Extreme Cases

cavepainting

NUMINOSUM

At the threshold of the divine, how to know
But indirectly, to hear the static as
Pattern, to hear the ragtag white noise as song—

No, not as song—but to intuit the song bird
Within the thorn thicket—safe, hidden there.
Every moment is not a time for song.

Or singing? Imagine a Buddha, handmade,
Four meters high of compacted ash, the ash
Remnants of joss sticks that incarnated prayer.

With each footfall, the Buddha crumbles. Ash shifts.
With each breath, the whole slowly disintegrates.
To face it, we efface it with our presence.

An infant will often turn away as if
Not to see is the same as not being seen.
There was fire, but God was not the fire.

Eric Pakey is the author of ten collections of poems, most recently Trace (Milkweed Editions 2013) and Dismantling the Angel (Free Verse Editions 2014). A new collection, Crow-Work, is due out from Milkweed Editions in 2015. He is the Heritage Chair in Writing at George Mason University. Kenyon Review Fall 2011

Werner Herzog on Chickens from Tom Streithorst on Vimeo.

Since most categories are matters of degree (e.g., tall people), we also have
graded concepts characterizing degrees along some scale with norms of various
kinds for extreme cases, normal cases, not quite normal cases, and so on. Such
graded norms are described by what are called linguistic hedges (A4, Lakoff
1972), for example, very, pretty, kind of, barely, and so on. For the sake of imposing
sharp distinctions, we develop what might be called essence prototypes,
which conceptualize categories as if they were sharply defined and minimally
distinguished from one another.

When we conceptualize categories in this way, we often envision them using
a spatial metaphor, as if they were containers, with an interior, an exterior, and
a boundary. When we conceptualize categories as containers, we also impose
complex hierarchical systems on them, with some category-containers inside
other category-containers. Conceptualizing categories as containers hides a
great deal of category structure. It hides conceptual prototypes, the graded
structures of categories, and the fuzziness of category boundaries.
In short, we form extraordinarily rich conceptual structures for our categories
and reason about them in many ways that are crucial for our everyday
functioning. All of these conceptual structures are, of course, neural structures
in our brains. This makes them embodied in the trivial sense that any mental
construct is realized neurally. But there is a deeper and more important sense in
which our concepts are embodied. What makes concepts concepts is their inferential
capacity, their ability to be bound together in ways that yield inferences.
An embodied concept is a neural structure that is actually part of, or
makes use of, the sensorimotor system of our brains. Much of conceptual inference
is, therefore, sensorimotor inference. ( George Lakoff Philosophy in the Flesh )

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