Monday, September 9, 2013


When you first heard the word, years ago, you thought it was a word English majors and literature professors were supposed to know.  Then you became an English major and, in concert with your attitude about such things, decided you'd be damned if you spent any time in the company of such a word.

You placed the word right up there with heuristics, which, even when you found out it wasn't such a bad thing, you disliked because you liked the word intuitive ever so much more.  

The word you associated with English majors and professors is synecdoche, and it has not only stuck with you, through and beyond your having been an English major, but through your latest notification of your being posted again as a professor for the 2014 academic year which, as such things go, is not the same as the 2014 calendar year.

Words, people who use them, and the disciplines governing distinct sets of people, take on through their use certain coded or approved and conversely disapproved meanings.

When you speak of the word synecdoche as having stuck with you, you've come close to creating what English majors, professors of literature (but not you), and some logicians call the pathetic fallacy.  To say such a thing about synecdoche or any other term related to an inanimate object is attributing human qualities to it.  The sun roared its approval.  The moon blushed behind a cloud bank.  The aspen tree shook a tentative greeting in the wind.  That sort of thing.

Synecdoche is alive for you in the sense of coming from a live, vital language.  One of its meanings is that a part of a thing can be used in metaphor to represent the entire thing, perhaps even enhanced through the pathetic fallacy to greater heights yet.  The long arm of the law.  The heavy hand of coincidence.  Perhaps even this, The sin that dare not speak its name.

The reverse is also true.  The American people deserve better.  Put your John Hancock on the contract.  And there are the glorious possibilities in strapped, which can mean strapped for cash or insolvent and as well, strapped can mean being armed with a handgun as in a gun, strapped to a portion of one's body.  Carrying?  A question one criminal might ask another, as in, are you armed.  The same Carrying? can also mean one user of marijuana asking another person if he or she has any available.

You start playing with something like a work of art, say the Mozart Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, number 20, in the key of D minor, Kershold number 466 (which knowledge will have no effect whatsoever on whether you like the work or not), written in 1785 (ditto for its effect on like or dislike).  Hundreds of notes.  Thousands of them.  In their ways, the arrangement of stars in a night sky.  Speaking of that example, it is possible for you to consult ephemerides, actual accounts of where stars and planets were at any time of day on any day.  You are quite fond of night skies, filled with planets and other heavenly bodies, and thus you consider them found art.  By extension, any of the available ephemerides meets your standard as a representation of art.

The Mozart Concerto for Piano and Orchestra # 20, in D minor, is not mere found art, but deliberate, heart-wrenching art.  You are stunned by the entire work, but the second movement, the five-part rondo, ABACA, with a coda, is, to throw in reference to your pal, the synecdoche, a heart-breaker.  It moves along in the key of B flat major, until the C portion, where it surges into the key of G minor, which Mozart understood as being the tone to evoke the desired melancholy.  He understood also not to linger for too long, moving to an ascending arpeggio that ends, soft, whisper-like,plangent.

The individual stars or planets or notes or key signatures or brush strokes or words or paragraphs are dancers with the energy and mood of the entire work.  A person who allows such things, such appearances to appear within, then resonate, is a person taking part in the synecdoche of the best part of experience, the openness to love.

The Hindu who is given a mantra is sent to meditate on that series of words, called bija words, and which are conflations of other words in Sanskrit.  If the meditator opens wide, the words and their meanings resonate the art of awareness throughout the entire being of the meditator, much like the hovering reverberation of the bells chimed at vespers.

Of course there are other cultures, rituals, formulae to produce the art that causes the individual to open to an awareness some refer to as non-dualism, which is to say that the essence of reality is the unity of all.  Duality and plurality are illusions to be questioned and tested.

You speak of such arts as music and painting and photography and poetry as things you have spent time attempting to open yourself to, inviting yourself into them, as in a synecdoche, and them into you, as a synecdoche.  All this is to hear the things they have to tell you.

Writing is the thing you've meditated on the longest and the most deeply, thus providing the possibility you are better equipped to speak of music, painting, photography, and poetry than of the story and the essay and the history.  You've transported yourself into things and brought things into you, had your heart wrenched numerous times and broken numerous others.  Each wrench and break has left you with something, some surprise other than the callous you'd expected after those first times.

You keep finding surprise places where you are neither cynical nor suspicious nor leery of doing something you did as a nine-year old each day on the way home from school.  You jumped off garage roofs, always landing or trying to land in patches of sod or thick grass.  Day after day, leap after leap, there was no sprain, no hurt, only that sense of love that began when you were not on the roof and not yet a schoolboy tumble of arms and legs and owlish face, at rest on the grass.

Every new work is a leap from that garage, whether it is a leap of love or the love of the leap.  Back then, you had grass stains on your trousers, the tell-tale signs to your mother, of what you'd done.  Now, you have words, such as synecdoche to remind you of the exchange between you and the thing, and the leap in between.

There is a rascally rondo in Mozart's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Number 23, and a rather plaintive one in Number 22 that was used as a sound track for a movie.  Some say these are the Concertos of note.  You are pleased to listen to them, but the garage from which you jump is Number 20.

For the leap of love and for the love of the leap.

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