or concrete, with no automobiles parked on it, might be “open” enough under (1) and (2) to be considered a “parking lot.”

Oddly enough, then, it may be that definition (39) is the most appropriate definition for “open” in the context of the formation and formulation of parking lots because all it’s saying is that a person can pass through such an area with fewer potential assailants.  Now, granted, what comes to mind when we think of a “field” is not an area of open ground that is concrete; we think of grass and dirt and wheat and whatnot.  However, one of the definitions of “field” is:  “an expanse of something such as ice, snow, or lava,” and since the definition says merely “such as ice, snow or lava” [my italics], we can just ignore that section of it as merely exemplary and not dispositive of the types of things that are expanses, and then a “field” is just “an expanse of something” [my italics], which, if a bit general, is obviously inclusive of, among other things, concrete.

In any case, if we use definition (39) for “open,” we may be, so to speak, in the clear because by doing so we may not only obviate the need to wring our hands over fixed boundaries and obstructions, like those concrete parking space headers, but we might also obviate the need to worry about whether, once a number of automobiles, or even just one automobile, is parked in the parking lot, it is no longer technically an “open,” i.e. unobstructed, area of ground, and therefore also no longer a parking lot.  And the reason such an end-around, as it were, might work is that, arguably anyway, the spaces between the automobiles and the other obstructions are still a “part of the field” through which such a ball carrier could continue to maneuver, at whatever speed, un-assailed, for an automobile or a concrete parking header do not potential tacklers make; although, an automobile does represent a potential tackler or tacklers, i.e., the driver and/or passengers thereof.

I have to back up and acknowledge that one might argue that definition (1) of “open” still works in the case where there are no concrete parking space headers or other obstructions, and there is but, say, one other automobile in the parking lot because the presence of one automobile does not jeopardize other people or things from passing through freely; but it does because “freely” means “without restrictions, controls, or limits,” and the presence of just one other automobile in that lot restricts and limits not only any other automobile from parking just where it is parked, it also restricts and limits a variety of trajectories across the parking lot which it might, for whatever reason, be in the interest of the driver of a rival automobile to pursue or follow or track or what have you.

On the other hand, upon closer inspection, there are some real issues with definition (39).  For example, if I enter an empty parking lot in my automobile, park, get out, and go inside the adjacent building to go to the dentist, then, upon my return to the parking lot, find that there is now one other automobile parked there, then the part of the field, or area of ground, in question is no longer “open” because the number of potential tacklers – the people affiliated with that automobile – has not become fewer; it has increased, from zero to one (or more), meaning, therefore, that, because it is no longer “open” under (39), that which was a parking lot upon entry is no longer a parking lot upon exit.  Respectively, if I park in a parking lot with fifty automobiles in it, and when I return, find there are only twenty-five automobiles parked therein, then the part of the field, or area of ground, in question is “open” because the number of potential tacklers this time has decreased, become fewer, meaning that the parking lot, this time, is a parking lot.

But it is, of course, I’m afraid, still more complicated than that because, you see, whether an area of ground is “open” under definition (39) is entirely a function of whether the number of potential tacklers increases or decreases as one passes from point A to point B.  So if a “parking lot” has fifty cars in it, but the concentration of cars decreases as you head from east to west, then as you head east to west, the number of potential tacklers decreases, the area of ground is thus open, and therefore you are in a parking lot; if, however, you head west to east, the number of potential tacklers increases, “closing” the area of ground, thereby rendering what was once a parking lot, no longer one.  You might be able to stop this madness, of course, by standing still in the less concentrated area of the area because there, relative to the more concentrated area, you will encounter fewer potential tacklers, but ultimately, that is, over time, the fix will, with the influx and efflux of vehicles, fail, leaving you, at some times, standing in a parking lot, and at others, not, despite the fact that you have not moved.

So with definition (39) of “open,” then, the problem is that you have to establish spatial limits and limit the temporal range, or window, in which to make your determination as to whether you are in a parking lot or not.  If the “parking lot” has boundaries, they will serve as the spatial limits.  And just think:  if you could establish no spatial limits, you would never be able to know whether you were moving in the direction of fewer potential tacklers or more potential tacklers.  You could be moving across an area where you see the number of automobiles and potential tacklers decreasing, but unwittingly, because you are not taking into account the four hundred and fifty thousand automobiles in the area on the other side of the building, actually be headed in the direction of a greatly increased number of potential tacklers.  In this case, you would think you were in a parking lot, but you would be mistaken; you would not be.

