Friday, April 19, 2013

Meaning and Meaninglessness

An all-but-forgotten line from Hölderlin, “Poetically, Man dwells”. Three words. This sent Heidegger on the search that would produce Being Thinking Dwelling. He worked backwards from the words – what does it mean to dwell? Knowing this he could begin to move forwards. 

When we say something ‘means’ something, what does that mean?

I have submersed myself in written words. I did this in anticipation of acquiring knowledge; instead I have lost my conviction written words have anything to tell.

There is a phenomenon psychologists call ‘semantic satiation’. This is the technical name for what happens when you say a word over and over until it loses all meaning. “Shreddies, Shreddies, Shreddies, Shreddies, Shreddies, …” There is no term for what happens when all words lose their meaning.

The Sybil of Cuma wrote her prophecies on leaves and scattered them at the supplicant’s feet. The almost-irresistible urge is, of course, to put them back in order. Why? Perhaps the Sybil might not know more about the nature of text than those who seek to impose logic on collections of words.

The name of the concept of concepts is ‘word’. This is what logic tells us. Word is the name of names.

The Egyptians knew about names; they are magical. All magic can be beneficial or detrimental. The Egyptians thought it best to conceal their magical names. So did the Romans; the penalty for revealing Rome’s magical name was death. What was Roma’s magical name? Roma. How do I know that? Did someone have to die?

Naming is the essence of all things. It is the first act. It is the beginning of separating cosmos from chaos. What is chaos? Only a name. What is cosmos? Only a name?  Naming is the fundamental act of love. Uttering (outering) a sound to give name to something is sacrificing part of your spirit (Latin spiritus, ‘breath’) to bring a thing closer to you. But what can be understood about the magical act of naming is really very trivial.

All speaking is magical, since you can only speak names. All writing is magical for the same reason. What can one understand if one doesn’t understand magic? Can words tell us of their own nature? No, it would be like jumping over your own shadow. However, there is nothing else to be done but continue as if I am master of the magic of words. Stick around, later on I’ll play with some fire.

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