Ponder-ous

I have been wondering lately. About a Great Many Things.

And yet I have come to no conclusions.

Many things will never be understood in this world, but so thoroughly do I enjoy turning them over in my mind  that I do not mind never having complete answers.

More importantly, there are things that I have no desire to know more about. A little research might lay the subject bare, but I refuse to be so callous in my examination.  They are wonderful in their abstraction and nebulous-ness in my mind.

Or, as more often the case, the strange and very physical presence of wonderous things in my life. I am too dumb practical-minded to be able to concentrate on abstract forms for a long a time.

Shall I make a list of these spurs-to-thought? I like lists! However silly and simple my pondering may be . . .

Things to ponder:

  • The first day of Latin, the teacher announced, “Latin is like calculus. And as a language, it is dead. Dead, dead, dead.” Is that supposed to be encouraging?
  • The Latin word for ‘ambush’ or ‘treachery,’ insidiae,’ is only ever plural. Apparently so is the word “Arma”. Why? Do dangers only every happen two at a time?
  • Why do squirrels eat tomato plants? This, no one knows! (Also, this I might actually research. And attempt to prevent.)
  • How can I lose track of time to such an extent that is actually over a year later before I return a phone call?
  • My friend and I have been planning a clothes shopping trip for over a month. We had a list of items needed, set a date, and looked forward to bargain hunting with anticipation. But the day before our expedition we looked at each other and said, “Do you want to go book shopping?” Duh. Why did we not think of that earlier? At least we got our priorities straight in the end.
  • I hate calculus. It might rank with live chickens – creatures of the Devil – and Paradise Lost.
  • I had a list of books that I needed: some Woolf, some Eliot, Sylvie and Bruno . . . but as soon as I walk into a book store these lists fly out of my head. I think Pratchett is on to something about large quantities of books distorting space and time and reality  . . .
  • I love mangoes. They make my heart contented. Why is this?
  • How can a person think that Latin is like calculus? This boggle my mind, and actually makes me angry.
  • Why can’t people speak in iambic pentameter? Most of have us read enough Dr. Seuss to at least get the idea of it!
  • How can mangoes taste so much like sunshine?
  • Wither went the long, long, long summers of childhood? I will swear that time lasted longer when I was five years old.
  • Words are only representative of ideas or things, so what if they miss the small details of the idea trying to be communicated? What if words fail?
  • Are words like numbers? At all?  Yeah . . .  I didn’t think so.
  • It need more than stark words to communicate an idea or experience. It takes all the cadence and expressions and pictorial quality of poetry to really make the reader know the subject . . .
  • Most people have read Dr. Seuss, haven’t they? If not, then the world is a sad, sad place.
  • I was hunting for a Virginia Woolf book, and I stumbled across a beautifully bound copy of Eudora Welty’s The Optimist’s Daughter. I was so excited that I started bouncing on my toes and dashed out of the “W” section in order to share the discovery with my friend. And then I remembered Woolf and had to go back. And then I discovered the novel that Welty dedicated to Katherine Anne Porter!!!
  • What is it about beautiful binding that calls to me?
  • Maybe if I had a gorgeous copy of Paradise Lost, I might enjoy reading it more than I do now.
  • Why are some sounds more fun to say than others? I have been chanting “quisque” in my head, solely because I like the sound of the hard “k” and soft “wu” repeated in rhythm.
  • I told my friend the Classics Scholar about the Latin=Calculus remark. She was silent for a moment, then asked coolly, “How big is this guy? Could I take him down in a fight?”
  • I love this friend.
  • We went out for cocktails to charming little place, and I was smitten! Studying at a cocktail bar is a delightful – and surprisingly productive – activity. This seems like a contradiction. Or maybe it is a paradox?
  • One of my professors said that if you repeat a word often enough, it begins to lose all sense of meaning and to you and just becomes sounds. I tried it with the word “voluptuous”. (Only because as a word it very pretty, and it rolls off the tongue easily, I swear!) And it did begin to be simply a voice exercise, with no significance. Hmm. What does this mean?
  • I always forget how much I love Autumn, until I am in the middle of a searing Summer. But the South does not have much an Autumn; last year I did not see any trees turning colors! Why am I here again?
  • Right, I am here because I am learning about beautiful things, like Allen Tate’s Seasons of the Soul. Which justifies the need to experience a hot Southern summer. Both as a reason to endure to learn more and a reason for participation in summer itself.
  • Four book stores later, and still I cannot find a copy of Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno, one of my new favorite books. I am not even looking for a nicely bound edition, just a simple copy for me to own! This breaks my heart.
  • I can say, “Nunc Latinam dicere possum,” and “Wheelocum odi!”
  • I have ordered “Green Eggs and Ham in Latin,” just for fun. Will it help me learn Latin? Collapsing Seuss and Language Studies sounds like a brilliant idea!
  • Night time is gorgeous. It has always been my favorite time of day, but only recently am I learning to appreciate night in a city. Fewer stars and more noise, but the presence of humanity has a beauty in its own right.
  • These questions of the limited ability of language and Sylvie and Bruno are closely linked. Carroll seems to be exploring – among many other things – the nature of signs, and how they communicate meaning. Since signs are a social construct, then they are liable to be abused or changed or misunderstood. Not in a Derrida-esque way, but in a Carrollian way of “what would happen if we tweak this word here  . . . ? Can the sounds of “brillig’ suddenly have meaning?”
  • Should I write my thesis on this subject?
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6 thoughts on “Ponder-ous

