If you have misunderstood me

It is so much the easier for me to accept your mis-statements if I assume they betray some underlying misunderstanding.

It would be so much easier for you to helpfully locate my responses if you realize I am responding to the ways in which I believe you have misunderstood me.

Considerable stress ensues if one of us insists ‘no, I have understood you’ for asserting I nearly understand you engenders no power-language, but insisting on my understanding limits your ability to speak on your own account. Now we both are to wrestle for the same ground — and presumably the ground ought to be yours first.

In this our usage more closely relates to epistamai in Greek or oferstandan from Old English wherein our piecing together stands upon this (cf. http://www.etymonline.com, maintained by D. Harper).  The word picture is of a conqueror, not of a partner in discourse.

How better to dismiss another than with the words I understand?  To do such is to disinherit the other’s power of commanding her own words.

But if I assume we are wielding two competing misunderstandings, the bugle call to unending allegiance to what I probably did not intend dies away in favor of a chance to listen to you — to listen without immediate concerns of power.  We should become accustomed to the body postures which accompany the most harmful of misunderstandings — the shoulders of dismissal and the accompanying upturned lips along with the spinal tilt of self-rectitude and compare these with the relaxed focus necessary to give any worthy other a hearing.

Of course hearing is more difficult than non-hearing.  A ready mind must readily dismiss more than it accepts and so many misunderstandings may persist.  The commitment, daily, should be to unstop the ears quickly and with it to un-tense the neck so a positive misunderstanding might be attained.

Narrare — Relating

“…and he never returned.”

A number of scenes arrange themselves, quietly seeking an attending to.  Tonight they are places I have once visited and largely forgotten since.  More than one of these are churches — a place I should prefer some invisibility — inviting enough though sure to prove their humanity with a little provocation.  In all ways it surprises me when I return to such a place; it feels a sacrifice of my intrapersonality.  Few thoughts could drive me further than ‘it seems a modest sort of place I could see myself returning to’.

It seems the one thing in common to places he never returned to — they were too easy to find.

A few other instances would be parties, but these are far less frequent for me.  Having one or two ‘deep’ conversations with another is verging on what matches this narrative.

Are these ghosts of a self I was trying to be?  Are they much different from interviews for jobs or similar enquiries?  It feels there is some mirroring going on — an exercise in the intrapersonal.  Not merely being ‘I’ but very much feeling the incongruities of summing up and pretending some coherent unity.  It is in conversing with new persons that we are offered the chance to meet with ourselves — to examine our impulses.

I can say little for why I have ever gone back to a place.  Many times I might describe the pull as interpersonally motivated.  It is the move from ‘could’ to ‘do’ whose causality is least explicable to myself.  The mirroring does not stop — it continues to question, and therefore relate, to itself — at least insofar as it is even a unity.  Even this seems a form of re-turning: turning back in until finally there is a going-out.

That seems the gap between the action pondered and its enacted non-relative, for the thing done and the thing not done are cousins in thought only.



He should have stopped there.  In fact, in many ways he did.

I realise self-talk is a normal thing — perhaps a normal thing grossly distorted in sleep or when this filtering mechanism is mis-trained or damaged.  I can’t recall not generating (or experiencing the generation of) these sort of odd narratives.  I say odd because they re-sort and ‘fix their grammar’ or tamper with memories.  Locating what prompts their change is difficult, but I ‘ll attempt considering it as self-protection in the form of ‘hearing oneself’.

Perhaps it develops as a largely defensive framework for conversing; I feel least lonely often when I am least conscious of its back-bringing.  Those are the moments when conversations or thoughts or actions shine brightest — when we are least aware of any underlying items.  There is simply the natural interrelatedness.  But self-talk is not to be despised — it can surely be trained.  I think it is through this that I attempt to hear myself, for I am most shocked when I discover some information lacking in my internal dialogues.  ‘Oh, is that how you say it?’


Now comes the part of interest — how do you experience this?  For I experience you as part of this intrapersonality as well — the interpersonal is more of an ideal or a practice (and better a practice).  It is only by continually meeting, and being surprised at what confounds my expectations that the proper disjunction is maintained.  That is, in misunderstanding you I misunderstand myself and the way by which you misunderstand me is also a self-misunderstanding.  You should get that checked… or…

Genealogically Misingenuous ~ on Wordsmithery and Plagiary

Life is spent in learning the meaning of great
words, so that some idle proverb, known for years and accepted
perhaps as a truism, comes home, on a day, like a blow.

