grist

 

Friday, July 19, 2002
Book note: Nystagamus a rapid, involuntary rolling of the eyeballs; Focal infection an infection rooted in one part of the body such that it spreads infection to other organs.

I have an old dictionary (Websters Collegiate thin paper, 2nd ed.) with the cover shorn off (though present), and whenever I use it, I stumble on words or ideas, like those above that spark new thoughts or possibilities. This happens far less often with any other dictionaries; I think it is a combination of the slightly archaic, formally precise prose, and the lack of contemporary words (Never stumbling on powerpoint, for example, lets me continue to ignore the fact that I live in another world, one where I have, and need to keep, a job) put new words in front of me in a way that makes them richer and more exact. The slight foreigness makes me favor them over my own workaday words--a dangerous trap--but even the base ideas can be productive--like the idea that someone would endure sufficient trauma that they would be unable to control the rolling of their eyes--the thought of being lucid and otherwise calm and having your eyes rolling around in your head, of the world, now returned to calm, but still reeling around, like some echo in your own head.

This, like the focal infection, is about the idea of the betrayal of the body, of some inherent aspect of the body failing, or in this case, carrying the persistent seed of failure. We so often equate the body as a monolith, as ourselves, and this, I think can prevent us from seeing ourselves fully and richly. Certainly the body is extraordindary, more than we ever imagine it to be, but it is not all.



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