Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Making words translucent

Normally a blog about Jan Cox would not quote from someone not him, and partly because fresh phrasing goes along with fresh thinking. (Though fresh thinking is so much an understatement as to be very misleading). But, today we are quoting a newsletter by Anu Garg, about words, and today's word was:

limn -- verb tr.:
1. To portray in words.
2. To draw or paint, especially in outline. 

Via French, from Latin luminare (to illuminate), from lumen (light). Ultimately from the Indo-European root leuk- (light), which is also the source of words such as lunar, lunatic, light, lightning, lucid, illuminate, illustrate, translucent, lux, lynx, and lucubrate. Earliest documented use: 1440

And I quote the above because the word reminded me of Jan Cox: it was a word he used to describe what he was doing on stage, thousands of nights, to enable others to see in the direction he could. A task he shouldered knowing it was inherently contradictory---using words to point beyond words.  

Jan said once, that if you don't know the origins of a word you cannot use it correctly. His example that night was 'cakewalk.'  If you can wad up lightning, lynx, lunatic and translucent, in one instant, you might also get a glimpse of what he was pointing to.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Two Seas in a Pod part -- whatever

The juxtaposition of the enterprises of science and modern religion (that part of religion which scientists think is the core of religious thinking---creationism, more about that curious confusion later perhaps) was, in a recent post, meant to highlight the similarity of science and creationism. Creationists cling to a narrative of cause and effect, while scientists build on an unacknowledged faith in free will. The similarity being in their common ignorance of their own realities. Science and ordinary religion are together, like those silhouettes that shift shape when you peer at them. Shape shifting as shadows do, using the oldest metaphor I am aware of, Plato's (Socrates') story of shadows on a cave wall--shadows cast by real objects, only already, 2500 years ago, man was confusing the shape and the substance. Or, in a better known picture by Jan Cox, the map of the picnic table, and the food thereon. Most ants ate the map. Every day now, there is more map to eat. 


Zuckerberg's goal has been described as to change the world, to make it more social. Who can appreciate that this is an unwitting part of the mechanical machinery of life. Who can glimpse that the founder of facebook is talking about MORE words (making our reality more verbal) , that words----obscure, words obscure that which the real thinker strives to see, and given the always brief, (brief and unearned) sight, strives to remember, the verb of wordlessness.