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Old 08-27-2009, 09:40 PM   #17
Steve Earle
Dojo: Aikido in The Fan, Richmond, VA
Location: Richmond, VA
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 12
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 15

Peter,

Ouch!

Actually I am tickled to see you devoting the amount of commentary that you have to my book, even though it is about neither aikido nor kotodama. Your column is the first anywhere to my knowledge to give it any attention at all, and for that I say thank you!

Now. The problem that I have with your criticism is that you seem to be missing the point. (Responsibility for which to some extent ultimately falls back on me, the writer; this is understood!) You appear to be looking, in what I have written, for an objective theory or formula that will account for why words and characters are what they are, when in fact what I am attempting to present is the other way around: That is, if we begin with nothing more than what words are—how they are pronounced and how they are written—what do these external, formal aspects suggest about their interiority, their meanings? The book is subtitled an introduction to the art and science of kotoha, and the interpretive part is the artistic part. The process is one of opening oneself to the possible associations and implied suggestions, even inspiration. (This is the opposite of what happens when you seek to define a word.) More importantly, what you are likely to then discover is that what words and the phenomenon of language, when interpreted in this way, are talking about is something other than their associations in our ordinary daily conversation. This is the double-edged sword (s+word) that I talk about; at the same time that words and language are the stuff of human existence (a fairly long list of modern philosophers will attest to that same conclusion), they are also indicative of a much deeper, causal domain. The only possible "proof" of any of this is an "ah ha" experience, and that is not something I can give you. (You can lead a mule to water but you can't make him drink.)

Likewise, the "diagrams" with which you have such a problem are not offered as "proofs" of anything; they are simply illustrations of an approach or art of interpretation that I have found fascinating and inspiring and that I am choosing to share. Whether or not you, the reader, resonate with what I present is only partially my responsibility.

Quote:
Example 1: Now and Nen (念)
Great pun; I will save that for future use!
The diagram actually begins in the middle with the English word ‘nowhere' which of course is spelt ‘now' and ‘here'—and now-here, as I have explained in the text is a time-space that is "absolute" in the sense that it is true for all observers, always-everywhere. (And at the same time, since it is the time-space of being and not the time-space of physical objects, can never be pinned to a particular locus within the relative time-space continuum and is therefore nowhere. A lot to be contained in a single word and to my way of thinking, pretty cool; if you don't share my enthusiasm, so be it.) I then go on to deconstruct this word-concept in two directions (up and down) and to show how it can then be interpreted/reconstructed into other word-concepts. Never would I suggest that my associations/interpretations/constructions are either the ONLY ones or the RIGHT ones. Nor would I suggest that they are particularly useful outside of the context of this kind of interpretation (when you show the policeman your driver's license, for example). The word ‘arbitrary' I find problematic because I happen to believe that, ultimately, nothing is arbitrary and everything is related to everything else; but certainly on the surface these associations are arbitrary. That such associations do occur, however, is an inherent feature of language. I also happen to think that they are fun. In the same way that stand-up comedians get mileage out of word associations.

Will refrain from splitting hairs with you on all your points but just note a couple:

Quote:
An alternative reading is given of 念, the kun reading omou, but I have not found this in any dictionary.
Both Nelson's Japanese-English Character dictionary and the kanwa jiten that I use list omou as an (admittedly obscure) kun reading.

Quote:
This appears to be offered as an explanation of how the constituents of the character 念 (今 and 心) are related. This is clearly a subjective opinion, unsupported by any evidence.
Subjective??! Nothing could be more objective than the fact that 念is a composite of 今 and 心. And yes, I have put my own interpretation or "spin" on what that might mean, but you have to admit that most Japanese speakers would read these characters as "ima-no-kokoro" and that my interpretation, while neither the only one nor necessarily the right one, is at the very least, plausible and even provocative. (After all, one of the things that the human intellect is all about is creating meaning where there otherwise isn't any; look at all of the interpretations that have been placed on or read into Shakespeare!) The ordinary speaker of Japanese has also never noticed or attached any significance to the fact that 念is written 今心ima-no-kokoro, any more than the ordinary English speaker has noticed or attached any significance to the fact that nowhere is written now-here. I for one find the "arbitrary" implications-by-word-association in both cases pretty damned interesting.

Quote:
The entire analysis seems to rest on the thesis that it is necessary to regard the meaning of the separate constituents of Chinese characters as crucial for their (combined) meanings.
Not my thesis at all! What I am saying is that when a character is separated into its constituents it will very often suggest an entirely different way of thinking about the concept at hand. Necessity plays no part. This is a creative process.

Quote:
In Japanese, the number 52 can be read in two ways: 五二 (go-ni) andィフ (i-fu). However, if we combine these readings differently and read them as go-i and ni-fu, we can derive the words意 goi (incorrectly read as mind) and 普負 nifu (= pervasive, ‘carried throughout').
My diagram is evidently confusing.
五(5) can be read イ, and イcan be read 意 ‘mind'. (Yes, it can also be read 胃 ‘stomach', as well as a whole bunch of other ways, any of which could be used if they are useful to you. I get more mileage out of mind than stomach. But then, 胃=田+月, and there is definitely a relationship between the mind as the place that digests knowledge and the stomach as the place that digests food.)
二(2) can be readフ, and フ can be read either 普 or 負. Odano-sensei would always use both of them together (written so close together that they suggested a new character!) and I am simply following her lead here. Amaneku (far and wide, throughout all, pervasively) ou (to carry or bear) -- together a description of the 2nd dimension of creation, the universal out-breath or expansion.

Quote:
Why is the numerical value of N O W so crucial, other than the fact that all the arguments that are based on it?
Never said it was crucial. But it is interesting. The alphabet (this is all in the book), in contrast with both the Chinese ideographs and the Japanese kana is a linear sequence and therefore inherently numerical. The ideographs lend themselves to structural interpretation; kana characters lend themselves to phonetic associations; letters of the alphabet lend themselves to numerical associations. Once again, though, all of this is by free association; I am not using numbers to calculate or to prove something the way that mathematics is used to prove science.

And so on. In several instances you call me to task for using a particular character to represent a sound, when in fact there are any number of characters that can represent that sound; to which I would say, bring it on! You can replace any character I have chosen with any other, as long as it does in fact carry the phonetic reading in question. And if you apply the same methods of interpretation (but sincerely—not facetiously) the results should almost always surprise you. (But if they don't, don't blame me!)

Just to bring all of this back into line with the thread of your column, first of all: Odano's methodology does NOT prescribe a set of meanings (or kami-sama etc.) to the word-sounds, nor does it assume that anything should be taken on faith. That is enough, I believe, to set her markedly apart from the proponents of kotodama.

Second: Last time you called my introduction of ikkyo into the discussion a red herring; it is not a herring by any color and it is very much to the point. Odano-sensei's methodology revolves around a practice (that may also be true of kotodama-gaku; I don't know), as does aikido. You can debate the merits and demerits of ikkyo forever and serve no purpose; the important question when entertaining whether or not ikkyo works is who's ikkyo? Aikido is not an "it"; it is a living practice. In that sense, Odano's kotoha is at least similar.

Enough for now. Carry on with your writing; I have learned much about kotodama from your research that I never knew.

Steve
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