Concerning Height and Depth

Mutant foxes are shallow.

Or so you’ve likely heard. It’s not a flattering generalization, and I wish people would stop spreading it around. But like most stereotypical notions, it has some basis in fact.

As neofoxes hop about the cultural landscape, across all areas of speculation, creativity, and study, they cannot aspire to plumb the depths of human understanding as did the paleofoxes of lore. “Go an inch wide and a mile deep” is more than just a slogan; it is nearly a physical law in this age of hyperinformation. And the hedgehog dutifully obeys this law.

But the very law that states that it is no longer possible to go both wide and deep says nothing about height, as I proposed in my paper “Out of the Depths and Into the Heights,” which I presented at the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando, Florida, in 1997. The depths are charted territories, while the heights open out into “a universe exploding with literally infinite possibilities.” Hedgehogs have trouble getting to the heights, but foxes are right at home there.

In the heights, moreover, can be found vantage points from which it becomes possible to leap from one subject, discipline, area of knowledge to another, finding connections among them, making what David Gelernter calls “affect links” amid and among science, philosophy, history, politics, art, literature, music, and all the rest of it. As Gelernter put it in The Muse in the Machine, “creativity, intuition, insight, metaphoric thinking, ‘holistic thinking’; all these tricks boil down at base to drawing analogies.” Such analogies are just plain vital to thinking in our megafaceted age.

So are we mutant foxes shallow? The question is irrelevant. We are elevated, buoyant, high. And the world needs us.

But even the fox must be driven by some unifying goal, idea, or theme.

That idea is Story.

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One comment on “Concerning Height and Depth

  1. A very interesting thought. Keeps the mind thinking! Thanks for sharing.
    Rosemary “Mamie” Adkins
    Author, Extraordinary Dreams of an Ireland Traveler

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