2009 Reviewed in Words

(As opposed to not in words? they ask.)

It’s been an eventful year. And I’ve discovered a lot of new interesting concepts; or, perhaps, a better way to say it would be that I’ve learned a lot of new words that can be used to describe concepts that I already understood implicitly. Thus, I think, the best way to recap what I’ve learned over the last twelve months is to attempt to define, briefly, all of the words I’ve gained a new grasp of. (I’m going to proceed somewhat chronologically; basically, to write this post, I’m reading through all of the posts I’ve made so far this year.)

  • sublime – n. What is extreme, out of proportion to mankind, overwhelming. The sublime, though not itself divine, reminds us of God. An example of the sublime might be a vast mountain, or a storm at sea.
  • hue – n. The aspect of color captured by the rainbow, whose essence is variety without inherent moral meaning. Red, blue, green, etc, have different emotional flavors, but are in themselves neither good nor evil.
  • value – n. The aspect of color contained within the dichotomy of light and dark, and which carries a moral connotation, but has no aesthetic value.
  • empathize – v. To attempt to understand another person’s state of mind despite the impossibility of actually becoming them. That impossibility makes empathy impossible, and yet it remains necessary for human life. To empathize with another is to treat them as another subject, not merely an object.
  • sincerity – n. The virtue of presenting oneself as one is, rather than as one wishes to be perceived. Necessary if one is to be empathized with, or (since empathy must be reciprocal) to empathize with another.
  • induct – v. To move from a finite data set to a general conclusion. Life itself is inductive, for the universe is finite, and yet we attempt to find meaning in it that is not arbitrary, not finite, divine. Language is also inductive; we will only experience the hearing or reading of a given word a finite number of times, yet we can extrapolate a meaning from it beyond the mere amalgamation of those experiences.
  • deduct – v. To apply general laws to specific cases and thus arrive at a conclusion. To act in the world, we must use deduction, and yet we cannot deduct without general laws, which we get from induction; the two are thus inextricably linked.
  • faerie – n. The sense of mystery we feel when we encounter nature as separate from the self and from society, impossible to understand, and yet intended by God. Tied to a feeling of strangeness, of the foreign, the “other.”
  • numinous – adj. Suggestive of the power or presence of a divinity, and of final causality; the “why” rather than the “how.” Different from “fey” in that the numinous is generally spiritual, whereas the fey is necessarily physical, and related specifically to nature.
  • spell – v. To entrance, draw in, convey a meaning. What a poem does to us when we read it: through its language, rhyme, wordplay, it impresses on us an emotional state we perhaps would never have experienced otherwise.

These ten words, as you may have noticed, are interrelated; there are perhaps three or four themes running through all of them. But I don’t want to try to define what those themes are; I’ll let the words speak for themselves.

(Incidentally, this post may end up as a precursor to a new page to go along the top: “Turin’s Dictionary,” consisting of the above plus any other words crucial to my understanding of the world.)


3 Responses to 2009 Reviewed in Words

  1. e7th04sh says:

    Funny, i’ve been thinking of creating an “encyclopedia”. While yours dictionary contains short but measured definitions, i want to write shorter or longer articles, or perhaps even essays. Carefully crafted on my local harddrive and published regularly, as a seprate category, on a blog – tough of course less specific, less contemporary and less disorganised then a typical blognote.

    I thought of it as a way to spread my point of view, rather than describe it, but it would do both. A sudden thought struck me while typing – would it be manifestation of this desire – to make a personal declaration?

    A meaningful difference – You make a dictionary, i want to make an encylopedia. I can’t put my finger on it now, but it seems to show some kind of a difference in our approach or style or something… but it’d be substantial.

    Such a difference might lead to inability to understand motivations and octions of other. It’s hard to solve with analysis, but once you find a similarity, you get closer to understand the difference (through contrast?).

    One other difference… In the terms of simplified fantasy themes, you’d be a person of order, am i right? I would be of chaos.* Thus, you want to codify or constitute good definitions to enhance perception. I want to shatter the old perception, by confronting the reader with a perspective he didn’t see, accept or take seriously. He can rebuild, and he wouldn’t if he was left alone.

    * On an unrelated note, how can this axis be represented in colours? Hue doesn’t, it shows variety of colurs and uniqueness of each.

    [I probably should work on that reply for a bit, cause i hooked some interesting but complicated topics… But presented with four choices: delete it (no way, too good ;p) work on it (i’d be late for a party!) save for later or post… I should choose third but i chose fourth. :) ]

  2. Hm, yeah, I think you might be on to something. I wonder if it mightn’t be the synthetic-analytic distinction (which I thought I’d talked about here in the recent past but apparently not, that was only a real-life discussion)? In very basic (and slightly inaccurate) terms, synthesis is trying to take everything known and combine it, while analysis is trying to isolate individual topics and find out exactly what is known. Thus my project, a dictionary, is more analytic, while an encyclopedia is more synthetic.

    I don’t think either is better than the other, and both are clearly necessary – without analysis we can’t understand what we’re talking about, without synthesis we can’t get anywhere with that talking – but rather it’s a question of which one an individual attempts first.

    P.S.: Yeah, order-chaos isn’t really represented by the color wheel, I don’t think… it’s be more represented geometrically – straight lines vs. wacky curves, etc. So to represent something on all three axes, so to speak – good-evil, order-chaos, and the color wheel – you need an entire painting, not just a single color. But perhaps the analogy breaks down there anyway.

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