Wednesday, June 08, 2022


We make categories in order to break them, and I think this should have been introduced to me much earlier in my education.  The Paleolithic, the Mesolithic, and Is the Chalcolithic a Thing? The High Middle Ages and the Renaissance - is there any real difference? The dividing line between a language and a dialect is mutual intelligibility, except "do you mean after a couple of friendly drinks?" Or, "what if neither are Russians but have both been in the Russian Navy?" "What if it's considered insulting on this island to call this a creole but the next island calls their almost-identical language Creole?" Separate species cannot interbreed and produce fertile young - except that's a complete mess now. I'll know it when I see it, uh, most dog breeds are genetically very close. The neat delineation of parts of speech that you learned in school turn out to be ideal types that apply to 70-90% of our words and phrases but leave...

I am going inside. (preposition)

I am going home.

I am going back to my childhood. Okay, 

I hated Akron, where I was abused by several relatives. I am going back to the town I grew up in. I am going back to my childhood.  I am going home...I am going inside.

You can have fun diagramming the sentence to pretend that they fit parts of speech neatly, but they don't.  It's a game.  It's an imposing of categories because we like categories. Reality does not fit categories, but that doesn't mean that reality isn't real. That's the opposite game being played.

Schizophrenia or BPAD with mood-congruent psychotic features? Darn, nothing fits.  Maybe Schizoaffective Disorder? I give up. Psychotic Disorder, NOS. Oh, c'mon, no one is completely objective in journalism or even science. Yet each of those categories above - Chalcolithic, Creole, Schizoaffective has a real meaning. Just because the boundaries are in tatters does not imply there is no meaning in the central concept. People trying to screw with you about that, pretending that there is no central reality are imposing their advantage of exploiting chaos on you by declaring all your precisions are false. 

Romania Changed Everything.

I think it was Romania that did it. Even before the boys came in 2001, I came home to a different world in 1998 after two weeks in Beius. Before that I straightened pictures in waiting rooms.  I still might on occasion, just because I like the looks of it, but it used to be a necessity. I can reluctantly single-space after a period now (though I still go back to get the punctuation around the ends of parentheses or quotation marks right, even though the punctuation style I have adopted over fifteen years of blogging would make not only my grandmother, but even my 1980 self shudder.)  Yet in that pivotal period between the very clearly defined Wyman culture of 1997 and the very clearly defined but entirely different family culture (and church and work and marriage and even what I wore and how I worshiped) inverted a great deal. One Romanian spells very well, the other is embarrassing - and it doesn't matter. He's fussy about other things, because he's an accountant. My mother died, my father died, and all my old categories were transcended.  Exactly as should be. All the same yet all different.

Insisting on little things that you know and others don't can be OCD*, or Aspie, or any of six arrogant Elitisms. Sometimes precision matters, even to life-or-death or billions of dollars.  Bible studies are supposed to look this way, and not that way. Mostly, it's just showing off, or a hard-wired nervousness impervious to correction. "It's not green, it's teal. If we abandon such distinctions, we may as well call black and white the same thing!" I still haven't decided which of the explanations fits best for me, mostly because I don't want to embrace any of those categories.

The flip side is you can and should teach categories. Thought without structure is just feelings and fashions. People who try and break categories before instruction are only hoping to impose their feelings and fashions on the defenseless young. But embrace with joy that we teach categories in order to understand something, but the rest of your life will be spent shrugging that the edges are soft/

*or CDO, because that's in alphabetical order.


Grim said...

I would date the "High" Middle Ages from ~1100 until ~1450, and the Renaissance later (and variously, depending on where physically we're talking about). The defining factor of the High Middle Ages was the partnership between church and state in defining Christendom, and a literary tradition that focused particularly on Arthurian literature. By 1450 Malory is summarizing and bringing to a close what was by then long an international tradition of poetry and prose, running to millions of words in French alone, but also in German, English, and other tongues.

Wikipedia chooses 1000-1300, based on other criteria. Maybe that's your point: the category is a creature, and another creator might make it differently just as well.

james said...

"You don't have a measurement if you don't have the error estimate."

Texan99 said...

Things have fuzzy edges. Definitions and boundaries alter with the circumstances and purpose of the category. We can waste an awful lot of time arguing on which side of a too-bright line some edge phenomenon belongs. On the other hand, my dog is not a wolf, even though there is no moment in history when wolves abruptly became dogs, and dogs still share many important attributes with wolves. A tree has a branch that's not its trunk, but we can't normally draw a single undisputed line marking the boundary at the joint.