The question sits like an appalling sore out there, though:  if no one tells you there is an increase in potential tacklers out of your view, then what difference would it make?  To you, you are in a parking lot under definition (39).  The bounds, in this case, are set by the spatial scope of subjectivity given a particular physical situation:  the subject need not, then, go to such lengths as to consider what he cannot easily see, perceive, expect, foresee, or infer.  And if the physical bounds are set, then so are the temporal bounds because the subject is, presumably, within those physical bounds for some ascertainable period of time.  He cannot, however, himself, do anything about the increase or decrease of automobiles and potential tacklers in the area while, over the period of time, he is at the dentist.  He can intentionally park in an area where there appear to be fewer automobiles and fewer potential tacklers, such that he parks his automobile in a parking lot; however, fate can only determine whether, when he gets in his automobile to leave, he starts his engine in a parking lot or not.

Under definitions (1) and (25) of “open,” it’s not a parking lot unless it’s either an empty area of ground, completely free of obstruction, including other automobiles, esplanades, but capacious enough to fit at least one automobile; or, under definition (39), it’s an area of ground with fewer potential tacklers.  Under (1) and (25), totally empty and featureless areas of ground are parking lots, and under (39), only those areas of ground with fewer potential tacklers are parking lots, and we’ve seen how mercurial and protean the situation is in these circumstances.

But now if we think of the world-at-large as “the field,” “the expanse of something” with which we are concerned here, then, still looking at definition (39), maybe all areas of ground where we are accustomed to seeing people parking their automobiles should be understood as having fewer potential tacklers in them because, compared against, or relative to, the world-at-large that surrounds such areas, when we enter one, we are always already going from an area of the field, or expanse – the world-at-large – where there are always more potential tacklers to an area where there are always fewer; that is, perhaps if we look at such areas as little enclaves, or oases, of always fewer potential tacklers as compared against the always much greater numbers of potential tacklers just waiting to pounce out there in the vast expanse of the world-at-large, then – the remainder of definitional things being equal – all such areas are “open,” and thus, once again, also candidates for official, definitional parking lot-hood.  And I can see nothing (so far) preventing us from adopting this perspective, this interpretation, so it is the one – provisionally, anyway – that we shall use to support moving on.  Taking this position, however (and of course) does not come without its problems and its price.

Before I got into the analysis of “open,” my tacit expectation was that it would actually serve to limit the space with which we are concerned to a certain type because we all think that a “parking lot” is “open” in some way or another, but under definitions (1) and (25), as we have seen, the limitation went too far; so, we turned to definition (39), and though with it we succeeded in getting a place to park cars, plural – that is, more than one car – we exposed the issue of the size limits of “parking lots.”  The problem under (39) is that probably any area distinguished from the rest of the field, the expanse, the world is a parking lot.  Even if it’s 100 miles x 100 miles large – if it contains fewer potential tacklers and I can park my car in/on it, whatever that area is now, or had hitherto been considered, e.g., a continent, a nation, a football field, swamp, wildlife preserve, skyscraper lobby, your front yard, etc., it is a parking lot.  Granted, at least under (39) we are not faced with something like a world parking lot; nevertheless, what we’re hoping is that the (few) remaining words left in our definition of “parking lot” can provide us with limiting conditions such that the definition ends up being more consistent with our ideas of parking lots and with our perceptions of them as we seem to experience them in the world.

Before I get on to those remaining words, however, I have got to stop again and double-check that I have been as exhaustive as possible with regard to “open”; it, apparently, bears a fair load here; my conscience beseeches me, and I would be remiss were I not to look back one more time at the forty-two definitions of “open” we have before us in our dictionary.  And if you are in any way up for it, I want you to look at them with me and check my work, for it is not with great confidence, just with a modicum of pleasure that I say that the only other definition of “open” which I find relevant to our discussion is number (10):  “having no boundaries or enclosures,” and I am mildly embarrassed to have to admit having missed it the first five times through.  Sometimes, I simply do not want to see the obvious, and very often the reason for this is just plain old laziness.  I get tired and I want to be finished, so I finish.

In any case, however relevant number (10) may be, it’s pretty obviously hurtful to our everyday thoughts and experiences of “parking lots.”  Maybe it wasn’t laziness, after all, that caused me to ignore number (10), but a lightening-fast perspicacity that determined immediately that such a definition could not do because it would rule out as parking lots all of those which are bounded or enclosed in any way, which is to say, not only the ones with obvious boundaries or enclosures, but all of them because, with respect to automobiles, there is no area on the surface of this world that is not bounded in some way and that would not, ultimately, present a boundary issue for an automobile.

Yes, what number (10) contemplates is empty space.  Indeed, it is as if each definition of “open” has, hidden in the background, some secret, tacit subject matter that it is contemplating and that is the motivation behind its construction.  And it appears that none of them (explicitly anyway) contemplates the “open” that somehow applies to parking lots.  I can only “conclude,” then, that definition number (39) of “open” is, remains, until further notice, the best we have to work with, and that our hopes for greater limitation are pinned to the remaining words of the definition of “parking lot.”

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