“Then she led Psyche into a great chamber heaped high with mingled grain, beans, and lintels (the food of her doves), and bade her separate them all and have them ready in seemly fashion by night.  Heracles would have been helpless before such a vexatious task; and poor Psyche, left alone in this desert of grain, had not courage to begin.  But even as she sat there, a moving thread of black crawled across the floor from a crevice in the wall; and bending nearer, she saw that a great army of ants in columns had come to her aid.  The zealous little creatures worked in swarms, with such industry over the work they like best, that, when Venus came at night, she found the task completed.”

Girl finds boy, girl gets boy, girl loses boy.  So go the first three-quarters of the tale of mortal Psyche and the immortal Cupid.  At this point in the story the gods have made clear to both Venus and Psyche that they must come to terms with one another.  Venus of course has had it in for Psyche all along because Psyche’s beauty is a bit too much of a threat for the goddess.  And now on top of this Psyche is pregnant by none other than Venus’ own son, thus threatening to make the goddess of beauty a grandmother.  The above paragraph, taken from Josephine Preston Peabody’s 1897 retelling, describes the first of four tasks the furious Venus assigns to Psyche as she seeks to be reunited with Cupid.

It is, of course, a sorting task.

Here is Tyler Cowen again, from the now-renamed The Age of the Infovore:

One strong feature of autism is the tendency of autistics to impose additional structure on information by the acts of arranging, organizing, classifying, collecting, memorizing, categorizing, and listing.  Autistics are information lovers to an extreme degree and they are the people who engage with information most passionately.

We love to sort.

Or I do, at any rate.  I’m away from home tonight, or the image above would be of the shelf in my office where I have a row of neatly stacked plastic boxes, each with a printed label bearing the name of one or another category of computer peripheral, cable, cord, or other tiny-ish pieces of hardware.  I am most proud of, and inordinately amused by the label on the box of miscellaneous bluetooth paraphernalia, which reads Blueteeth.

Other parts of the office have been in a state of partially sorted disorganization for months.  It’s almost as if I need to know I have sorting to be done, as much as I need to have it done.  My computer hard drives mirror the state of my office, though as they collect clutter more quickly, they tend to get the lion’s share of sorting attention—especially as the office itself completely disappears from my awareness when I am clicking through drives and folders, whereas both computers are always beckoning even when my back is to them.

I’ve been thinking today though about the shape of the satisfaction that grows and clarifies itself as you apply yourself relentlessly to a sorting task, the way things feel as the tags and categories get set and the loose ends find their places.  I’m not synaesthetic, not much or typically anyway, but I do feel that I can almost touch and see the sense of satisfaction I get from sorting, just by thinking about it.

On the other hand, if I could hear that building sense of satisfaction just by thinking about it, I was pleased and surprised today to find that it does seem to sound much like this …

… which turned up today (now yesterday) at the inestimable Boing Boing.  I’ve just been looping it in my free moments ever since.  Yes, obsessively.

Oh, and Psyche?  She got her man back, and became immortal.  And made Venus a proud grandmother.

A daughter, Pleasure.

on 08/20/10 in Art/Play/Myth, featured | No Comments | Read More

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