Thursday, August 21, 2003

The Semester-Saver

Tonight's class is going to be the really bright spot of the semester, I think. I come home from it all revved up and wanting to dig up more to learn. Learning is addictive -- an acquired taste, to be sure, but once it got into my system I had to have more, and more, and more....

What is interesting about this class is that it's about people. I'm still figuring out my own pattern to this interest, but it could probably be generalized down to why people behave the way that they do. I guess that qualifies me as an amateur anthropologist. In more specific terms, I'm interested in the topography of the mind; how language/behavior/patterns shape it and how, in turn, it shapes those concepts. I always think of it in terms of language because that's what got me into the interest in the first place. You can't think of something -- you can't have a concept for something -- unless your language has a word or a term for it. If the culture develops the concept they end up developing terminology for it. On the other hand, if the word or term doesn't exist in the language, it's possible and probably that the culture has no such concept. That's where culture clashes come in. That, and similar but not identical cultural situations. Take marriage for instance. Here in my part of the multiverse it's defined as being between a man and a woman and is begun with the expectation that it will last for the rest of the participants' lives. There are a host of other definitions and conditions as to who is qualified or disqualified from marrying each other and how the marriage should be legally ended should the end become desirable. Here in my jurisdiction it is almost convulsively repugnant to think of first cousins marrying each other. In other parts of the world that's no big deal. In still other parts of the world there is no word for and no concept of 'cousin'. You have siblings but no such thing as a cousin. So pairings that would be nauseating here wouldn't even raise an eyebrow elsewhere. In some cultures marriage has absolutely no religious connotation; it's simply a legal contract like any other legal contract. These are the assets the parties bring to the partnership, these are the assets they expect to have should the partnership be dissolved, and these are their assigned duties as part of the partnership. This makes better sense, really, than our traditional concept of marriage. Contracts were designed to let everyone know up front what their rights and responsibilities were, and what would happen if there was a breach. Nowadays everyone is so concentrated on having the perfect, fairy-tale wedding that no one EVER focuses on what happens the days that follow the "I do." Think we got our priorities backwards? I do.

Weight: ? too scatterbrained to weigh in
Exercise: only my mind. Tomorrow...I swear I'll get in tomorrow....

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