  1. 1. I think I once answered a high school question on “The Jabberwock” by speculating that Carrol used words that had too much meaning for us to understand…or something like that.
    2. Latin’s a dead language.
    Dead as it can be.
    First it killed the Romans…
    Now it’s killing me.
    3. But seriously, I’ve heard that Latin, since it is no longer a spoken language, is not really dead…for one thing, it lives on in its descendants the Romance languages, which are much easier to learn with a Latin basis, and for another it can be called perfected, since it no longer changes but always stays the same…sounds eternal rather than dead, no?
    4. So think of this when people call it dead.
    Love the stream of consciousness blog post!

    • Aha! Brilliant ideas . . . I will be developing this idea, so prepare to hear more all year!

      As for Latin, I am coming to the conclusion that it an undead language. Like a zombie. Or a vampyre. But what exactly this means, I shall have to explore later when my mind has free time from being possessed by studies. . . .

  2. Your Latin teacher is certainly not vey encouraging. Poor Latin! it’s not dead but agonizing. The problem is that, if he dies, part of us -and an important one- will die too.
    Regarding the The Latin=Calculus equation of your teacher I am absolutely puzzled about it. Maybe it’s because I actually studied Math and therefore unable to understand the funny side of it. It’s supposed to be funny isn’t it?
    I cannot think of something more different than words and numbers. Numbers always, no matter what happens, mean always the same thing; while words are bridges that lead to images…heterogenea non comparari possunt
    Nice post!

  3. Latin is not “dead”. Niether is it “alive”. It is not a being, therefore death and life have no meaning in relation to a language. However, a being can be dead to Latin.
    This state of being is indicative of a closed mind. Or, a narrow mind, which is a form of closedness.

    There must be something in mangoes which stimulates thought!

  4. On Latin and calculus: It’s odd to say Latin’s dead dead dead when you’re the one teaching it, but odder to say it’s like calculus. Perhaps he meant that for anyone unfamiliar with them, both subjects loom large and abstruse in the imagination (where they’re simply casting huge shadows on the wall); perhaps he meant that they can both be turned to a particular use once one gets over the looming business; perhaps he meant “Both contain symbols that reflect reality when arranged rightly and naught but nonsense when arranged wrongly” (since, as I recall, calculus was not so much about numbers as it was about the study of shapes, limits, and functions. It’s manipulating expressions in order to find solutions, not just in theory but in practice). I could spin more possible connections but it’d probably be simpler to walk up sometime and ask what he meant.

    On cocktail bars: I think it might be irony? Especially because I would never expect to study anything but drink recipes in such a place.

    On Latin books: I own Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis. Admittedly, the only reason I was able to read it was that I’d read it so many times in English…

    On Carroll: If signs are a social construct, then would that imply that “brillig” can only have meaning in a society familiar with the word “broil” and the concept of broiling things around 4 o’clock? (which explains why it’s the most confusing word of Jabberwocky for me; I would never broil anything for that long. Also I always thought brillig was an adjective, like brilliant mixed with big or some such thing, and was describing the weather)

  5. Pingback: How To Open A New Book « Egotist's Club

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