Monday, October 05, 2009


I love language.

A word is like a thermos bottle; with no moving parts or detectable brain it is able to accommodate either of two opposing tasks without having a more specific purpose than, “Keep this like it is!” No matter whether it contains chilled perfect martinis or the hottest Kenyan Java the thermos faithfully preserves them just so, so long as partakers appreciate them enough to remember to replace the cap.

If the contents happen to remind the imbiber of a distraction from returning the top, they begin to change from their well-preserved conditions to whatever the ambiance happens to be wherever they’re left exposed. You might still call them martinis but, hot as the Sahara, they’ren’t the same thing at all.

My favorite words are universal metaphors that can hold their own within any context: threshold, culture, duality, consciousness … and like a thermos’ contents, the intended context must be appreciated for the flavor of its meaning to be tasted throughout the repast.

The word that inspired the forgoing distraction is “love.” Love is one of those words whose intended meaning is most protectively misinterpreted by the receiver’s past. My purpose in exploring it here is to praise its most profound, primary function as a plowshare cultivating fallow fields drained of the vitality to transcend the habitual complacency of solitary stoicism hanging on to those lives of quiet desperation.

Love is the cultivator across the scale of the concept of culture, from the onset of embryogenesis in a petri dish, pond scum or a womb, to the sympathy required to begin a culture as small as a mating pair and as large as a civilization … or a planetary body. As a cultivator, love surpasses the initial attraction that results in such new entities, which can be anything from sex to usery to security in numbers. It is the will to abandon the relative security of your status quo for the chance you haven’t “seen everything” just yet evoked by another who promises to reveal more if you will. It is recalling the vitality in the fresh air of unbridled curiosity wakened by one's first breath in a world it felt free to explore.

I have recognized this function of love acting as the great cultivator in the aftermath of certain friendly discussions over the years that grew too contentious to bear perceived proximity, resulting in either yelling because we felt too far away or stomping out because we felt too close. The painful disappointment of such heated impasses is like a plowshare tilling along what had seemed to be the seam of the pair’s indivisible unison, exposing the stuff of wishful thinking sugar coating bridges over unbrookable intolerances. Only love can make one willing die for another, or at least plow up the rocks of uncompromising, unconscious, structural assumptions that enclose our mind’s freedom to love another actual being unconditionally — and live with it happily ever after.


Brian Miller said...

wow. thanks for stopping by. really enjoyed this one. words are my playground...but your thoughts on love are spot on that last paragraph captured me.

Yodood said...

I am indeed honored, having capture admitted by one who could pen your tender, insightful "Mining" piece — very much from the same place as this one of mine.

Anonymous said...

I love language too- it is fascinatiing. I like your analogy of the thermos flask.

You write beautifully about love and what it can achieve :)

troutsky said...

I alss enjoyed the piece and love Love but I see language as a much more hotly contested arena than the thermos metaphor suggests. The word "culture" just fpr instance, is a battleground of opposing meanings. Try Liberty and Justice for All and see how many definitions you get!

Yodood said...

Cinnamon, You amaze me. I thought this was much more convoluted than the the last post, as evidenced by Troutsky's comment, but you seemed to "get" this one, and not the other. Ah, well, can't win 'em all.

Trout, that's why I made the metaphor of words and thermoses: they can contain any context until someone tries to misunderstand, forgets the top/meaning lying on the table and lets your hotly contested ambient tangents do the misdefining.

"“When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.”

Pisces Iscariot said...

The word love could be viewed in the same way that Pirsig viewed quality - we all know what it is but we cannot explain it or quantify it.
But then why should we? Some things don't need explanation or definition; in fact, it is often the case that to define it is to destroy it.

Yodood said...

The problem is not in the word but in the fact that each communicator is pushing his own definition despite the one that defined it first. It would seem words are mini civilizations; prophesied to achieve a specific goal, naturally thwarted by human variation