I think about strange things sometimes. No one who knows me is surprised about it anymore. During a weird idea acquisition binge I indulged in several years ago I became aware of the Max Headroom Intrusion, Toynbee tiles and other such social arcana.
The Toynbee tiles intrigued me the most and I think about them quite a lot. If you are unfamiliar with the phenomenon, I’ll explain briefly. Some unknown individual(s) have placed small tiles on roadways and sidewalks in the eastern part of the country. These tiles are handmade and most look somewhat like ransom notes with letters cut from magazines to evade identification by handwriting analysis. The main idea the tile maker(s) seem to be conveying is that the dead should or shall be resurrected on Mars. It is unclear to me if they (or he or she) want the dead already on Mars (Martians) to be resurrected or if the dead from Earth will be transported to Mars for resurrection. The reference something called the “Toynbee Idea” and the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”.
None of this makes any logical sense to me. Despite my confusion, the fact that someone finds the idea important enough to make and surreptitiously place these tiles (which it is believed are coated in some substance that gradually wears or melts away leaving the tile exposed only after the tile maker is long gone) is certainly intriguing. Couple this with the unknown identity of the tile maker(s) and it smacks of whacko conspiracy theory oddity, the study of which is a hobby of mine.
Anyway, this post is not about the tiles or the “Toynbee Idea”. It is about the way the English language works and how it seems that we somehow understand that writers of sentences and phrases do not mean exactly what they say in some instances. At least one tile calls upon others to make and lay tiles. The tile I reference states “You must make and lay tiles! YOU!”
Now, reading this we understand that sentence is designed to call the reader to action. However I am not “you” to me. I am I. Yet I still understand that the “you” the author refers to is me even though I never refer to myself this way. If I was unfamiliar with English idiosyncrasies, I would fail to understand that the request was directed at me because I am not “you”. If the author had written “I must make and lay tiles! I!” I may then understand if I was unfamiliar with the language. Knowing the language, however, I do not read in the first person so I understand the “you” refers to me even though I am not “you”; I am I. Understanding English, I am aware that the author would not refer to a stranger as I. By crafting the sentence the way he, she, they or it have, they have caused me to understand that they are calling readers, rather than themselves, to action. The reader understands that the writer is writing from his/her/their/its own perspective. For some unknown reason, this fascinates me.
I leave you with a joke of my own crafting (as far as I know. If you’ve also thought of this joke or heard it elsewhere, understand that I am unaware of it and am not attempting to plagiarize.). What is the first thing two individuals who have just been released from prison experience upon getting married? Con-fusion. A ha ha ha. Confusion, con-fusion. Two cons now one. I apologize for that joke.
I bid you adieu…and a don’t.
Adieu…look into the Toynbee Tiles if you are interested or literally have nothing else to do.
A don’t…make and lay tiles! Don’t! I’m sure it’s considered a form of vandalism.