Style (1897), Walter Raleigh

At the outset we should be clear in the goal.  There ‘s no graduation in learning, only maturation in fullness or, conversely, desiccation and decay.

Another tale of plagiarism un-covered.  Another.  Yet another.  The cycle won’t soon end.  Oh, it could be ended.  Simply.  Either give up vilifying dis-covered cases, hence admitting most writing is n’t worth being read, or re-move the titling and benefits of publishing.

But that is n’t what we want to hear.  Instead, we want academic members to prove their abilities by publishing and so most provide worthless, unreadable literature.  What else could we expect?  But this is n’t the only carrot rewarding the well-published; status and money are packed in.

Can’t they just be honest?  I hope you can answer that for yourself.  Of course many are, but truthfulness is either self-rewarding or slow-to-answer.

The best quotations, the best translations, the best
thefts, are all equally new and original works. From quotation, at least, there is no escape,
inasmuch as we learn language from others.  All common phrases that do the dirty work of the world are quotations – poor things, and not our own.

Raleigh, Style

Raleigh’s point rings clear: we learn by imitation.  ‘Common knowledge’ is merely knowledge we can no longer recall the source for.  We ‘ve all forgotten where we placed it.

What makes a quotation good or bad?  The quality of our appropriation.  But poor writing is not ignored, not if the right strings are pulled.  But instead of recognising that the best authors steal well, our concerns are for protection of intellectual property.

I have no idea what those words mean.

Communication necessarily requires an attempt to speak to another.  There ‘s a releasing which is part of writing.  At some point you let it go.  The best authors are recognised consistently, according to T.S. Eliot’s “Philip Massinger”, by the quality of their imitation.

What do they do with it?  Simply, (via Nancy Prager’s ‘Good Poets Borrow, Great Poets Steal…’)

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion.

Eliot, T.S., “Philip Massinger,” The Sacred Wood, New York: Bartleby.com,   2000.

as cited by Ms Prager in her ‘Good Poets Borrow, Great Poets Steal…’

I believe Thoreau, in ‘Walden’, remarked that poets are ever stealing the sunset, regardless of who holds the deed of property.  Their plagiarism could be followed, but what does their smithery evoke?

Is n’t that the real question?  If you ‘ve tracked from my appropriation of Raleigh, the use is more important than the theft.

Again: “Quotations, conscious or unconscious, vary in kind according as the mind is active to work upon them and make them its own (Raleigh, Style).”

And finally,

Plagiarism is a crime only where writing is a trade; expression need never be bound by the law of copyright while it follows thought, for thought, as some great thinker has observed, is free.  The words were once Shakespeare’s; if only you can feel them as he did, they are yours no less than his.
Raleigh, Style

That ‘s where I have to lay my allegiance.  Simply by using words, you submit their appropriation to the other.  Wrestle over intellectual property so long as you wish, would n’t you be better wrestling over the proverbs and re-crafting your own ineloquencies by attempting to dis-cover and say something worth remembering.

For these words of Raleigh still resonate:

But writing cannot be luminous and great save
in the hands of those whose words are their own by the indefeasible title of conquest.

Towards an Orderly Mis-Education

[Rejecting Perfection

Alright, well that ‘s done.  That is, until I have to undergo another teacher observation or experience one of those awkward moments where I really feel I ought to be able to show exactly how my teaching is best.

Honestly (can you ever be sure in this blog?) I learned how to grow without a set ideal long ago — perhaps many still need them, but I hope not for long.  Of course improving is about setting goals, getting close enough to see how close you came and whether it was worth the effort… and resetting new goals.  The ‘perfect teacher’ is a way to keep the confidence deficient below ground and, more often, a self-justificating mechanism for the teacher-centred teacher.

[Shifting the Core

“We need to be provoked….It is time that we had uncommon schools, that we did not leave off our education when we begin to be men and women. It is time that villages were universities, and their elder inhabitants the fellows of universities, with leisure — if they are indeed so well off — to pursue liberal studies the rest of their lives. Shall the world be confined to one Paris or one Oxford forever?”

— H.D. Thoreau, Walden “Reading”

I hope not.

