In 2006 I was a student in the Interdisciplinary Studies program at California Institute of Integral Studies (I’m now a faculty member in that same program). At the beginning of our first term, my classmates and I were given the following assignment:
Create a lexicon of words that are new, confusing, or of particular interest to you. This should be an ongoing process in which you keep returning to different words as the term goes on…
The idea was that at the end of the term, each one of us would share our lexicon with our instructors and classmates, through whatever medium of expression we chose.
Thus, at the end of the term, we were presented with lists of words that were worked into poems, drawings, songs, or stories; a list of words that was written on pieces of paper like fortune cookie fortunes and placed inside an enormous sculpted gourd; a list of words that was translated into full-body gestures and strung together into a dance.
And I made my list into The Hyperlexicon.
The Hyperlexicon is an online hypertext document, a collection of simple web pages interconnected by hyperlinks. My intention, in designing it, was to communicate a (grossly simplified) impression of how my experience of the meanings of the words included not only the associations each word called to mind, but the larger webs of association connecting each word and its particular associations with various other words and their respective associations.
In the design of The Hyperlexicon I also wanted to in some way touch upon my experience as a predominantly spatial thinker – that is, to address the fact that my internal experience of language, and my internal experience of the webs of association among concepts, words, meanings, stories, and memories, is to a large degree a spatial experience.
The interconnected pages of The Hyperlexicon are therefore designed to form a sort of maze or labyrinth. I view each page as a chamber, and each link as a passageway. Like any good labyrinth, it has a center, which can be reached only after much navigation of the labyrinth’s twists and turns.
I completed The Hyperlexicon in the Summer of 2006. So in addition to whatever impressions it manages to convey regarding the experience of associative spatial thinking, it now represents a time capsule of sorts, a record of some of the ideas (my own and those of others) that dominated my intellectual life during the first half of that year – a record of the books I was reading, the music to which I was listening, the things about which I was thinking, and the general state of my intellectual, moral, and spiritual development at that specific period of my life.
And that period of my life seems like a lifetime ago. My daughter hadn’t yet been born (though she was in the womb). I hadn’t yet become romantically involved with, or married, the love of my life (though I’d met her). I hadn’t yet been through my graduate studies – the M.A. program in Somatic Psychology, or the transdisciplinary doctoral coursework in Transformative Studies. I was still grappling with what it meant to be Autistic. I had understood and healed very little of my own history of trauma, but was beginning to awaken to how my life had been impacted by ancestral trauma. I was awakening to my own oppression but not yet to my own privilege. My journey as a scholar had not yet brought me to cultural studies, feminist theory, queer theory, disability theory, or some of the other theoretical frameworks that have subsequently come to play a key role in my intellectual and moral life. My aikido was not nearly as well-developed. I was desperately lonely, far more so than I consciously realized. Intellectually, morally, and spiritually, I was arrogant, dogmatic, and possessed of an unwarranted degree of certainty. And yet I had also begun, at last, to recover my youthful sense of the joy of creative play. I see all of this clearly when I revisit The Hyperlexicon today. And I also see a unique bit of art that I’m glad to have created, a first big attempt on my part at merging the academic and the creative, which turned out rather well.
Anyway, if you click on the link below, it will take you to the web page that serves as the “entry chamber” of The Hyperlexicon, and you can go in and explore it yourself.
WARNING: The Hyperlexicon has been known to draw people in and eat hours and hours of their lives. I like to think that it’s a worthwhile use of time, like reading a good book. Nonetheless, if you’re working on a project of your own and you have a deadline coming up, or if you’re a student who needs to get to work on studying or writing a paper, please proceed with caution.