Discover more from Poetry, Thought, Word Magick
& Long Sentences...
I’ve reverberated back into myself recently with the sound and meaning of words like Re-enchantment, Re-engagement, and the not wholly original neologism (if put to inventive use), Upspiraling - long, hefty, conceptual, big words.
& as well, I’ve wielded big names as big words, Buber/Wiesenthal for instance, and immersively, again and always, Heraclitus, his never the same again always the same again naming.
Towards “re-enchantment” especially, abstractions needed to be searched - even ransacked - for their reality: the daring of Love, Justice, Truth. Also Irony here, when mindful of “I fear those big words which make us so unhappy” from James Joyce’s Ulysses (Stephen Dedalus counting his debts in the face of Mr. Deasy’s stodgy platitudes, the big words in that case being “generous” and “just”).
Then there have been those stupendous negatives to confront, such as Propaganda and Disinformation (see Sunflowers) - grand accusations of bad faith, calling out attacks on Democracy and Truth and Love…
Here’s a tiny, insinuating word: lie. Propped up and repeated shamelessly, the least can become the biggest - most dangerous - corrupting force: a Big Lie. How so? for untruth is emptiness, the product of miniscule honor - of small-minded, shrunken spirits.
Anyways, I’ve jumped in considering big words in their grandeur, but as much want to mention an issue mere length often brings up - multisyllabic, sesquipedalian words taken as intellectual showing off.
I think that kind of ostentation is rarer than is supposed by those of less cerebral temperament; usually, it’s a matter of those words actually being in the brain, albeit at times getting in the way of accessibility, clear communication.
“In philosophy, clarity is courtesy.” - José Ortega y Gasset
Sure, but first you have to get out your meaning. Choke, cough, spit your thoughts - if that’s what it takes. Then comes refinement. Maybe. (Otherwise, bluntness?)
If not sprezzatura, braggadocio. I mean I’m talking big words, fully aware of their problematic nature in staking a claim or claiming great ideals, inspirations, callings.
They who are magnanimous (great-souled) claim much and deserve much. - Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (1123b1-4).
I’ve long mused over the way “claiming” and “deserving” don’t have to be an exact match (as commonly translated and, also, as further developed later in the passage), the word “much” allowing for necessary overlap but not necessarily perfect coincidence. For magnanimity, the levels must match.
I’ve never advocated - but neither have I ever forgotten - Benjamin Disraeli’s saying, “Every man has a right to be conceited until he is successful.” Frederick Rolfe, aka Baron Corvo, presents the formula, “Advance pretensions and presently they will become realities,” in Chronicles of the House of Borgia.
Apropos on the macro level, Ray Dalio, in his Principles for Dealing with The Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail (published in 2021 after chapter drafts were posted regularly on LinkedIn), concludes: “By and large we will get what we deserve.”
As to the words themselves, the long and the short of it might be the long and the short of them. Consideration of literary style. Ethereal Latinate nebulae versus earthy Anglo-Saxon nuggets, up in the air or down in the dirt, universal extension or stub, the interplay of the abstract and the concrete. Poetry and philosophy can almost be defined by that contrast.
Except for the exceptional.
Joyelle McSweeney’s devastating, deep mourning Toxicon and Arachne is philosophy - “Let beauty be convulsive/or not at all.” 1
from "Leading Indicators" ... conciousness is pattern recognition a weed that splits the foundation a lonely and exorbitant evolutionary step demented emphasis
Simone Weil’s The Power of Words is crystal clear in generalization, unto a poetic ring and purity. That’s because she believes in and wields the substance of words, even when they are abstract and talking about the emptiness of abstractions: “What prevents us from seeing the data of the problem is the swarm of vacuous entities and abstractions; they even prevent us from seeing that there is a problem to be solved, instead of a fatality to be endured. They stupefy the mind; they not only make men willing to die but, infinitely worse, they make them forget the value of life. To sweep away these entities from every department of political and social life is an urgently necessary measure…the operation is not an easy one; the whole intellectual climate of our age favours the growth and multiplication of vacuous entities.”
What satisfaction ever and again to find in such interplay - crystallization! Emergence!
