#4 What Do You Call The Watchamacallit?

“And as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name.”  — William Shakespeare

Signature of William Shakespeare from Page 3 o...
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Sir John Gilbert's 1849 painting: The Plays of...

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“His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself . . . it and its volcanic fires that toss and boil, and never rest night or day. These are his life, and they are not written, and cannot be written.”  — Mark Twain

Anti-Stratfordian Mark Twain, wrote "Is S...

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“It is only the language of another that I can master, my own does with me whatever it wants.” — Karl Kraus 

Karl-Kraus-Tafel am Geburtshaus
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“We are continually living a solution of problems that reflection cannot hope to solve.”  — J. H. Van den Berg

Cover of "The Natural (Director's Cut)"

Cover of The Natural (Director’s Cut)

I think we have two lives: the life we learn with, and the life we live with after that.”  –Iris’s line from the film based on Bernard Malamud‘s novel The Natural.

*     *     *

One notion above all else remains abidingly clear: It is our words that define the experiential realm in which we continually dwell. Without them what we live would simply not be there. It would be replaced by an unimaginable existence in an altogether unrecognizable world, something unutterable, indescribable, and even inconceivable. In other words, it would not be and could not be anything we know.

So, before the conductor shouts “All Aboard” and the train pulls out of the station, it’s worth taking a few minutes to make certain everything is ready and at hand for this undertaking. It’s purpose is not to “wrap things up” but to open them up. Were that not so we would be finished before we start. And no use going on a trip that doesn’t actually travel anywhere, right? What thing or things are we talking about here? Life . . . that stuff you and I are living all the time, have been since our first moments ever, and will continue to right on up to the last breath of us both.

There are three aspects of life to keep in mind throughout this venture. First, that any life is unlike any other to be found anywhere. Second, it isn’t something “in general” but something “in particular.” It is specific, unique, and individual. It exists as something real, one of a kind, and finite — which means it has limits, an outer edge, within which it exists and outside of which it doesn’t. Third, and where is the whole of this reality of which we are speaking? It is in your body — within the boundaries of your own skin — the outer perimeter of your very self. For whatever affects your body also affects your soul. What happens to one happens to the other, for as long as you live you are both. Whoever wants to know you must deal with your body — for your identity lives and breathes there — just as that of anyone you want to know can only be fully found in their body. And these boundaries and limits permeate life, so that to simply to live involves one in dealing with both of these, and with the endings and beginnings that all life inevitably entails.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jjhiii24
    Jan 18, 2012 @ 19:55:50

    I am intrigued by the position you are taking with this post, not so much because I agree necessarily, but because it states your view so directly and emphatically. It’s a great way to present your thoughts, and your premise is interesting, but I wonder if you may be skipping a few steps in between stating your premise and stating your conclusion.

    Words do matter, that much is certain, and language is the foundation of all thought, as I have concluded that before we can even know we are HAVING a thought, we must be able to EXPRESS a thought somehow. I believe that not enough of our 21st century thinkers are considering the importance of language in the development of our cognitive talents.

    Where you begin to stray, I think, is when you posit that our bodies–“the boundaries of our own skin,”–is where the “outer perimeter of our very self” is located. Everyone can agree that as individual temporal beings, our physical identity as a person appears to be “contained” within our bodies, but I would suggest that our bodies and identities are more clearly a reference point for our temporal existence, as opposed to an undisputed location for the whole of our being.

    The very complexity of all life generally, it seems to me, with every nook and cranny of our terrestrial ecosystems all the way through the innumerable strata of existence within the known universe in which everything exists, begs the question of where the boundaries truly exist.

    I love that you are addressing these ideas, and anticipate elaboration and contemplation of the process of thoughts which engender conclusions of the sort you have enumerated here.

    With much admiration……John H.


  2. plainsmann
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 02:11:29

    Hello, John ~ Thank you for such a clear, on-topic, thoughtful response to this blog’s initial posting on the significance of words. Given your original postings here, I expected nothing less. Unfortunately, due to competing outside work projects for me at present, I find myself behind where I believe you are in keeping abreast of the blog’s central thread. Because of our shared interest in essentially the same monumental theme we’re treating, I started making my way through the highly developed entries of your own blog, as the necessary “homework” required on my part to give your reasoned opinions the attention they merit. Your two postings now, however, leave me with some real catching up to do before responding with the substance they clearly deserve.

    Thus, I request that you please allow me until the weekend to: 1) Place a small segment in the ‘About’ section of my blog (as I promised earlier on the bottom of the blog’s ‘Welcome’ page) to spell out in some detail just where to find what in other related material I’ve placed online — bringing its scattered but related pieces into greater harmony; and 2) Complete my reading of the polished postings that comprise your blog’s pages; and 3) THEN . . . to sound the “All Aboard” officially starting our train moving on its way into the venture to investigate Human Experience . . . the initial piece of which will be touching upon the important points raised in your postings here today.

    With your permission, that is what I will now do.



  3. jjhiii24
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 06:17:56

    Perhaps, more than anyone, I recognize the competition for our attention to the urgent matters of living life, and I have learned great patience as the father to six children, (all grown up now) so please don’t be concerned about your schedule.

    I often struggle to get to the writing desk in my office (for the purpose of writing anyway) and have a full appreciation of your workload as someone who has to function in numerous capacities. It took me a while to respond, and I also occasionally receive comments which require more reflection on the subject.

    Looking forward to sharing a seat on the train…..John H.


  4. plainsmann
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 09:33:12

    Again, John, a response so respectful and commendably cognizant of all that this blog is attempting, that it models the very kind of back-and-forth required for it to treat its topic and fulfill its purpose. I could easily illustrate how superior your response is — and the very high vein in which it’s cast — by giving a few examples of what I’ve found on other sites that led me to turn away and, finally, brought me here. How propitious and downright lucky that now shows itself to be, considering you and I have actually given ourselves to intensely investigating the same, shall we say, notoriously unconquerable subject for the past THIRTY-FIVE YEARS! What was the likelihood of such a thing happening!? What’s more, we’re both eager to bring to bear on this topic and make available to each other the results of that — and in a spirit of respect, no less, out of our shared interest in finding out even more and advancing as far in it as we possibly can. Utterly remarkable!

    And, as is obvious, I’m not steering this train, but simply here as one of the passengers on it. How fortuitous that by happenstance I chose the same car you did and that the seat next to you happens to be open. I’ll lose no time in now setting my carry-on items and myself down in it and staking it out as mine. :- )

    I’ll return just as soon as I’ve finished the reading task I’ve set myself that will prepare me properly for our conversing. And may I thank you for choosing to follow the older custom of communicating in whole sentences, rather than in abbreviated fragments and a symbolic shorthand that are intentionally glosses and, while often admittedly original, many times so idiosyncratic as to be altogether indecipherable.

    Relishing the richness of the prospect now before us and the great promise it holds,



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