Friday, August 16, 2013


You come from a culture where argument is a way of life.  If there are no arguments and a kind of agreeable stasis results, your culture will have none of it.  Besides, your culture has hard-wired into its dramatis personae a kind of willful mischief.  Questions are asked.  Arguments start.  The wrong person is brought home for dinner.  arguments start.  The right person is brought home for dinner.  Arguments start.

Much of these arguments are anticipated in a collection of texts much like the Corpus Juris, or Body of Laws that govern other cultures and countries.  As if you had to ask, this collection is The Talmud.  From the get-go, which is to say the first page, The Talmud speaks to the matter of bringing together oral and written tradition.  See?  Bringing together.  First page.  First argument.

The visions of your culture encourage this conversation, a guarantee of, among other things, generations of arguments, opinions, visions of protocol, procedure, and propriety because what appears proper to one aspect of the culture might not be appropriate to another.

The clash of culture and cultures goes well beyond interpretation of texts and traditions.  To some in your culture, the name for a pudding-like dish is pronounced "kugel," the accent on the first syllable.  Thus, KUgel.  To others, the same dish or a relatively similar version is pronounced "kegel"  Thus, KEgel.  From an objective stance, one can say the matter rests on regional pronunciation.  After all, the objective observer would say, Yiddish is not the only regional language spread throughout the world.  

English, at the time of arguably its greatest poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, was so conflicted with regional pronunciations and with written variations in spelling that Chaucer wrote an amusing poem to an individual he probably invented for the purpose of making fun.  In Adam Scrivendi, Chaucer is addressing the then equivalent of a scribe or computer, a professional copyist, asking this writer, this copyist to please not mess with his rhyme scheme by using regional dialect or spelling.

There is a certain amount of fun inherent in conflating Chaucer with some of the traditions of your culture because, well, because Chaucer saw the story in differences, of visions that clash in the night or the daytime, or at any time language was used by anyone.

Although you do spend a certain amount of time with members of the same moral, ethical, and visionary choir of which you are a sometime member, you like the notion that not all of us in this same choir of convenient metaphor have the same vocal range.  There are altos and sopranos and basso and contralto and the occasional Quaker, who does not sing but rather meditates.  There are various sects of Buddhists, and to be sure there are within your immediate choir devotees of that popular aspect of the All-Pervasive known as Shiva, while others in that same frame of reference prefer Krishna or Durga.  Your own preference is Kali, but what the hell, we are all of us content with a certain sense of community while at the same time entertaining our own vision, a vision constructed as we describe our own orbit while on a planet describing its orbit in a solar system in which yet newer solar features are discovered with mind-boggling regularity.

While sipping contentedly at a San Pellegrino on the rocks while awaiting your first course at dinner this evening, foot tapping to the two-four tempo of an accomplished jazz guitarist, Carlos, the chef, appeared tableside, gave a courtly bow, then asked you "How do you see your crab cakes being served?"

You'd never been asked that kind of existential question.  Perhaps your quick inventory of your brain for an appropriate answer gave Carlos the clue he wished.  "Quizas en tomato?"

Quizas is one of a few all-purpose Spanish words.  It can mean perhaps, or maybe.  Another such word is segun, which can mean accordingly or according to or depending upon, or all depends.  With those two words and no others, you could carry out a kind of conversation.

You in fact played the segun card.

Carlos, perhaps in recognition of the state of crisis always ambient in a restaurant kitchen, played the trump card.  "Okay, I put them on a tomato.  So you want the thin sliced like we use on the carpaccio or the thick slice from the plum tomato?"

"I come here,"  you said, drawing yourself to what you hope was a posture of a man who is open to experience and enlightenment, "to experience your vision of how the crab cake should be presented.  Take me somewhere I have not been before."

Carlos nodded thoughtfully, then retreated to the kitchen.  There was a scattering of conversation at the next table.  The person closest to you asked if your conversation with Carlos was usual for this place.

"Depends,"  you said.

When Carlos returned with the crab cakes, your neighbors asked to see it.

"Who would have thought?"  a woman said.

"Visions,"  you said.  And thus this reflection on visions, which is a way of going about one's orbit in quest of one's own vision, a wish to observe the visions of others, and a willingness, no, an eagerness to hammer out the differences.  

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