The Interactive Newsletter You Never Asked For
Get this: I’ve been proof-reading the letter again and I decided to add song titles to the musician’s quotations (for clarity). I wondered if Carnival (by Natalie Merchant) had an alternate spelling, so I looked it up (I don’t have the CD).
I didn’t find an alternate spelling, but I did run into something completely unexpected…
The etymology of carnival includes an Old Italian word that means “the putting away of flesh,” and a Latin word meaning: “to raise, remove flesh.” The Indo-European root word, legwh-, traces its history to a word with this intriguing definition:
“to forget,” which is more likely from the root lei-.
This other root word, lei-, lists this as its oldest known meaning:
to forget (“to slip from the mind”): oblivion, oubliette.
I have no idea what oubliette means, but oblivion probably means something like, “the place where the Padres end up in late September,” right? I mean, it’s more of a place than a condition, isn’t it? If oblivion has something to do with “forgetting,” it seems like it would be the place where forgotten things end up. Oblivious would be a condition. Oblivion would be a place. Would you agree? (It’s important to try and figure these things out before checking.)
Man, following up on oblivion, I’ve stumbled into about a dozen new trails in the past ten minutes. This is how the dictionary comes alive. There’s no way I can explain it, but this is not an exception, it’s more like the rule. And while I’m hot on the trail of all this stuff blossoming unexpectedly from something as simple as checking the spelling of carnival, I get a sudden urge (I don’t know how or why) to look up serenade (the title of the Steve Miller song on the page before Carnival).
A serenade is just a song, right? Yeah:
especially one given by a lover for his sweetheart… from serene.
I never knew about that connection to serene (from the Latin serenus, bright, clear), but it makes sense. The reason I mention this, is that in the midst of stumbling on all the amazingly unexpected interconnections arising from carnival, it’s appropriate that a single word just happens to fall between serenade and serene. Ho-hum, just another one of those unusual word grouping that I continually just happen to run across.
ser•en•dip•i•ty The faculty of making fortunate and unexpected discoveries by accident.
(C’mon, even I’m not this accident-prone!)
o•bliv•i•on 1. The state or condition of being completely forgotten. 2. Forgetfulness or an instance of forgetting or overlooking. 3. An official forgetting of offenses, or remission of punishment for them.
Look at those definitions for oblivion again. Did you expect any of them? I sure didn’t. And oblivion seems to be a condition (a very curious one in the third sense) rather than a place. Doesn’t that strike you as odd?
ou•bli•ette A dungeon with a trap door in the ceiling as its only means of entrance or exit.
So, it turns out oblivion is the condition and oubliette is the place. Think metaphorically about these facts in the context of the story. I’m sure this sounds like an incredible stretch, but consider the serendipitous aspects too…
Carnival has something to do with forgetting and something else to do with flesh (the putting away of flesh / to raise, remove flesh). The flesh part doesn’t really sound like eating, though. It might be a reference to our bodies.
In the context of our story, we are spiritual, “luminous beings,” existing within these bodies of ours. (Come to think of it, luminous is kind of like serene if the “bright, clear” origins of the word are considered.) If carnival leads us to the condition we seem to be in—oblivion—what then does that say of the place we seem to be in?
If we have forgotten our spiritual selves, dwelling within these bodies, might not our bodies be considered a prison of sorts?
What was that definition for oubliette? Oh yeah:
A dungeon. An old-time prison.
…with a trap door in the ceiling as its only means of entrance or exit.
Well, in this metaphor, the ceiling would seem to be a reference to the head. Think about that for a minute…
Have I been blind? / Have I been lost?
Inside myself and my own mind
Hypnotized / Mesmerized / By what my eyes have seen
And I swear to God the radio just played a promo extolling “KFOG variety.” Right after I typed, By what my eyes have seen, the announcer says, “Natalie Merchant” and then plays one line from her latest song:
Hypnotized / Mesmerized / By what my eyes have seen.
There’s no way I could make-up a story like this!
I can’t convey how utterly amazing this is to me. I can’t describe how the other dozen trails I stumbled into also amplify and clarify this story. I can’t explain about all the interconnections I’ve learned to recognize—recognizing them only because I’ve encountered them so many times.
The dictionary says serendipity is:
The faculty of making fortunate and unexpected discoveries by accident.
Yeah, right. That’s like saying:
Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.
Something really strange is going on. It’s amazing and wonderful and sometimes more than a little disconcerting. It may turn out to be just be a figment of my imagination, but if that’s the case, my imagination should be declared a national treasure. I can say that because I’m absolutely certain that I’m utterly incapable of fabricating a story of these dimensions. I’ve only shown you a sliver of this fabulous tale. There’s so very much more.
I don’t know who Cyril Connolly is, but in Drawing on the Artist Within, Betty Edwards prints a quote from his book, Previous Convictions. He’s got it right:
It is impossible to undertake any kind of research without being perpetually made aware that the truth is plying us with suggestions, the past prodding us with hints, and if no benefits result from such assistance, it is not the fault of our heavenly helpers but of our all too human obtuseness.
So does an artist named Wassily Kandinsky:
Just as an explorer penetrates into new and unknown lands, one makes discoveries in the everyday life, and the erstwhile mute surroundings begin to speak a language which becomes increasingly clear.
—– —– —–
You know what I really need? Well, I need a whole bunch of things, but what would really help, is an honest appraisal of UnNumb. I mean, even if you said, “Mike, I tried. I really tried to understand what you’re trying to say, but none of it made any sense to me,” that would help. The absolute worst thing you could do, is to humor me. This thing feeds on honesty and honest effort. It rewards it. It responds to it. Don’t fuck around and lie to me to “save my feelings.” If you know me, and I think you do, you know I’m not fishing for a pat on the head.
Hey, I believe this stuff. You tell me that nothing I say makes any sense, and that will help me to see just how substantial these perceptual/conceptual communication barriers are. And just in case all this makes me sound crazy, think back to where I was before it all happened. This stuff is the only reason I cleaned up my act. I still have a hard time with the concept of “Evil,” but if there is such a thing, it probably had a pretty good hold on me back then. If I’m crazy now, it’s certainly a benign type of crazy. I mean, I’m not gonna go looney like David Koresh or that kook in Japan. I’m sure not looking for followers. What I am looking for are answers.
You know, though, I just might be going crazy like Ray Kinsella did (in Field of Dreams). The palpable thoughts on these pages are the materials I’m using to build my own enchanted ballpark. After all, crazy is in the mind of the beholder.