June 26, 2009
June 25, 2009
June 7, 2009
May 21, 2009
May 11, 2009
March 7, 2009
can there be parts of speech
before speech was consciously divided into parts?
(does the division occur before one is conscious of it?)
before noun and verb, what?
before subject and object, what?
(is there a ‘ before’ before subject and object? is subject and object pre-encoded?)
before rules of grammar what?
an internal pre-grammar the stuff of grammar? Chomsky?
what is that ‘thing’ of which day is the noun and dawn is the verb?
is there such a thing?
what is the reality of which green is the color, grass the noun and grow the verb?
what is the reality from which they all emerge? grass, I think
did it start as one thing? or was it a verb at times and noun at others?
is it possible to imagine how it felt to use words before division into noun or verb occurred? or is the division itself all after the fact?
experience before codification into noun and verb
how are parts of speech described/identified in other languages?
and in history at what point does it become important to people whether something is a noun or verb
a history of the parts of speech
start with the words themselves
trace noun, verb, subject, object,
is there anything before the fact?
March 3, 2009
I was sprawled on the ground, hands scrabbling, combing through the wet grass, eyes darting, peering, squinting. My big wise sixteen year old brother Tommy came walking by, blocking the sun like a hawk: “What are you doing Danny?” “Looking for worms,” I answered. “Why?” “I don’t know, just looking for worms.” He hovered there for a moment, staring down at me and the grass, and then said: “If you want to find worms, don’t look for worms, look for movement.” And he turned away.
My hands slowed as his words wormed into my ears then flew through my neurons, lighting up, creating some new complex of synapses in my young brain. How do you look for movement? What is “movement.” Is it a thing? What does it look like? My hands stopped; my body stopped; my eyes stopped their stupid darting and began to focus. Movement. The blades of grass were moving, slowly, springing back from where I had pressed them. One blade or two or three gently releasing, unmatting. And then more. This was movement. It wasn’t a worm, but it was movement. I noticed the texture of the blades, the individual blades, long parallel veins crowded close like threads. It was all vein, all texture, each blade. I had never noticed veins in grass before. “These are like leaves,” I thought. Are these leaves? And none were really straight, each blade curved slightly and twisted, and all that gentle curving and twisting crossed and wove into a mesh of green that seemed to reach up, to point up, to the sky? to the sun? The sun that moved across the sky? Was that movement? And is something moving in those veins?
The grass had felt wet to my hands, sticky wet, annoying wet, but now I saw the wet, sticking to the blades, tiny pearls of wet, still and swelling, some merging and then riding the edge of the blade down to the shadowy soil. This movement. I was forgetting about worms. I was just looking, and seeing. And thinking about movement, about kinds of movement, plant movement, water, animal. In forty-five-year-later-hindsight/mindsight I think now of the movement that was and is my thinking, those flashing electric synapping synapses that fired and flew and swarmed in my six-year-old brain as I hunched in silence, the world of one square foot of front yard revealing itself to me. And then small, roundish, brownish, all-by-itselfish walking-up-the-blade movement, a beetle scurried into view. Or scurrying came into view. Is it its movement? Is noun and verb the same? Is act and actor one? In whose brain are these questions moving? The six year old or the fifty-one? Or yours, dear reader? Do you know that grass, grow, and green all stem from one root? Of course they do. Grass being the noun of which grow is the verb of which green the adjective. The grass grows green. The green grass grows. Was there speech before there were parts of speech?
I found more beetles, or the motions of more beetles found me. I don’t think I found a worm. I didn’t care. I found so many other things, movements, ideas, questions, puzzles. Where is that beetle going? What does it eat? How does it eat? Is grass a leaf? Is everything moving? I didn’t touch or take any of them, yet they all touched and took me, moved me, as the simple imperative from Tommy had touched and stopped me, stopped my moving, or refined it and focused it. Don’t look for worms. Look for movement. Don’t look for things, look for activity. Don’t look for nouns, look for verbs. Learn to see. Be a verb. Verbify. Move.
Concluding bookwormy postscript: Moment, the smallest possible fragment of movement, and the day, the hour, around which history turns. Emotion. Motive. Move. What moves you? All one root, meaning “push.” Worm, from a root meaning “turn” and “twist” (yes the worm does turn). Think of a worm gear, or of wriggling, or of vermin (again, all one root.) Or vermicelli, that wormy wriggly pasta. The worm wriggles in the green grass. Which comes first, the wriggle or the worm? The grass or the growth? The movement or the moment? Or do they arrive together?