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Camping and Language

Every activity seems to sprout its own jargon, as every lawn or garden sprouts weeds. Oddly enough, camping doesn't seem jargon-intensive. In fact the only jargon that comes to mind is 'boondocking', a term I dislike and seldom use. There might be more jargon that is obvious to an outsider, but not to an insider.

I finished out the night by listening to the "History of English" podcast again, and found the episode on the woolen cloth industry in medieval England so interesting that I had to get out of bed and start this post.


In particular, Kevin Stroud went through the cloth-making industry in the order of its major processing steps, and mentioned the new English surnames or words that were associated with that step: Spinner, Weaver, Webster, Fuller, Walker, and spinster, napkin, apron, blanket, and mannequin.

Perhaps this episode was especially fun for me because, as a camper, I have 'slept with the sheepies' on BLM land, seen warning signs about staying away from the Great Pyrenees guard dogs, and even had a rudimentary conversation with a Peruvian shepherd. 

A shepherd's wagon, near Silverton, CO

You could think of the primitiveness of that conversation as not being due to his inability to speak English and my 15% ability to speak Spanish, but of traveling back in time to the beginnings of human language, when people pantomimed and got by with mere names, while lacking grammar and syntax.

But it is more general than sheep, wool, and cloth. When we go back in time and look at word etymologies, we break life into more basic component parts, and see how they affect your surname, language, and even how you think today.

The same thing happens when you go camping: you are breaking the modern edifice down into more basic parts, and starting to understand how that edifice came to be and what its significance is.

The limiting case is somebody who converts their own van or trailer into an RV. Here a person is essentially going back in time to think about water usage, cleaning themselves, heating and cooling, the discomforts of climate, the nearby presence of wild animals, using tools, and generally being more self-reliant.

Perhaps we should call camping 'the etymology of life and culture.'


XXXXX said…

And there are other examples as well. Several decades ago, I went through an emotional experience that turned my world upside down, ripped the floor from beneath my feet, etc. I knew not why, but I was drawn to music. I bought CD after CD listening to each one over and over again and after several years I began to heal.

Lately I have been studying Pythagoras and am deeply attracted to his notion that everything in the universe is number (qualitatively, not quantitatively,) that there is a deep harmony and balance in the universe and that music reflected this order. (Music is all about number.) This will sound mighty strange to many modern ears but I bring this up as an additional example of 'going back' as you referenced. We have forgotten quite a bit about what it means to be an integral part of nature and how very fulfilling it is to become conscious of oneself as an actor in this play as opposed to spectator. It is as a spectator that we get out of whack and is the cause of much of our suffering. Whenever we try to make the world what we want it to be rather than what it is, we suffer.

Now as I look back as to why music played such a powerful role in my past, I understand that it realigned my body and soul to the natural rhythms and movements of nature. I could not continue with the old me and the door that opened offered the keys to the universe.

There must be many ways to find this realignment to the natural order but it is surely the most important thing we can do.

XXXXX said…

I forgot to say one thing. Music is a language too.
George, studying Pythagoras? But I there were no extant writings of his?

I am not surprised that you went to music when you had an emotional experience. Music reaches in deep.

I like what you said about "conscious of oneself as an actor in this play as opposed to spectator."
XXXXX said…

Right. No extant writings. He, like Socrates, didn't believe in that. Pythagoras had plenty of followers though who eventually did write and is given credit as a strong influence on Plato (along with Orphism and Egyptian religion.) Very interesting guy. Glad something I said made some sense. I consider this one of your better posts.
George, do you have any free links for books about the Pythagorean school?
XXXXX said…

I have hard copies as I never succeeded in making the transition to reading books online. But below is a link to one of the books I have but there are many others. Pythagoras is especially interesting when he goes into his theory of mathematics, which is how music relates to my experience and to what I understood from your post esoterically. You might try googling "The Divine Proportion" as a way to understand how he saw numbers everywhere. It's a concept that started with Pythagoras but has been written about many times since. It's related to the actual experience of Beauty itself. It goes to the inner core of life, balance, harmony. Have you read Plato's seventh letter where he states that "no intelligent man will ever be so bold as to put into language those things which his reason has contemplated, especially not into a form that is unalterable--which must be the case with what is expressed in written symbols?" (p. 70 of book below) So Plato's dialogues just drop hints everywhere and so must be read esoterically. Anyway, there is much to this. I think we all can relate to how difficult it is to find the words for the most profound realizations of our experiences. So we use metaphor, analogy, symbols, pictures...or proportion, ratio, etc.

I don't know if this link will work.
Yes, George, your link worked just fine and I downloaded a nice pdf file from it.
XXXXX said…

That book is great in so far as it includes the earliest surviving writings about Pythagoras and how his ideas influenced the ancient philosophical world.

This short video gives a beginning explanation of his theory of numbers:

If you can obtain a copy of "The Physical World of the Greeks" by Sambursky, look at ch. II.

Again, don't know if that will work as I have a hard copy.
XXXXX said…

Here's another site

It offers free articles by academics on a whole host of philosophical subjects. I don't know if they go beyond philosophy. Once you start downloading articles, they will start sending you related articles to your email. Talk about gratitude.

Here is an article that just came out. I haven't read it yet but the chapter headings hits all the points.