Just words: grasp

grasp the rope
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Hey, Friend,

Grasp it, clasp it, catch it. With your hands. Grasp it, see it, know it. With your mind.

For me, it has been six months. Six months of living in LA. Every day of the week. No driving-up from San Diego every other weekend. Half a year of working from home during the day and sleeping in the same bed each night. I have not yet fully grasped my luck.

COVID-19. I have not grasped that either. I must not grasp someone’s hand. That much I understood. Why the sales of Corona beer plummeted, I don’t understand. A lot of things have strange names. Naming a virus after a beer? Who had that idea? Or was it a hoax? It’s a bad name. Corona. Radiates abundance, power, and glory. Some would like to have these within their grasp. But being crowned with a virus? How frightening when one can’t breathe and can’t see why not. Invisible.

As in the folktale, the emperor is donning new clothes. His crown invisible, untouchable, he is grasping at straws, while his serfs are catching the virus, gasping for air. What’s going on in the land under him?

How do I get a grip, get a grasp on life? This life under a mask. Does it matter that there is a travel warning for Vienna? Does school take place in Wuhan? Russia is peddling the remedy? The US is on the list of countries from which one must not come?

I did not visit my mother in Finsterwalde this summer. So, I renovated the kitchen. Catch them while you can, I thought, especially, when you are in the house every day of the week. Lucky: In the kitchen, I am breathing regularly, when I have breakfast in the morning, before I sit down at my desk for a day’s work. Paid. As it always was. I have a full grasp of my little island; grasping this world will take me longer.

Just words: ambiguity

Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Hey, Friend,
Middle of a work day. I am using my lunch break to write. Thank you for your comment, Chris, on my previous post on the word herd immunity [which I have now also moved to this blog]. Sitting about 150 miles away from your home, I can picture your schedule (I might pick up on this later) and imagine the conversation with your son. The marvels of reading and writing…

The post heading gives it away: what caught my eye was: “It boils down to a coping mechanism for a yawning lack of ambiguity tolerance among us humans.” Fancy word that. Let me bounce it around a little.

I believe you are right. We are always trying to cope with ambiguity. We like to know what this virus is—exactly. What does it do the body, to my body, should I get infected? When will we get back to normal? On November 11? Or on December 14? And what does normal mean, anyway? And why did you throw another Latin word into my immunity?

So, I looked it up: ambiguity. It’s old. It can be traced back to Proto-Indo-European, the reconstructed ancestor of all Indo-European languages, such as English, German, Latin, Spanish, Persian, Sanskrit, Urdu, … Linguists hypothesize that PIE was spoken in the third millennium BC, 5000 years ago.
*ambhi (around) and *ag (to drive, to move)
In Latin, the word referred to “double meaning” already.

So, I guess even 5000 years ago, the nomads had to deal with unsteady things, that kept moving, struggled with deriving one meaning from the many they saw, and encountered phenomena of a doubtful or uncertain nature. So much so that they probably had a word for it.

5000 years. And we are still struggling and coping with ambiguity. Why? It’s everywhere. As they say: Words have more than one meaning. (Linguists call this phenomenon polysemy. And yes, it is pretty much all words.) Most phenomena in nature and in society are complex; development and processes in general are often nonlinear; each one of us can take a different perspective, develop a different — often only partial — understanding. Ambiguous.

So, what are we going to do with our lack of ambiguity tolerance? Tolerate it more? Eliminate ambiguity as drastically as we can? Struggle with it from time to time over the next 5000 years?

Or is there another way? What do you think?

As always, hanging in there and thinking of you (plural … again!)


This is the penultimate transfer of a post from the Panta Rhei Enterprise site. I had written this originally in July. I would think that apart from the dates being even further out, not much changed … for the better. I am still optimistic that it will. Eventually.

At least the tidying up of this blog and the one at Panta Rhei is nearing its useful conclusion.