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Archive for February, 2009

I have heard it said that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. The original line comes from Shakespeare’s famous play about Romeo and Juliet:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

According to scholars: Juliet, prevented from marrying Romeo by the feud between their families, complains that Romeo’s name is all that keeps him from her. Juliet’s lines before the quotation most often remembered, are:

“Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!”

She is certainly complaining that a name is no “part belonging to a man.” It is not part of the substance of being a man. Juliet is trying to make sense of her conflicted being– inflamed with her heart’s desire. Perhaps as part of her thinking about ways out of the conflict in which she is engaged, she reasons there is no particular cause that her man could not be called by another name. She pleads for another judgment supported with her famous argument that the “essence”, or “bare and particular substance” of a Rose is its sweet smell –that would remain if called by any other name– she continues in the following lines:

“So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.”

She concludes Romeo would still have that “dear perfection which he owes” were he not called Romeo. Finally she asks he forsake his name for her. This is not an easy thing she asks. Forsaking one’s name means forsaking one’s family, one’s ancestors and heritage and perhaps one’s fortune and inheritance. She does not offer to forsake her own name. That demonstrates a small and unavoidable, and also undeniable, part of the subjective obfuscation of the “dear perfection” which is the bare and particular substance of everything in existence.

Human culture is unique in our capabilities to name all the things that touch the existence and impinge on the experience whether or not such things have or show tangible form. Such is the distinctive character and aroma of the rose, the distinctive character and dear perfection of Romeo, for example. Other kinds that have brains, intentional states and awareness, do not confer, give or grant names to things and record them for their posterity.

This suggests that one owes all that adds to one’s own knowledge and character to that “dear perfection” -that Wisdom to which each of us may often appeal –that, that exists, remains and endures—beyond individual and subjective existence and experience– certainly beyond the names of things. For what might become of that presence we call a rose if no one person were ever around to experience its sweet aroma, to call it a rose; to cultivate and appreciate it—no one with any senses to thrill, existing or thinking?

The terms “thought,” “idea” and “belief” are just names for the “stuff” of that dear perfection that seems to flow into and out of each of us, just as the name of the rose is a handy moniker for the apparent salience of that unmistakable aroma and perfection sensed upon its appearance or recollection. These names are terminology we invent; to order, “slice up” and talk about the presence of “stuff” going on or happening in our heads, in our hearts and all around us, only because that same stuff is particular to everything that is going on or happening and it cannot otherwise be distinguished.

Therefore it is a distinguishing process, this conceptual, reflective thinking in which each of us engages. Thinking is something that each of us happens to do, though the stuff or substance that we take in as input to such awareness and cognition is nebulous and it is regularly deemed unclassifiable as it is channeled, consumed, recognized and altered into a product observed or otherwise output.

It is for one’s own self to distinguish for individual perspectives of that stuff can only be accorded a spontaneously occurring designation suited to the moment, to an aspect or to a function. It is wise to: Know thyself.  Yet, if we are to know it, however sophisticated the designation that is born of that special ideal, we ought not to mistake the cognition nor the designation of it  for substantive power of it –this power by which each of us are gently impelled and often rigidly compelled to register, resolve and to reason.

Shakespeare wrote:  “We are such stuff / As dreams are made on”

Dreams are a force on their own. The mind is made on that same sort of stuff. Though we cannot quite touch this powerful substance we cannot deny the forceful and influential effect the dreams of all humanity have had on our collective and individual awareness.  In order that we may dream a dream and think a thought, indeed, that we enjoy the inherent capacity to know a rose, we have this power to use, to do work;  to try and extract or separate some of that essence we call the rose– from its existence in that dear perfection in which it resides and from which all the world gets its share.

The Egyptians attributed such power and rudiments to Thoth, the early Greeks attributed the power to the Logos. Today, some call this Providence and many call this the power of knowledge.  The rose is not a lotus nor any other kind except that it is. The existence of names, terms and the pervasive use of language throughout the time of human civilization, supports the fact that there is present, common, and enduring value to that dear perfection empowering and diffusing every idea—the cumulative and dynamically incremental heritage of creaturely sharing in which each of us persistently partake and delight.

That there are rudiments derivable from such distinctly human qualities and that these are representative sign functions for the wisdom and thought also obtainable from the gamut of human languages, seems incredible…and but for Adi’s Semantic Theory we are indeed clueless, rudderless.  Many scientists, those skeptics called relativists, even professional linguists, resist the idea that the stuff of dear Perfection, the Logos behind all speech and every human word is indeed amenable, if not to definition, at least to utilitarian indication; and there is meaning enough in that for everyone’s pleasure.

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