I see the primary goal of the teacher to be un-educating the students (and they often need this).  This is no less true in my English skills classes than in maths courses.  Why?  Simply, knowledge is a moving target.  To mis-purpose a borrowed metaphor from Peter Elbow, writing (which is a means of communicating and re-purposing knowledge anyway) is like trying to hold onto Proteus in the midst of his shifting.

Having cleared, or actually perpetually clearing and finally teaching the students to clear away for themselves, the teacher ought to present opportunities for students to reach out and learn.  Creating experiences which are as near as possible to those truly encountered is my primary teaching goal (although I reserve the right to change this later).

[Who’s responsible?

Oh right, and if student-centred learning is to be the way, students have to be made responsible for their learning.  Thoreau let loose an image which still breathes in my mind: students do n’t care about school because it was already built for them.  Instead they need to take part in the building of the school.

In fact, a school should be perpetually built (one could argue that this is the case due to entropy and narcissism anyway, or in many cases elitism).  If knowledge is ever changing, should n’t its pursuers shift with it?  As such, it certainly can’t invest in merely a few teachers, but learners ought to congregate.  Hence we may have our villages at last — but we may be fewer than hoped.

Re-considering Disconnectedness



It ‘s as though I bought a frame only to find the picture looks so much less colorful, so much smaller, so un-real when affixed.  There ‘s really no one thing missing from the picture; it’s just I thought the frame would highlight it differently.

There ‘s been a sharp drop-off in reading for any purposes since the end of last term.  But I feel a little freer from ‘reading for’.  Some justification can be derived from Schopenhauer’s essays: too much of my thinking may have been mis-colored by my readings.  I ‘m no less bibliophile than ever, but I can almost see that books are worthless if I ‘m not a prepared dialogue partner.


Elsewise I leave the dinner table filled with someone else’s erudition, spilling out aphorisms I half grasp and can use to impress but not to leave an impression.  Has anyone meaningfully conversed with a tape-recorder ever? I have enjoyed learning new ways to say things I had never conceived of, but was n’t the goal to catch concepts useful for me?  Who is my discourse for?

In discovering reading afresh, and finally the necessity of writing, I felt afraid of ‘not reading’.  But at last ‘reading for’ can be questioned — while I ‘m unable to lend full energy to a non-productive task I at last have to be selective.  I ‘m reading almost always, recalling little, and becoming, by such a small margin, a little more connected to what ‘s in front of me and less connected to the peripherals.


Anxiety remains: will I cut off the possibility of the thoughts I want approaching because I have n’t supplied the correct material — an Odysseus bidding the useful dead with gestures when he should use haemoglobin — if thoughts step into the light without our willful consent, what is the value of practiced thinking?

For no thinker I care for is so isolated as to be without peers.

So whenever I come across energy which can justly be spared, it shall be first employed in reflection, and only then in finding conversation partners (live or merely breathing).


It is hard to be understood, especially when one thinks and lives gangasrotagati among men who think and live differently — namely, karmagati, or at best “the way frogs walk,” mandukagati (I obviously do everything to be “hard to understand” myself!)…

~Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (27) (trans. Walter Kaufmann) [I have failed to render the diacritical marks here]

The comparison of several gaits leads me to consider the value of being understood, or more precisely: to question when it may be worth the effort.  If one can and does run swiftly as the Ganges’ current, how is a poor turtle or a frog to keep up? or, why should the mighty river slow its flow to a crawl in hopes of being heard?

Questioning the value of expending effort in being understood may seem unnatural.  Of course we wish to be understood, at least insofar as we hope to have our demands met.  But it is n’t so clear as all that: the Ganges’ life is qualitatively different from the tortoise’.  Whether Nietzsche would affirm the value of the turtle and of the river is beside my point; while they certainly interact the turtle cannot understand what the current is babbling on about at such a hurried, if mellifluous, rate because it cannot reinitiate such thoughts into its own discourse.  The tortoise cannot enact what the Ganges tells it; a life swift-flowing is neither attainable (easily) nor desired.

Further, the tortoise, as the frog, is experienced compositely while the Ganges’ movement is well expressed.  While our lives are expressed in motion, the running together, the influx and outflow, and the smoothing out of all it comes into contact with are identifiable with the river, not the slow-movers.  The flow is nearer the heartbeat of life; as such the turtle ought to learn to hop and the frog needs to leap so as to better keep time, time bespoken so quickly it may numb the ear.

It is not that life never whispers, it is that our ears are keeping time with our feet.

Who should set the pace?