Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Expat Living: "Eyes, I's and lustful desires"

My Expat Seoul's New Dawn?
(Image from Wikipedia)

Today's Korea Herald has my column in its Expat Living pages, along with the columns of such better known figures as Robert Koehler, aka The Marmot, who -- as he tells his readers -- "is the administrator of The Marmot's Hole blog," a source of enough wonder, information, and bitchiness to keep the one's idle curiosity idling for hours.

Or you can also let yourself be more briefly distracted by my article in the Expat Living, but since the Korea Herald maintains the unusual practice of preventing netizens from linking directly to online articles, I can link only to the newspaper itself, but if you follow the link and let your eyes and cursor scroll briefly down the left margin, you'll find the link to Expat Living, where the section's most recent columns will appear . . . for a few days, perhaps.

The man organizing this new section, Matthew Lamers, has encouraged those of us with blogs or similar online sites to publicize our collective efforts and even to re-post our own columns after they appear in the Korea Herald, so I'm posting mine today, for the online site published it yesterday evening and the paper's hard copy has already been delivered this morning.

What you'll read here is my original copy, but if you want to read the edited version, which differs a bit, then take a look at the Korea Herald's Expat Living section . . . if it hasn't been pushed out of sight by the time you read this.

Originally, I wanted to call my column "Expatiate" and today's headline "Eyesore," but the editors had other ideas, and that's their call, so they're calling the column "Jeffery Hodges on Language" and today's headline "Eyes, I's and lustful desires," which is not bad, actually, and might get more attention than my original punning title.

Anyway, here is my original copy:

Expatiate: "Eyesore"

If language really is a virus from outer space, as William S. Burroughs claims, then my words could prove contagious. Despite that risk, I write the Language column for Expat Living.

I interpret this to mean that I can write about anything I please so long as I use language. That sounds straightforward enough, but there is one restriction. I am told to avoid overusing the word "eye."

Apparently, well-written journalism shuns this word, which is news to me. Whatever happened to eyewitness reports? I do not mean to imply that eyewitnesses are entirely dependable, for the eyes often fool us. Think of a magician's sleight-of-hand trick in making things disappear before our very eyes!

That happens even when our eyes are striving to perceive the truth. More disturbing, if religious thinkers are right, our eyes actively deceive and mislead us. The Bible's First Letter of John warns against "the lust of the eyes," for their lustful desires turn us toward worldly things.

Saint Augustine, commenting on this very letter, cites that same scriptural expression to disparage ocular curiosity, which distracts one from proper, spiritual pursuits and focuses one’s attention upon worldly affairs. In his infamous Confessions, he even provides an example of curiosity gone disturbingly wrong, describing how it draws his fascinated gaze to the sight of a spider entangling flies that have rushed into its web.

Lest one imagine distrust of the eyes to be a purely religious concern, the historian Martin Jay has shown in Downcast Eyes that even many secular thinkers denigrate vision. The atheist existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, for example, coined the expression "the gaze" in Being and Nothingness to describe how the observing eyes of strangers transform us into mere objects in their field of sight.

So great a cloud of witnesses would darken anyone's view of vision. Perhaps Expat Living's censure of the word "eye" has merit: "eye" as eyesore!

Yet, the word has also a venerable history and is beloved by poets. Consider W.B. Yeats' eyeable poem A Drinking Song:

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.
Lovely poem. And yet . . . is it true? Has not Yeats perhaps attributed too much significance to the eye? Arguably, he has. If so, has he thereby overused the word? Arguably, he has. Ought I therefore misquote the poem? Arguably, I should:
Booze comes in at the mouth
And lust comes in at the ear;
We'll not know north from south
If we grow too old on beer.
I lift the glass to my mouth;
I look at you, and I leer.
Just look how this radical eye surgery has marred Yeats' formerly lovely poem! All that now remains is a none-eyed leer! Though the rhyme scheme works rather better. After all, "truth" does not truly rhyme with "mouth," does it? I have therefore excised that eye-rhyme, which ought to make the Expat Living authorities happy.

Speaking of whom, those same individuals will doubtless also be very pleased to hear that further columns of Expatiate will avoid overusing the forbidden word "eye."

(The restricted word is not "eye," but "I." - Editor)

Ah . . . I see. Er, this columnist sees. That being so, today's column has apparently wrong-footed everybody. My most sincere apologies offered to all who were misled through my egregious misunderstanding. Uh . . . will my column for Expat Living be allowed to continue?
Regular readers will note that I've cannibalized Gypsy Scholar to write this column. I promise to continue masticating bites of my blog to be incorporated within future language columns for Expat Living, so you might as well get used to this.

Finally, a practical role for my impractical blog...

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At 3:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An itinerant scholar warned against an "I" prohibition?

This Ozarkian Swift obviously torn should be sensitive to inhibition.


At 3:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I should have hit "return" more than twice. I think.


At 3:39 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Against a prohibition? Is that a double negative? Perhaps I'm to use "I" continually?

A rather immodest proposal...

But why you wanna go beatin' up on "return"?

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because the letters on my "Backspace" keys've worn dull.

How did I know to capitaleyes the "B" in Backspace? The "eye" in return, not one that I discern. I dunno. I Yahoo.

"A horse is a horse of course of course,

Unless of course he's a talking horse."


At 2:09 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, every writer makes mistakes and needs a good Ed.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the obvious Uncle for those not predisposed?

the "ayes" have it?

just eyes well.


At 9:12 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

"Le Monocle de Mon Oncle"?

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


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