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Connections – and the Art of Transitions


a matter of grammatical joys

    – complete with definitive, mathematically-precise formula –

featuring, too, an Open Letter to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran


            When we quote others, we may be doing much more than simply quoting.  The very act of going from one's voice to another's also invites the stir of human themes – ours linked to theirs – percolating multiply in all of us.  The realm of quoting bids touch upon this underlying life.  We do it (directly quote, indirectly refer to others) through those vehicles of looping and linking called grammar – the arts for all transitioning.

              Crossing over to touch on and perhaps enter into another – or, others – may be physical, as in sex (scoring, joy, or religiosity).  It may be non-physical, too, as in essaying or storytelling.  Either way, in private sex or public prose, technique keys all – all connections – and best:  the transitioning grammars that locate us vis-à-vis others. 

Before looking at actual techniques, we can digress for a question:  how much intercourse with "others" do we really want?  The "others" part of this question matters for how it differs from the "we getting it" part.  That is, to the degrees we may not see "others" except as enablers of ourselves, our intercourse serves colonizing, not connections.  For those who see "others" mainly as extensions of ourselves, such reductions translate in our personal lives as solipsism, in larger public affairs as militarism (our imposing-our-U.S.-corporate-hegemony-on-the-world).  The two connect.  Private and public intercourse may help in seeing others; they may in symbiosis also reduce to the narcissism of our larger culture – from corporate academe and its promises for its mutually-isolated specializations, to corporate marketing and advertising and their consumerism entitlements.  These systemic exploitations of our most malleable selves everywhere similarly incant related promises and entitlements, reducing all to one thing:  to the satisfaction of "me" – "me" fused with my tribe of similar "me's."  Empire U.S.A. teaches the religion of accumulation, not connection.  Though we may do it unwittingly, we learn to expect life to be ever adding up – always more rewards for "me" – "me" and the tribes of my fellow "me's."  Life by corporate ethics beckons as a forward progress, so long as we learn to keep to our correct lanes, our flow-chart niches.  In corporate culture, "others" collapse as any meaningful category, except as adjoining linked-fellow units, all in our similarly-mutual isolations, from our demographics in consumerland to our drivers in parallel tunnel-vision lanes.  Though as humans we're all "others," corporate culture teaches us the banalities for when we meet at water coolers, vending machines, elevator lobbies, and shopping lines.  In cubicle culture all are the same.  We've no intercourse with "others" except for emotion for the odd fool who tries to line-jump us or cut us off in traffic.  Except for such brief altercations, we've few abilities to see, let alone quote them.  Even then, communication comes typically in standardized rage and stereotype categories.

Safe otherwise as we are, or expect ourselves as entitled to be in the niches, lanes, lines, and cubicles of our corporate culture, it all the more entertains how, every year this time of year, we have from our usual school and other corporate types the same predictable hand-wringing about plagiarism.

Entertaining, because here the issue of "others" nettles more.

Simply put, plagiarism occurs when we quote others (directly, indirectly) as if things from them proceeded not from them but from us.  In plagiarism, "they" cease to exist – or never existed.  If you listen to our genteel pious bemoaning from corporate academe, you can see how few regret plagiarism for human reasons – for the missed joy of more intercourse with "others."  They whom Richard Rorty called "ascetic priests," they who most model the manners of poising impersonal, neutral, "objective," instead most often in lamenting plagiarism lament the fact that they who quote without attribution are cheating "us."  That is, those who pass off the words of others as their own are misrepresenting their abilities and deceiving "us," their teachers, fellow students, or whomever the niche public may be.

              When I hear these, the perennially "shocked, shocked" about plagiarism, I'm reminded of the drivers in sprawl America ever stressed-out and quick to road rage:  "they" are passing "me": "they" are blocking "my" way – maybe doing it idiotically, or deviously, but "they" should know better.  In academe, those passing off others' material as their own may also and thereby be getting unfairly ahead – passing "me" in the flow-chart terrain of corporate-land – that lane-changing, line-jumping rat race of grade grubbing, admissions procuring, and promotions, tenure, and sinecure competing.

              Some in the plagiarism debates may do a more sincere job in their finger pointing.  They may feel sorry for students, particularly for those who may plagiarize in response to the too-many instructors who every year give the same rote assignments.  Some may deprecate plagiarism, too, out of the professional respect they'd like to see more of us have for the specialist rungs they have learned to climb.  They would like us to emulate, or at least honor them for the personal sacrifices that got them where they are.  Too many of these, however, all-too-obviously show no love for any "others" but, rather, for the greater narcissism, eventual pensions, and abiding 401K's of their own careerism – for the step-by-step methodologies they as specialists have learned mark out their turfs.  We as drones may validate them if we all similarly turn to the same manuals, hand-outs, and charts where they got their proprieties for APA, MLA, and other referencing formatting.

Theorem #1:

              Those, by contrast, who love people – real "others" – are those who love grammar:  the arts of transitions.  As Essaying Differences Theorem #1 puts it:

Love of People = Love of Transition Grammars

              The techniques of transitioning into quotes, like those of transitioning from one paragraph to another, best involve some subordinate clause hinged unto the main clause.  Relative clauses work well for this – syntax beginning with "which," "that," "who," and "whose."  These let us look at some noun we've just met, to see it in new context we want to introduce for it.  Thus we summarize identity and add identity to it.  We allow it to turn another facet for additional sparkle not seen before.

              Although relative clauses work well to show other dimensions to any noun, adverbial phrases may do this even better, above and beyond their chief job, citing and locating time factors.  We may start a phrase with "when," "while," "before," "after," "during," or "since," or other such terms, and yoke one period of time to another.  But we may do something more, as the subject noun at the beginning of each phrase may close with a statement at the end recalling that earlier-mentioned identity; or with a very different noun, moving things in a very different direction ("When I was fifteen, and still believed such ideals," "While her words told me one thing").  It's at this point we arrive with evolved expectations at a next paragraph.  For a transition into a quote, we may not only introduce words or ideas from another person, but may put their context alongside the one our own words have been establishing.  For transition into quotes, the "other" may get key emphasis.  Above and beyond our prose, somebody else's matters for perhaps some other perfectly good reasons (even if not originally exactly our reasons).

              Similes may work for transition grammars.  Gerundives may, too.  We've many choices but the fact remains:  through them we can enjoy "others."  Even while yoked to the machinery of corporate culture, as all are in America, we also have links to other culture which in song, film, book, and other forms can let us rise above and, for awhile, to some extents, let us shed our corporate souls (even while the forms of popular culture, simply in being marketed and sold, may ride their own corporate conveyances, too).

              No need to be ashamed that we all, to some extents, inhabit evil.  "They" do, too.  But in the proportion that we get good at seeing and quoting "others," we can set off in subordinate clauses the various evils we also inhabit.  Or, vice versa, we can keep elements of other culture alive in negotiating the main, perhaps more potent clauses – as Henry Adams located "the Virgin" and spiritual sides of life alongside "the Dynamo" and robot-making industrial life.  To the degrees we learn to relish the arts and acts of transitions, we can see more generously through our mortal complicities, not to deny them, but to elevate and relish more precise, more true, more subtle intercourse.

All humanity lives in a tension with each culture's larger myths, promises, and lies.  All inhabit the primary facts of clothes, food, landscape, buildings, and transport, so that while main grammars may track these things in their utilitarian functions, additional grammars – thanks to all those transitions – may simultaneously track the other levels of reality in their styles – may cite, too, the many levels of "others" in so many ways interconnected with and affected by us, as we are with and by them

To wit, the open letter, below:


Part Two >>

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