If you can see the fire, the meal was already cooked a long time ago

Aug 11, 2007
Some days I think I should go into the business of koans. I mean, the little bits and pieces I scribble all over my work papers and write "Essaie!" next to don't quite qualify as bumper-sticker wisdom, and they certainly aren't blog posts on their own. Then again, they're probably not confusing enough for koans either.

I have, for instance, the sentence fragment "As an anthropologist, I know that meaning is acquired, not inherent" written on one page of my little notebook that I carry with me everywhere. (Yes, I do sometimes think in words like that, to my own unending astonishment.) These notebooks remind me a little bit of the diaries of my grandmothers that my mom kept lying about, tiny leather-bound records of weather, births and deaths, and occasionally something a particularly notable calf born. My grandmother was a farmwife; she didn't have the time nor the inclination to write pages about her thoughts every day. She kept track of what was important. Okay, so my books are more self-indulgent and certainly less orderly than her diaries, but I like to think of my relations in future years looking back on them and thinking..."Why would you write all this down? And then why would you keep it?"

I know that meaning is acquired, not inherent. I remember surprising myself when I thought that, which must be why I wrote it down. I must have been reading Crowley at the time, then, because I wouldn't be surprised by that thought if I was reading something anthropological. It's a controversial statement in the magickal world, though. Why else all those charts of correspondences? Why lists of the properties of herbs and stones? It's become more popular of late to say that correspondences are what is meaningful to you -- Crowley says the same, actually -- but there's still a niggling sense in the back of my brain that surely some things really do mean something, on their own.

Meaning is acquired, not inherent. Anthropology says yes. Hard science says no, but only for concepts like "one" and "zero," which are not particularly useful in day to day life. Religion says a loud no -- but everyone disagrees on what that meaning is, and which parts of it are important, so that's not extremely helpful either.

Acquired, not inherent. I do believe that, I guess (and I must have believed it when I wrote it down, or there'd be huge question marks all over the page next to the sentence). And not just in a scientific sense, but in a theological sense, too. Life is a journey, not a destination. Stop and smell the roses. A soul is made, over lifetimes, not born and then done. And yet somehow, it still seems contradictory to me. Contradictory to what, I'm not sure. To something.

Obviously I shall have to think on this more. Also, I need a new little notebook.

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