Monday, May 10, 2010

Etymology Monday: A Quotidian, Intimate Discipline.

I spend the last few hours catching up on my aunt's Flickr photostream. She's a talented photographer, and she's documenting the year she turns 50 by taking a self-portrait every day. In her blog post on the project, she describes how each day's photo is one of dozens of outtakes with slight differences, and also how as the days go by themes and patterns emerge serendipitously. It made me think about the discipline of doing something every day, about how it can be both tedious and profound. When I began this project I blogged every day for a month, which occasionally felt tedious, but the response I received was, in fact, profound. The friend who inspired this blog told me that he felt it was one of the great things he'd done that year, and being that he volunteers with Food not Bombs, pickets the School of the Americas, and hacks his way through Alaska punching bears in the face, this is high and heady praise.

I want to reaccustom myself to this kind of discipline, if I ever was accustomed to it, and this brings me to my word today. Quotidian comes to us from Anglo-Norman, which took it from the classical Latin quotidianus, meaning "occurring every day." I have always felt the word in English to have a connotation of dullness. OED defines "the quotidian" as "mundane or everyday things as a class," but one of the example sentences for this entry, from the Times in 1902, refers to "that which for want of a better term we agree to call the natural and by which we really mean the quotidian, the familiar, the intimate."

The intimate.  Being a restless creature, I tend to think of having to do the same thing every day as stifling and humdrum. Looking at my aunt's portraits, though, I begin to see it differently. Far from being stifled, my aunt is unfolding and blooming in each day's photograph. The depth of perception gained in following the same subject also allows for surprising variety, and even in shots which are similar there is always some new warmth or humor or wisdom. Intimate is the word-- Latin, "pressed into, inmost, deepest," that which is within being brought to the surface.

Can I do that with my blogging, I wonder? I tend to be irreverent and glib rather than intimate, and I worry that this will become tedious to the reader, if not to me. Daily practice changes you, though. It makes you wiser, more capable. It's a discipline, and discipline is that which is taught to a disciple, which comes from the Latin word discere, "to learn." So bear with me as I learn how to be a writer, and in so doing learn to put what is within on the surface.


Posted by Silent Five @ 9:02 PM

Word of the Week

gymnosophy [jim-NAH-so-fee]

n. Philosophical, amusing, or nonsensical insights realized when naked, as in the shower or in bed. (recent coinage: att. S. Galasso, 2010)

Victoria and Albert enjoyed a spot of postprandial concupiscence culminating in a night of gymnosophy and coffee and crumpets at dawn.

The Silent Top Five: Bacon-Flavored Desserts

1) Bacon cheesecake.
2) Bacon gumballs.
3) Bacon ice cream.
4) Bacon-orange bars.
5) Bacon apple pie.

Standard Disclaimer

This is all in no way meant to incur copyright-infringement-related wrath. I'm harmless. I promise. Oh, and if you're offended by anything I may post herein, I guarantee I didn't mean to do so (unless, of course, you are a humorless prig. In which case, go right on and be offended, with my blessings.)