There’s just something, well, seminal about that affix. So much for an open, tolerant society. We’ve declared war on a belief. It wouldn’t bother me as much if it was a war on a behavior; obviously some behaviors damage the fabric of society. To keep it stitched together, society just can’t tolerate certain types of behavior. Is thinking about a sin, a sin? I side with Milton on that one. I don’t think so.

When we make nouns of thoughts, we tread on dangerous ground. Just what is the referent? This rapidly degenerates into surrealism. When these abstractions become as real to us as a chair or a table, we have truly entered the twilite zone.

It’s sticky stuff. Decisions must be made. Stay in or pull out? A thick problem, indeed. I prefer to stay in, as long as the blood flows in a pleasant direction. That’s the problem— it sometimes doesn’t.

Arguments are like that. They don’t always end up in pleasant places. I think it has to do with rigidity. Enough friction, and things liquefy. It’s a dissolution of identity, a scary thing for those who prefer rigidity, comfort, and closure within their own dimensions. But this takes discipline, particularly when it comes to staying within one’s own discipline.

I suppose that’s why I’m currently hanging out in the “no-discipline dicipline.” Rhetoricians are more fun at parties, they can talk to anyone. Except for one fringe group, “the theory thugs,” that is: a group which I find myself hanging out with quite often. It’s a specialized vocabulary, to be sure, but it’s fun once you learn what all the big words mean. I only hate it when people use them gratuitously. Used correctly, they are an excellent shorthand for really big concepts. When pages are filled with these words, you’ve got to study them for a long time. More bang for the buck, so to speak. Make that glorious orgy of the text take a little longer. . .

But sometimes it seems, well, penile. I mean how many variations of “sem” can there be? Semiotics and semiosis, terms beating like semaphore against the brow of those lesser mortals that can’t penetrate the warm cave of scholarly humanity. It seems rather frustrating in the end. But when it works, it results in the glorious birth of an —ism. But some —isms can’t be tolerated. Careful with the verbs you nominalize. You might have war declared on you, if you can’t adequately defend your system.

Then it becomes the province of rhetoric. I like the way that Aristotle explained it:

The duty of rhetoric is to deal with such matters as we deliberate on without arts or systems to guide us, in the hearing of persons who cannot take in at a glance a complicated argument, or follow a long chain of reasoning.

So rhetoric has a duty, a mission as it were, to make complex decision making simpler. For everyone, not just for the chosen few that can interpret the shorthand. I’m attracted to it, being a hopeless generalist.

The answers to understanding? Perhaps not. Just a tool to decide what’s probable, and improbable. I’ll leave the hard science to the anthropologists. Though anthropology is soft by definition, with blurry lines between several disciplines including linguistics, psychology, etc., it appeals to the generalist in me. Whatever road takes you there, is what I say. As long as we can make it a pleasant trip.

I am, above all else, easily amused. When I found the definition of nosemosis on a pest-control web site, I just rolled: “infection with micro-sporidia of the genus nosema.” Yes, I suspect that it’s just that damn language virus coming round again.