Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A taxonomy

Etching, Encylcopaedia Britannica 1911
  I pause here.  I worry.  Will we ever nail a demon?  It is so very small.  It is perhaps like a bacterium before the days of microscopes.  We must perhaps search about and about.  There is a danger.
  An old friend found Nasruddin in the street, walking up and down disconsolately.  “What are you doing?” he asked.  “Looking for the key to my house,” said Nasruddin.  “You dropped it somewhere here?”  “No,” said Nasruddin, “I dropped it in my shed.”  “Then why are you looking for it out in the street?”  “Because here it is light.  In my shed is pitch dark, and I will never be able to find it.”
  So, sethren, we must first know where to look.
  If we were looking for an animal…
  “King Philip came over from Greece smiling.”  So says Jonnie Hughes, he of On the Origin of Tepees fame, though not fame enough for our purposes, for he spoke unto the gentiles, and they listened not, or not as deeply as one would have hoped.
  King Philip…  It’s an acronym.   Kingdom phylum class order family genus species.  Good God!  Did someone say Linnaeus.  No, ‘twas but the derisive fart of a departing bus.  But we are not dismayed.  Linnaeus it is.  His taxonomy of animals.  Beautifully ordered as a hierarchy, so each superordinate category contains all and only the categories next on down.
But culture is what we are examining, and in the light of culture, we on this island, and particularly you lot in the northern half of the next continent moving leftwards, are weird.  Let us look elsewhere, initially to the southern half of that continent, but more importantly to the major fraction of mankind who do not think as we do.
  Categories of animal:
(a)       belonging to the emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.
  Now we’re talking, sethren. This is what that almost manic fan of all formulations Encyclopaedic, Jorge Luis Borges, attributes, through doctor Franz Kuhn, “to a certain Chinese encyclopaedia entitled 'Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge'.”
  Here we have a taxonomy in an entirely different style from that of the rational Linnaeus. Here things may be included in several categories, or none (depending on the place of (l) et cetera in the hierarchy which does not exist).
  Who could ask for more.
  So, for the analysis of culture I propose a taxonomy not Linnaean, not Borgean, but Jeroan.  And here, my dears, I lay it out on the grimy pavement before you.
  Brother Jero’s taxonomy of the Metaverse (or “The Jeronaean taxonomy”.)
  Culture      praxis            map               concept         action           thing              demon

  Take it away with you sethren.  Let me know what you think about it.  Tomorrow, we may catch a demon.

No comments: