WORDS & MATTER / & NO MATTER (a gleaning, from 1988(?), & a meme, from today

words matter meme.jpg

wordsmat.wor
WORDS & MATTER
& NO MATTER

Words are things, as material things are things; words can be objects, of our thoughts or our actions, as can material things, but whatever matter is, words are not matter. You could say, like numbers, but numbers are also words, a certain kind or class of words. Like thoughts, then? Thoughts are immaterial, but in a different way: every thought is, unique, it passes through the mind and is gone, if it comes again, as a memory, it is part of a new thought, or if you think the same thought at a different time and recognize it, it’s still another thought though its content seems the same. And thoughts are composed of words. You might have a non-verbal thought, but you mightn’t call it a thought, and when you do you use words. Thoughts also involve action, and so material things like electricity and chemicals in the brain are part of the process of thinking.

Words are like works of art, though also not like them. People say words are signs, but they can be more than signs, and can also not be signs. Every word was once invented by someone, whether as a sign or something else, and that invention is always a creation like a work of art. And if you say you don’t use works of art as you do words, think again, because there’s a sense in which you do, and artworks do too when they quote other artworks.

But you don’t ordinarily just contemplate a word like you do an artwork, and that’s the major difference: the artwork was created for contemplation, the word was generally intended for communication. And when a word was created for contemplation, it was no longer just a word, it was an artwork, a poem, or a mantra, which are other immaterial things in the world apart from words, but are also dependent on words. Even the most non-verbal humanly produced artifact, even if created by a deaf-mute never exposed to words who produces it by imitation, was once thought of and planned and brought to execution and public sharing by the mediation of words. And to this day no artist who is not spoken and written about in words can expect to be known as an artist.

So what is not material in our reality is dependent on words for our recognition and our relating to it. Words themselves do not invent all that is immaterial: the musician composes or plays, the sculptor and painter make forms and like the poet but without words, images; the dancer dances. What matter words?

But then, all that is material in our reality we relate to through words. Or the words are the accompaniment to the music of our perceptions and sensations and emotions, we use the words to organize or to believe we organize these experiences. What do words matter?

The words we have, and the ways we have of putting words together create the parameters of the reality we can relate to and the ways we have of relating to it. In optics, it is apparently known that because of the lattice-work of blood-vessels that veils our sight, we actually see perhaps 5% of what there is to be seen, and we put together a whole picture with our imaginations, and we believe that picture is what is there to be seen. That may be what we do with what we think we know through words.

The word is neither the written sign or the spoken sound. We write it, we speak it, but what we write is not it. We can’t use it up. It? I write its sign, you read its sign, but where is it?

The word, all the words there are so far, all those I know and those I don’t know, some of which I might learn and some of which never, are always “there”, and also “here” in my mind as long as I’ll be around. The words are untouched by my use of them, I think, but that needn’t be so. Perhaps I work a subtle change in the scent of each.

As words, all words are equal. There seems to be no single word that is radically primal, so one could say that all words, and the very existence of words and such, derive from it. If there is or ever was a language that began out of someone simultaneously speaking and inventing a single word and someone else hearing it and understanding it as what it was, that word is unknown. There are radical words, that a number of words may derive from. Like in English you have words made from radicals with prefixes or suffixes. Have you ever thought of all the words that are made by putting prefixes before -cept or -ceive or -ception, or before -vert or -verse or -version?

No matter, words matter.

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Gleanings from a Hebrew→English Translator’s Notes (1): On the Indefinite Article / with an intro, “ah, serendipitty! …”

gleanings

ah, serendipitty! Looking through the files&folders directory on my hard disk that Jonathan rescued for me, bless him, i realized i have some other gleanings to do beside my collatings of memorings. So here’s the first of these… oh, & in the title pic I just made I added an additional [in fact the basic] meaning of the Hebrew word bayit – house; & this ambiguity too is interesting: in Hebrew the Temple is called the Bayit, the “House” (& the First Temple and Second Temple are called Bayit Rishon and Bayit Sheni, & present-day fomenters are planning a “Third Temple”, Bayit Shlishi). Not that my original translation was wrong, but it was inadequate: for most Hebrew readers the last words of Yehuda Amihai ’s wise & moving poem will be read first of all as “the House that was destroyed”, but for some the simpler meaning with its more comprehensive range will seep in as well. & i must add that I wasn’t expecting to write all this when I added ‘or simply: the house – & having written that, I realize I should add that bayit also means ‘home’ (you couldn’t translate into Hebrew the truth that “a house is not a home”), and that the country the Zionists have expropriated is also called the bayit [home] of the “Jewish people”, so that too is a meaning of this word in Amihai’s “the bayit that was destroyed”…

So here’s the first gleaning:

a blessing and a curse
a shame and a disgrace
a majority and a minority (or several minorities)
a history and a geography
a vision and a way
a hegemony and a plurality

it is most difficult to explain the uses of the indefinite article, especially when used with “abstract nouns”, to people who do not use indefinite articles as part of their everyday speaking and thinking.

blessing and curse are words for alternative options, but any particular event can be interpreted as both a blessing and a curse, or as a blessing or a curse, and in English you could not say this without using the indefinite article; in Hebrew you can only say
ברכה וכללה to refer to either a particular case or a philosophical opposition…

shame and disgrace are almost synonyms, and can be discussed generally as emotions or consequences of certain acts, but in any particular case one will say not that
”this is shame and disgrace”, but “this is a shame and a disgrace”.
again, in Hebrew you will say בושה וחרפה for both options.

history and geography are general ideas; you can study history and/or geography, but any particular place/time will have a history or even many histories) and a geography

there is vision (a faculty, sight, or the capacity to envisage a future) and there are visions, but when someone has a particular vision, we will speak of a vision; the word way cannot be used in a way that makes sense without either an article (indefinite or definite) or some other word before it as in “make way” (which in any case is short for “make a way”. Ben-Gurion. wrote a book called חזון ודרך, a title that I found on the Internet has been translated in 2 different ways, one Vision and Way, by someone who obviously doesn’t have the understanding I’m talking about here, because the book is not about vision, but about a vision that Ben-Gurion is propounding, or about “way”, which by itself makes no sense at all; the correct translation, which I also found there, is: A Vision and a Way.

so, as seen in all the examples above, when referring to a particular case, or using “abstract nouns” to present descriptions, be they alternative or synonymous or simply accumulative, we need to use the indefinite article. After (and only after) using it to describe a situation we can then particularize it further, using the definite article “the blessing was that x happened; the curse was that y happened”; “the history of X is complex, and the geography is very varied”.

ARCHIVELINGS: 19680319 [20161110]: Writings: Changes

I have to reblog this text, because of course it’s from 1968 (not 83, as I stupidly misread & miswrote the dateline; won’t go into why or how now): March 19, on the first pages of a blackleatherbound notebook bought in Melbourne. Where this was written I don’t remember, but the following & very different pages were done in Sydney soon after…archiveling-8319-2

[196]8[0]3[/]19
Writings: Changes

Writing is a faculty, like thinking or
remembering. To attempt to suppress any
faculty is to try to check the flow. (The flow
can never be checked, true – but the attempt to
suppress any faculty creates tension and
resistance and thus makes the flow less
harmonious.

Words are insufficient, true. Not only for
communication – even for clarification. Thus
writing, like verbal thinking, is limited in
its scope. You cannot think your way
out of a hang-up: finally you must just
submit, and the submission which comes with
non-verbal realization brings about the
transformation, creating a new harmony.

For there is in the head a pre-thinking
consciousness – when thinking a thought
out in words, at the speed of speaking, you
suddenly realize you are not thinking a
new thought, but translating into words

a thought which was flashed into conscious-
ness completely and instantaneously a few
“seconds” before the return into the timeflow
of consecutive word-making. All this happens
in the head: you can even stop the {worded} thought
half-way, knowing that you know the
whole thought though you have not yet
verbalized it.

So why verbalize at all? Because that is
Another faculty – why suppress it?

The faculties, and the centres in the head –
the image-maker

ARCHIVELINGS: 19830109 [20161110]: Writings: Changes

archiveling-8319

[19]83[0]1[0]9
Writings: Changes

Writing is a faculty, like thinking or
remembering. To attempt to suppress any
faculty is to try to check the flow. (The flow
can never be checked, true – but the attempt to
suppress any faculty creates tension and
resistance and thus makes the flow less
harmonious.

Words are insufficient, true. Not only for
communication – even for clarification. Thus
writing, like verbal thinking, is limited in
its scope. You cannot think your way
out of a hang-up: finally you must just
submit, and the submission which comes with
non-verbal realization brings about the
transformation, creating a new harmony.

For there is in the head a pre-thinking
consciousness – when thinking a thought
out in words, at the speed of speaking, you
suddenly realize you are not thinking a
new thought, but translating into words

a thought which was flashed into conscious-
ness completely and instantaneously a few
“seconds” before the return into the timeflow
of consecutive word-making. All this happens
in the head: you can even stop the {worded} thought
half-way, knowing that you know the
whole thought though you have not yet
verbalized it.

So why verbalize at all? Because that is
Another faculty – why suppress it?

The faculties, and the centres in the head –
the image-maker

Lysistratan Women’s Power in Palestine?כוח נשי ליסיסטרטי בפלסטין (א”י)

Hebrew follows / עברית בהמשך
These women are wonderful. They march & demonstrate for Peace, & for Hope.
& Chaim Pessah is right in introducing his Facebook sharing of the post & video below with this comment & quote (my translation of his Hebrew & Yaakov Shabtai’s Hebrew translation of Aristophanes’ Greek):

Women’s power: Thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women are marching for a peace agreement.

 “All of Greece depends on us, the women, saving it.”

Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, a play in which the women forced the men to stop the war between Athens and Sparta.

The text under the video says:

‘At this moment we’re gathering opposite the Prime Minister’s Residence preparing for the beginning of the rally. Thousands, thousands of women and men have arrived and are continuing to arrive. Come along too. Starting very soon.’

Here are some pics & links gleaned from posts on Facebook:

Planning:
womenpower-planning

On the march:womenpower-march

At the concluding rally:womenpower-haaretz
“Women Wage Peace” demonstration opposite PM’s residence, this evening. Haaretz / הארץ, 2016/10/19

http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.748288
http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Women-Wage-Peace-rally-in-Jerusalem-for-peace-talks-470450

https://www.facebook.com/ilana.janovsky/posts/10211780622816150



 

I admire these women. I admire their determination & their readiness to actively demonstrate it.
& I’m a great believer in women’s power.
& I’m sure they could be the ones who could bring about the necessary change.But what kind of “peace settlement” can they possibly demand? from whom? between whom?They want to bring about peace, & they could.But only if they get their message right, if they make their demand clear. Until then, such marches & demonstrations will certainly continue to show that there are thousands of Israeli women & perhaps thousands of Israeli men who oppose what the millions who elected Israel’s present & previous governments continue to support & defend. They may even also rally more thousands to join them, but they will not, cannot, achieve the true acceptance of the one side by the other that is a prerequisite for any peace between an oppressed nation & the nation oppressing it.

Only when they can say, together: We all, women & men, live in Palestine, whose name in Hebrew is also Eretz-Yisrael [Israeland]. Palestine is where most of us were born, & for most of us it is our only homeland. We are all Palestinians, Arabic-speaking & Hebrew-speaking. The Zionist occupation of Palestine must end. The militarily-maintained privileged status of Israeli Jews in Palestine must end. We demand a Free Palestine, with equal rights for all citizens & equal status for both Arabic & Hebrew cultures & languages.

All of Palestine (including the part still calling itself Israel)
perhaps depends on the women saving it.

 

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Two Nations, Two Languages, Two Cultures, in One (Little) Land: A Short Preamble, & 2 Translations — of a poem by Tamer Massalha, & of a Facebook status by Ayala Shalev in which she shared Tamer’s poem

A Short Preamble

I’ve written about these things before (see IsraelandPalestine), but now they seem to be getting clearer, to me at least. It’s also clear to me that a two-state solution, with a “State of Palestine” limited to the territories left to the Arab Palestinians since Oslo, is no longer viable, if it ever was. But it’s becoming equally clear to me that only a two-state solution (which need not be based on territorial division) can fulfill the emotional & spiritual needs of the people of the two nations that live (in terrible inequality & inequity) in this little land. & the reason for this is that these people have two different languages, two different cultures, with all their symbols, etc. I see all these images of Palestinian protesters waving their flags, & of Israelis waving theirs, but the crux of the matter goes deeper, & it begins with language, the first of all these things that people need to feel they belong to a nation. & apparently most people do feel this need. Could two nations do this in one state? Perhaps in time, if some sort of cultural autonomy were assured for both.  But more probably, it seems to me, before such a time, the Arab Palestinians will need to feel at long last the dignity & pride of national independence, & Jewish Israelis will need to feel (also at long last) the dignity & pride of no longer being oppressors.

How a just two-state solution could be achieved is still beyond me: I have not yet been able to imagine it, & have not seen any imagining that comes close to offering anything practical. But if I believe in anything, it’s the power of the imagination. & so I continue to contribute what I can to the discourse on this issue — sometimes my own thoughts, sometimes translations of writings by others that I feel add to our understanding of what is at stake. Today I’m publishing two translations — of a poem & of a Facebook status that deeply & very movingly touch on the core of these issues. The poem was written in Hebrew by Tamer Massalha, & was translated by him into Arabic.  (My English translation follows, & can also be read separately here.) I found it on Facebook, where it was shared  by my friend Ayala Shalev, who also wrote a very moving status about her experience of reading the poem with a group of Jewish & Arab adults who meet together regularly to discuss matters relating to their shared life in Israel in Palestine.  I’ve also translated that status, & it appears below the poem. It can also be read separately here.]

The Hebrew original, as posted by Ayala. The Arabic translation appears below my English translation

The Hebrew original, as posted by Ayala. The Arabic translation appears below my English translation

The Muezzin’s Prayer / Tamer Massalha

A voice that sounded like the Muezzin’s praying
called to me between the words of my poem:
Who is it that’s there?
It’s me, Imam, I replied to the prayer,
Your son who’s lost in the web of Hebrew,
who suffers from its curvings and its lack of will
to carry my pain for me.
But who is it that shackled Arabic to you, my son?
And why will you sing in a foreign tongue?
Who is that tore the word from the place
and exiled the Arabic melody?
I replied, my voice a choking rupture in my throat,
The Naqba, Imam.
It was the Naqba that expelled my language
to beyond the border,
and since then, my father, I’ve been tracking my pain
in the foreignness of the Hebrew language.
And how do you lament, my son?
How do you lament? the prayer’s voice asked pityingly.
I wait for the darkness of night, my father,
like an illegal inhabitant in his homeland.
like a ghost that steals in at a checkpoint,
like a food-smuggler in the tunnels of Gaza,
like a worker marching to his daily bread,
like a terminal patient on a stretcher in a line
like a husband and wife waiting for a permit at the Wall,
for a moment of family unification.
And when all the poets of the Hebrew language are sleeping,
my father,
quietly… quietly… my dear father
I gather from their poems the loveliest threads of language,
weave from them the flag of my homeland
and hang it, every night anew,
high…
high
on an electricity pole.
tamer muezzin arab

Ayala Shalev’s Facebook status

Words, words, words… Mountains of philosophies have been written about words & language & still, the power, the representational character & the meaning of words always remains partly subjective & mysterious, not fully grasped. Something that can’t be defined precisely, something you can only understand something about through examples, a little like God, or love.

Our group of adults for joint Jewish-Arab life here met again yesterday, and together we worked on this poem that is attached here – The Muezzin’s Prayer, by Tamer Massalha. This poem threw me – for whom words are such a major and important part of my world – in so many directions, that there’s not enough space, and in any case there’s never enough time to pause over everything, so I’ll lay them down here, the words that filled me, so as to see what picture they’ll return to me.

A Personal Experience
When we were asked to share a personal experience the poem evoked in us, I remembered one time, long ago, more than a decade ago, when I was facilitating a meeting of Jews and Arabs in an activity of the Peres Center for Peace. I remember in particular how astounded I was, then, that the meeting of Arabic speakers & Hebrew speakers was being conducted in English. How can this be, I thought, it’s ridiculous, especially since everyone speaks Hebrew. “We don’t want to speak in the language of the occupier”, they said then, though all of them could speak Hebrew fluently, and only then I began to understand what this means.

Another Personal Experience
In the group there are people who prefer “to do” than “to be”, & one of the proposals for doing that’s always on the table is the matter of signs on the Israel National Trail. I’m not a trekker, so I haven’t seen this myself, but I understand that all the signs along the trail are only in Hebrew, not in Arabic.

During the talk yesterday the matter of signing came up again, from another angle. The disregard for signing. How on signs throughout the country the writing in Arabic is full of errors, distorted names and incorrect spelling of existing names.

& I recalled yet another angle, how, years ago, for some reason, I agreed to go to a meeting at the Shiloh settlement. I think it was the first time I’d been in the [Occupied] Territories. The landscape was spectacular, a truly biblical experience. & within all this beauty I was astounded to see that all the signs pointed only to Jewish settlements, in Hebrew. Every trace of the Arab villages that exist there was simply erased. I remember how horrified I was then. How was it possible to nullify parts of reality like this, what does it say about the people who do this, & how easy it is to do this by means of language.

Pain
“There are words,” some Arab friends said in this conversation, “that we, among ourselves, in our everyday speech, will say in Hebrew. We have no words in Arabic for those things”. A shackled language, Tamer Massalha wrote in his poem. & I recalled conversations I have with my relatives in the USA, in English, which I speak very well, yet there’s not even one time that I don’t have the feeling that no matter how precise I am, it will never be as precise as I can be in Hebrew, my mother-tongue, my language. A feeling of sadness & loneliness & helplessness. True, it passes, it’s momentary, but it’s always there, that moment of knowing that there’s no chance that they’ll understand me truly, in English, the way I intended. Because a language is a culture & a history & a society, & when the language doesn’t develop, when it’s shackled, that diminishes the culture & the history & the society.

Haneen Zoabi
& so the conversation came to this disputed woman. Zoabi, said one of the Jewish participants. Say Haneen, an Arab woman corrected him. & I thought: how is it that she’s insisting on something that to me seems like a diminishing. When I see that in the newspapers they refer to Tsipi Livni as “Tsipi” and Isaac Herzog as “Herzog”, I see it as a classic expression of male chauvinism. And here, it’s the opposite. Another little instance of a different language, behind which is a representation of a different culture. A different understanding of the nuances of the language, which in the best of cases produces friction, and in the worst – war.

Knowledge
Our discussions are conducted entirely in Hebrew. Initially we were strict about translation – whatever was said in Hebrew was translated into Arabic, and vice versa. But as the relationship developed & trust was built, we understood that this complication slowed us down, and we remained with “if something’s not understood, it’ll be translated into Arabic”. And for me, every time I hear them speaking that soft language of theirs – with its sounds that I’ve found pleasant from encounters since I was 18, but I’ve never been able to make time to learn it – for me it always brings sorrow. & appreciation. I respect & appreciate them for their deep knowledge of my language, & am sorry I don’t have such a knowledge of their language. There’s a statement there, in the fact that there really isn’t a common language.

“Death and life are in the hands of language”, it says in Proverbs (18.21). Aha. Exactly.

Tarab
A new word I learned yesterday. It has no equivalent in Hebrew, as far as I know. “It has to do with music”, the friend who taught me the word explained. “it’s when you fully enjoy music, you’re entirely in the music, you reach a transcendence through music”, he said, searching for words to describe it. & I felt a new field opening up in my mind, & I started to sprout this word there. Tarab. It’s like tarbut [the Hebrew word for ‘culture’], I thought. A culture of music. & in this new field, this connected for me with the well-known saying that the Eskimos have lots of words for snow, because snow is so much a part of their lives. & here, opposite us, there’s a culture that we don’t trouble to know, and indeed we even seem to do the opposite.

This was a powerful meeting. A meeting with others, with other opinions, other ways of looking at a shared reality, a collision of concepts. & nonetheless, & above it all, we already have such a cloud that cannot be defined precisely, that we can only understand something of it through examples. A little like God, or love, or Tarab.

For other posts with translations of Ayala Shalev, see Hope for Palestine[..]? & Identity?