Poetry A silver darting holes its rabbit on cue and the ground loses its balance to crows. Is there a wobble to how clouds course the silence? You don't say. If and when proffer their own meat, arrow the traces of disturbance. It never ends. Either frost or bells.
Thought X involutes what is true, the object of knowing. A close-minded objective of giving thought to a subject is to arrive at a conclusion. An open-minded objective of giving thought to a subject is to come around to some discovered clarity on the question. In the clarity, learning; and then, by question opening further questions, a spiral advance.
Word Magick Character and Charge. The use of a word or the turning of a phrase isn't the same for each person or word or phrase. The personhood of the author is there, humanity and authority resident in the language invoked - its sound imbued with voice and tonality, its sense transmissible mind-to-mind, spirit-to-spirit. (Not to say I don't entertain the "death of the author" theory, especially when nuanced from the personalities of such authors as Barthes, Derrida, and Foucault!) It's a living proof that gets put into the words, human proof; therefore, integrity matters. Beyond patterns and repatternings (this isn't AI), a person's words are a bodying of lived character and knowledge. It's up to you to make it mean something when you say, "I give you my word."
& Long Sentences…
Being labyrinthine. Maybe one can or can’t get it straight, keep it simple; yet, however so one’s thought goes, so goes the line. I enjoy entanglements. Intricacies and involuted curlicues are authentic to the workings of the mind. There’s a kind of perspicuity that sees through, follows through, follows along a winding thread, and revels in the raveling - sees it through.
So, I love Proust. Plus, in my inaugural post, it’s no accident I oohed and aahed over the Roman candles of Raymond Roussel’s grammatically correct, quadrupled, and quintupled parentheses.
It’s also no accident Edward Tufte, master of visual presentation of information, includes Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style in his Graphics Press catalogue, his mother Virginia Tufte’s book celebrating exemplary syntacical design: whether as text or as data display (graphs, charts, maps, onscreen interfaces, exhibitions, installations, etc.), the quality of the thinking involved is inextricably linked to its organization.
I wonder how I ever came across this curiosity on Kindle: Jon Haslam’s 1835 On The Nature of Thought: Or, The Act of Thinking and its Connexion with a Perspicuous Sentence.
This book, enjoyable as it is for its intricacies and academic archaisms, presents the thesis that there is no thought without language - without the sentence, specifically. Thought, properly so-called, exists in and as the sequence of (clear, perspicuous) connectivity of meaningful words.
Thought exists only through the constructed sentence. This claim, considered as an early version of linguistic determinism, is all the more fascinating coming from a 19th century physician known as the first medical documenter of paranoid schizophrenia (Haslam being at the time resident apothecary of Bethlehem Hospital in London, popularly referred to as ‘Bedlam’). The equation sentences = thought likely reflects Haslam’s clinical inquiry into the psychological operation of rationality (as against schizophrenic irrationality), relevant to but distinct from modern theories of how language shapes and limits human experience. Haslam treats higher Thought as an achievement. He thinks nothing of mindplay until there is the construction of the sentence.
When we attentively measure the steps of our own minds in the act of thinking, and also observe the progress of others, it will be found that effective Thought does not result from this rapid and tumultuous rush of Ideas; but is a very deliberate, and in many cases painful elaboration: and must, when committed to writing, be subjected to subsequent revisals and repeated corrections, and which must be applied to the words constituting the sentence in which the thought is contained.
As to words, “sounds that are significant” as Haslam has them, “impregnated with definite meaning,” they must be arranged in a manner transparent to their significance. “When these words, under the guidance of acquired knowledge, are perspicuously arranged into a proposition or sentence, they constitute Thought.”
If Thought be effected by the selection and arrangement of words, each of which possesses a definite meaning, and is capable when conjoined with other words, of adding to their significance: of which process, and the individual steps to compose it, we are conscious under due attention, the mystery vanishes, and the act of thinking becomes unfolded in the progressive formation of a perspicuous sentence.
Sentence diagrams are flow charts, schematics of enchantment if one remembers glamour is rooted in grammar (don’t forget to read John Ashbery’s book-length poem Flow Chart as grimoire); the rhythms of thinking-through are incantatory and banish insentience.
Version of André Breton