Boundaries, Limits

More on Centers, Edges & Borders
@ K. 2004 05 25

Imagine approaching the planet earth from space. Can we imagine a sentience that will not find Africa to be a landmass distinct from Australia? from North or South America? Closer in, say over Panama, the distinction between North and South America may blur: especially if we determine that the canal is an artifact. Ah, but then we’d be seeing “nature” as distinct and separate from “mankind!”

Cultures, individuals … make distinctions and then believe them: reify them: think that “god” must see it the same way.

The other day a personable home health aid told my Catherine and me that her four year old, when in the US, answers either Portuguese or English in English. Now that he’s visiting grandma in Brazil, she speculated, he may be answering in Portuguese. “I don’t think,” she added, “he realizes that he’s at home in two languages.”

The above file observes that if one is in Kansas, what “America” is may seem clear. What America “stands for” may also seem clear. Ah, but in Brooklyn, in El Paso, on New York’s Lower East Side … both, all, may seem a great deal less clear.

Go to the beach: especially with a tide running. Stand with one foot on the “land” and the other foot in the “ocean.” One wave and the sand has washed from around your ankle. What’s “continent” and what “isn’t” is volatile, unstable, “refreshing” itself constantly.

Wake up on Monday. Look out over the bay. Alcatraz Island is right where it should be. Same on Tuesday. Wake up in a million years and it will be no where in sight: if you’re still in something still called “San Franciso.”

Sitting in Buckingham Palace, the Queen may be sure she’s speaking “English.” In Paris the Dauphin may have been sure what he was speaking was “French.” What was the slave trader speaking in the west Africa of a couple of hundred years ago? A little English, a little Dutch, a little of a dozen other languages and crios. What were his slaves speaking? One or a dozen languages one day; one or more new crios within a few months after he’s been lassoed and shipped off somewhere.

Once upon a time “English” had no Latin words “polluting” it. Then in mere centuries the English of some speakers sounded more Latin than Anglo-Saxon. In the Eighteenth Century “dykes” were built. Suddenly we had “education” and teachers to tell us not to say “ain’t.” (Why not? That’s pure English!) (Ah, but it’s not pure Latin.) What language has ever had more severe guardians than modern French? Still: not only do the English have a “chauffeur”; the French now have a “weekend”: and a “Big Mac.”


Boundaries may in part be “real”; but they will also be at least in part traditional: and conventions are not always swiftly updated. We measure the “size” of the earth at its crust; we measure the size of Jupiter at its atmosphere: its atmosphere as visible to us hundreds of millions of miles away. We measure the size of the solar system by what we think is the orbit of the outermost planet known to us. Once that measurement missed Pluto, now it doesn’t. (2011 08 02 There have been quite a few changes in that area since I wrote the above.) What it still misses we don’t know. Not even all the gas giants have always been observed: Jupiter, Saturn … sure; Neptune, Uranus … not always. Now: what about the O-O cloud? the millions upon millions of comets that theory, not observation necessitates. By that theory, they’re still under thrall to our sun: more or less. If we count the O-O Cloud, our solar system multiplies in size: though it would still be invisible from most vantage points in the universe.

Where does a man begin and leave off. Should we count our clothing? Our hair. What about the hair that’s fallen, the breath exhaled, what we leave in the toilet?

What about ideas, stories … words … semen of ours that makes entrance into another?

What about ideas, stories … words … we’ve expended that have yet neither fertilized nor infected another? May they not someday, somewhere?

Can we be sure that ideas not recognized or responded to sympathetically on earth may not yet be intercepted in Andromeda and become revolutionary there? (Be hard to collect royalties.) What if even now Illichian deschooling has taken hold near Bernard’s star?


As I can I’ll vary points already made at Knatz.com about “core” and “periphery.” “I sing, I sang …” is core English; “Call for a taxi … fire the chauffeur …” is peripheral. I bet I would understand some peripheral discussions in Portuguese, say a discussion of the French Nouvelle Vague; but I wouldn’t understand one word of core Portuguese: not without steeping myself in it. An academic newly arrived in Germany from China might absorb some of the lecture on cancer; but not identify a single insult hurled by the street fighters. It’s the latter who are using core German: utterly distinct from any Chinese language.


Is not any organism that we call an individual and think of as an individual really already a community? asks my module on Tag Teaming [Link to be restored].

more coming

The seed for this file was first expressed thusly:

not all individuals, particularly of different stages of maturity, of socialization, may distinguish, separate, isolate “things” in the same way.

I may soon accomplish my long-time plan to post my notebooks for Knatz.com and to add my notebooks from before 1995: they really are a continuum of sorts. Many of the notes will have been expressed in modules; many not. In all cases it will be interesting to see whether or not the original kernel appears in the actual module. Often not. Sometimes the original metaphor buds before ever seeing light.

Thinking Tools

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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