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Showing posts from December 25, 2022

Mencius on water

  When I was toiling away, learning philosophy back in Grad school, I pretty much focused on Western philosophy. That’s a vast amount of material there, bucko, and I figured that if – by the time I was doddering on the lip of the grave – I understood some of it, that would be enough of an achievement. But such projects belong to the long ago of academia. I’ve become more of a pirate intellectual since then – or, less boldly, a dilettante eclecticist. I take my prizes from where I find them. Which brings me to Mencius’ marvelous question, which is quoted in Yi-Fu Tuan’s Dominance and Affection: the making of pets: “Mencius asked, “Is it right to force water to leap up?” He was taking the position that human nature is inclined to act in certain ways and not others, using the movement of water as an analogy. “Water,” he said, “will flow indifferently to east or west, but it will not flow indifferently up and down.” Now of course, he added, “by striking water you can make it leap up ove

Remembering three foot seven

  We measure our growth via shoes, clothes, the visits to the doctors office, the photographs (our first grade class, our high school senior class): but though man is the measure of all things, who among these men and women remember growth from the inside? We, after all, were there, in the growing body. I was once a twenty pound thing. I was once a first grader, about a yard and seven inches tall.   That was the summit from which I surveyed the world.   But how I got to that height and beyond it – this is like the mystery of the holy ghost. The track of my track – if I am the measurer, why is it that these inches and feet seem to have come to me from the outside? Or at least this is my experience. It is a confusing experience. I can describe, for instance, something that happened to me when I was six. I was with other kids, and we were taunting some kid who had moved into the house catty corner from us. This I can remember, but I remember it in an odd space, bi-located – surely I saw


  I was talking with a friend about memory work the other day. She said she really didn't remember a lot about the past and I said that when I was in my forties, I did serious memory work. That is, I'd take an object - in my account of this, for this is not the first time I've talked about memory work, the object I select always seems to be a spoon. Thus, a spoon. I'd take that object and I would dream about past iterations of the spoon as it passed through my life. I mean, how many spoons have I held between my thumb and forefinger? But I'd dive down through the river of spoons and try to alight on my first spoons, baby spoons, which in my case meant that the handle of the spoon - when I have a memory-dim lit image of this, it seems the spoon is pewter gray - was shaped like a cartoon figure. Was it Pop-eye? And then I remember the grapefruit spoons, which are associated with living in Atlanta, in the house Dad and Mom bought in Clarkston. The grapefruit spoons see

Eduard Sievers coulda been a contender

  Eduard Sievers coulda been a contender. Sievers was a German philologist of the early twentieth century. In a series of papers he made a plea for what he called a philology of the ear. A beautiful phrase, that floats there in a gray zone, waiting for a meaning. Sievers, though, thought it had a meaning. Sievers was active at the same time the imagists in American and England, and the symbolists and futurists in Russia were trying to deliver a massive shock to the poetry of their cultures – a poetry that seemed to have been permanently passed by by prose. There were various paths to the new poetry (for, of course, the new person), and one of those was by looking back and trying to grasp that moment in the past where poetry had gone wrong. For Sievers, similarly, philology was born of the era of silent reading, and thus had forgotten the moment when reading was vital – i.e. part of the living stream. That was the long era of reading out loud. Sievers thought that sound of the written