Collective Vocabulary

I was revisiting John McPhee’s Draft No. 4 recently, reading the essay “Frame of Reference”. In it, McPhee mentions collective vocabulary – basically, a shared understanding of the commonplace phrases of the age we live in.

Much of what is considered current in pop culture could be part of this generation’s collective vocabulary. But in doing theatre, and in my love of reading, I’ve discovered item after item that were considered popular at the time. Oklahoma and the popular Shave and a hair cut (tap tah-tah-tah tap): both rely on the phrase “two bits”. What we now call a quarter. 

Now, no one is chopping up a US quarter to make 12.5¢, nor did the US ever make a 1 bit piece (to my knowledge). From my understanding, it comes from the Mexican practice of cutting a peso into eight pieces (or bits). Since the Mexican peso and US dollar were practically equivalent, the phrase was adopted and became a part of the collective vocabulary.


I don’t have much of a perspective. There’s a lot of news out there, and there is a lot happening. 

But, Ukraine is in trouble. And it feels like not enough is being done to assist it. 

I don’t know if the answer is more military support. Wars are not what anyone should be aspiring to. But at the same time, such an incursion and unprovoked assault should be dissuaded as immediately as it possibly can.

In search of new worlds

Humanity is hardwired for exploration. Perhaps it’s remeniscent of our times of hunting and gathering. Perhaps it’s latent curiosity. Perhaps it’s something else entirely. Either way, we are constantly seeking out new horizons. As the captain of the Enterprise used to say, “To seek out new worlds and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before.”

When you consider the vastness of our planet, and the brevity of our individual existence, wouldn’t it be inconceivable to not explore?

When the mind leaves us

Occasionally, writers suffer writer’s block. Now, is it sensible? Absolutely not. Everyone has words racing through their minds at least most of their waking hours. Sitting down at the blank page, saying that they can’t think of anything, that seems pretty ridiculous, right?

What actually happens, I believe, is that they feel what they are thinking of is nonsensical, or stunted, or just plain not good. They edit themself before even putting it on paper. 

I’ve got stacks and stacks of documents like that – words of mine that I believe inferior to what I’m capable of, or maybe that I’m even ashamed of. Shame in quality, or content, or length, or whatever.

The first draft – it isn’t easy. 

And the first draft of these posts – I mean, that’s why I’m tapping at the keys now. Trying to figure out what exactly this is? These musings of mine. They’re short, I guess, meditations on whatever it is that happens to cross my mind. 

And my mind’s scope is, for better or worse, exceptionally wide. I’ll often take off on tangents of study for weeks at a time, only to abandon the endeavor and pounce off down a new path following something tangentially different. Thus, my mind leaves me wondering, “What next?”

That, I suppose is a very good way to end it, and an excellent prompt for the next piece.

What next?

Back to blogging

It’s been a bit of a wild ride this past year, with an on-again, off-again attention to my blog. And this will be my first official post of 2022, though I had started and stopped several year round ups.

I guess the question I have, then, is what I’m hoping to achieve by writing here? As I’ve said previously, it’s a place to hone my practice, let out ideas, and ship a product, albeit in very small dosages. The past year has had me working mostly in the creative field, and I’m very excited to be continuing that trend this year.

As for my writing, I suppose I need to accept it as a part of my daily routine again, lest it slip away (again).

This Christmas

For the first time in, well, ever, I spent Christmas alone. I was, unfortunately, the recipient of a birthday-case of COVID, my birthday being two weeks prior.

As I sat and pondered the pandemic, the holidays, family, and all that it entails, I guess the thought arose that has been a driving factor for millennia. 

What makes a happy and meaningful life?

Now, this is obviously a much bigger question than anyone knows how to answer. It’s one that has been debated probably since the very first debates. 

What I’ve come up with, in this new solitude, is that happiness is constantly in flux, and meaning is what you give to your own life. How you view yourself is how you act, and how you act is who you are.

So, be happy? Merry Christmas. Don’t get sick. I’ll see you next year.

The Conveyance of Ideas

Words are useful tools when considering that they make up the entirety of our system to convey ideas. Without words, we are reduced to senseless gesturing, facial signals, and some distant hope of understanding and communicating. 

Language, at its core, is representational. Thankfully we have a universal acceptance of what words are and how to use them. We have rules in place for grammar, syntax, and acceptance of social norms. 

But, at the end of the day, all words are merely figments.

Consider love. The Greeks had six words for love: 

  • Eros, or sexual passion.  
  • Philia, or deep friendship.  
  • Ludus, or playful love. 
  • Agape, or love for everyone. 
  • Pragma, or longstanding love. 
  • Philautia, or love of the self.

Where we use “love” to indicate some semblance of emotion, the Greeks laid out different forms of love that we can all recognize.

Our language is only as good as our shared understanding of it. And when all of our thoughts and emotions are deeply personal, it’s our responsibility to make sure we’re understood.

Writing again

I’ve found myself once again adhering to a daily writing practice. This is in part due to the book Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. I don’t exactly remember when I picked up this book. It’s certainly after coming into contact with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, but I hadn’t started looking at it until a recent day trip to Ojai, CA. 

I was sitting outside of a little Japanese restaurant, waiting on my veggie tempura sandwich, and I started to read.  

“Just dive in,” urges Natalie, teaching, “Begin where you are.”

And so I did. I began writing again, trying to stick with it daily. Some of what I’ve written has already appeared on the blog. It’s imperfect, I realize, but it’s also honing a voice.

It’s important to write with your voice, and not adopt someone else’s. Writing should be authentic, and that’s what I’m looking for. 

495 Tabs

I’ve just updated my iPhone, and with it came new notifications and things to explore. The Safari interface changed noticeably, if not significantly. And something that surprised me were the 495 tabs that I had open. Now, iPhone caps at 500 tabs. And I know that as I’ve hit that count several times in the past, leaving me to go through and delete a couple.

What is it about tabs that make me not close them? Once information is found, the source can be let go of, right? That coming from someone who collects books and usually has no intention of letting go of them.

But tabs are less substantial than books. They just sit there, not really doing anything. A bit of data waiting to be released.

Some are stories I want to read. Others contain products I’m considering purchasing (or have considered). There are exercise tips, DIY guides, daily horoscopes. Also articles, recipes, and various sign in pages. 

In other words, a plethora of type, and a dearth of organization. 

So, this next week, I’ll be collating my various tabs, and reducing it to a more manageable number. Assuming I don’t get distracted and add more than I close out.

To travel

There’s a joy in traveling. In exploring hitherto unseen regions of the world. Of your town. Of your own home. 

You never know what currents may sweep you away, just setting foot outside your door.

The world has become smaller, though, while it’s become bigger. The ever exotic wanderings and allure of the exterior make their way into the commonplace. You can notice the architecture of Europe just down the street.

Asian foods and African garments. The smells of worlds far removed from your expected home life. Something that, just twenty years ago, maybe you couldn’t experience without travel, now you are able to find it with the click of a button.

Google, take me to Ethiopian food. 

Hey Siri, where’s the nearest Thai restaurant? 

You never know what you lose when everything is available to you.

You don’t get to experience the joy of surprise. When was the last time you just took a walk around town, looking at the things that are around you? Did you even notice? Or were you glued to your phone the entire time?

It’s hard to gauge, really. What is the point of travel? Of exploration.

Is there something unique to the human experience that we long for avenues that are far different from our own? Do we seek the exotic, in an attempt, as de Botton puts it, “to find that which we recognize in ourselves but don’t get at home?”

Travel is unique. It is an experience for all of us. It’s something that anyone can enjoy if they are brave enough to try out the movements required.

Step on, clothe up. Winter wear for cold, or something cooler in hotter climes.

Step two, walk outside. 

Keep walking. That’s it. Now you’re traveling. If your eyes are open, and you yourself are open, you can experience the joys of travel. Of exploration. Because travel and exploration should be synonymous.

There should be no instance when one travels just to get to another point. It’s a sacrilege.

On a recent plane ride, I myself couldn’t help but look at the other passengers. Wondering if they were LA residents, or just passing through. Were they coming home, or leaving. Did they seek some greater adventure off the plane, or was this it? The last ride before the adventure came to an end.

I don’t know! But I can guess. I can see who was tired from their journey. Who was excited. Who wanted more, and who just wanted to stay in bed. 

The bed part I can understand. Sometimes it’s easier to just stay in the bed. 

Several years ago, as I traveled through Dublin city, I stayed three nights in a hostel. The entire second day I stayed in my bunk, possibly fighting off the hangover from the night before, or the exhaustion of the long hours spent walking during the preceding days, or, perhaps, I just needed a break to decompress. To step away from the process of traveling, and just be in the space.

We sometimes are so focused on the forward motion, we forget to be present. Again, it’s the same as looking at the phone, face down, ignoring the surroundings you think are familiar because, in your mind, you’ve seen them all before.

But have you even looked? Is it possible you missed something? The quintessential element that makes it what it is?

Next time you make your way on whatever perambulations you feel the need to commit to, look around. Enjoy the scenery. See what can be seen, hear what can be heard.

Be present. Be here, now, as they say.