Getting to the soul of things.

What is a thing?

I’ve wondered about that.

A thing.


I look into the place of where words go, where they have been, and what stories they tell:


“meeting, assembly,” later “entity, being, matter” (subject of deliberation in an assembly), also “act, deed, event, material object, body, being,” from P.Gmc. *thengan “appointed time” (cf. O.Fris. thing “assembly, council, suit, matter, thing,” M.Du. dinc “court-day, suit, plea, concern, affair, thing,” Du. ding “thing,” O.H.G. ding “public assembly for judgment and business, lawsuit,” Ger. ding “affair, matter, thing,” O.N. þing “public assembly”). Some suggest an ultimate connection to PIE root *ten- “stretch,” perhaps on notion of “stretch of time for a meeting or assembly.”

What I ponder is the concept of the thing as a notion of time, as alluded to above. And, as we consider it, the thing is a point of contemplation — that stretch, that moment, when reflection takes place. And, it’s about the object — the thing that is held. And the meaning, in memory.


1398, “tangible thing, something perceived or presented to the senses,” from M.L. objectum “thing put before” (the mind or sight), neut. of L. objectus, pp. of obicere “to present, oppose, cast in the way of,” from ob “against” + jacere “to throw”

And, in the sensing of the thing, the object, in the arrangement of time, and the placement of the thing, it can be formed as something more meaningful. That is imbued with meaning. And I meditate on the object, the thing, as something more. Something that is transformational, something that, in action and contemplative rippling, becomes some thing different. It deepens. It is infused, in the conception of ritual.


1570, from L. ritualis “relating to (religious) rites,” from ritus “rite” (see rite). The noun is first recorded 1649. Ritualistic first recorded 1850.

Which, in turn, is rite.

c.1315, from L. ritus “religious observance or ceremony, custom, usage,” perhaps from PIE base *re(i)– “to count, number” (cf. Gk. arithmos “number,” O.E. rim “number”).

This is the ritual, the rite, the counting of the days and the passage of things, newly imbued with content and meaning. Anything can be there. It’s up to you.

And this is about meaning. And the newly finding of it. The meaning in the thing, the rite of the object. And what you mean, in your quest of meaning.


O.E. mænan “to mean, tell, say, complain,” from W.Gmc. *mainijanan (cf. O.Fris. mena, Du. menen, Ger. meinen to think, suppose, be of the opinion”), from PIE *meino– “opinion, intent” (cf. O.C.S. meniti “to think, have an opinion,” O.Ir. mian “wish, desire,” Welsh mwyn “enjoyment”), probably from base *men– “think.” Meaningful first attested 1852.

Being with my girlfriend, we explored the idea of ritual, in lamenting, in memory, the decade old passing of her sister. And it was her idea to create a place in which this passing could be memorialized — or newly observed, in formality. Finding, then, the form of content.

Her idea was to acknowledge in a manner of her own devising, but something that gestured to our experience together in Bhutan, exploring the monasterial spaces of that extraordinary kingdom, we witnessed the rituals of smoke and oblation.

And she envisioned creating something similar, like the Bhutanese stupa-like altar and fume platform.

The smoke, said over prayers, sends those offerings skyward. So too, her idea and inspiration — for inspiration, as well, is of the breath.


c.1303, “immediate influence of God or a god,” especially that under which the holy books were written, from O.Fr. inspiration, from L.L. inspirationem (nom. inspiratio), from L. inspiratus, pp. of inspirare “inspire, inflame, blow into,” from in-“in” + spirare “to breathe” (see spirit).

And, too, the infusion of spirit.

c.1250, “animating or vital principle in man and animals,” from O.Fr. espirit, from L. spiritus “soul, courage, vigor, breath,” related to spirare “to breathe,” from PIE *(s)peis– “to blow” (cf. O.C.S. pisto “to play on the flute”). Original usage in Eng. mainly from passages in Vulgate, where the L. word translates Gk. pneuma and Heb. ruah. Distinction between “soul” and “spirit” (as “seat of emotions”) became current in Christian terminology (e.g. Gk. psykhe vs. pneuma, L. anima vs. spiritus) but “is without significance for earlier periods” [Buck]. L. spiritus, usually in classical L. “breath,” replaces animus in the sense “spirit” in the imperial period and appears in Christian writings as the usual equivalent of Gk. pneuma. Meaning “supernatural being” is attested from c.1300 (see ghost); that of “essential principle of something” (in a non-theological sense, e.g. Spirit of St. Louis) is attested from 1690, common after 1800. Plural form spirits “volatile substance” is an alchemical idea, first attested 1610; sense narrowed to “strong alcoholic liquor” by 1678. This also is the sense in spirit level (1768).

In any object, a thing, there is spirit — and translating spirit, in intention, brings one to a point of contemplation.

To that rippling and outreach to manifestation, we built this, together. Grabbing the right stones and arranging them on the beach — then hauling them up the cliff, to this vista.

And this modeling, in balance — a small fire altar of offerings.

And the beginnings of the fire, finding the beauty of the transition from solid, to fire, to fume, to prayers and contemplations, born on the wind.

Fire is the translation, it’s the alchemy of transformation — and, in my thinking, fire is about the beauty of the story, the hearth, the spirit in translation — meanwhile, the moon wheels in the heart of the very opening of this notation —

movement, in time, passage, in contemplation.

In feeding the fire, in contemplation, there is a meditation on the self (less) and the nature of time in the passing of all things, as we know them.




And that moment, the thinking on the thing, the translation of the object, takes you from the one place to another place, that is infused with wonder, reflection on your place in rite, and the beauty in mystery.

c.1315, in a theological sense, “religious truth via divine revelation, mystical presence of God,” from Anglo-Fr. *misterie (O.Fr. mistere), from L. mysterium, from Gk. mysterion (usually in pl. mysteria) “secret rite or doctrine,” from mystes “one who has been initiated,” from myein “to close, shut,” perhaps referring to the lips (in secrecy) or to the eyes (only initiates were allowed to see the sacred rites). The Gk. word was used in Septuagint for “secret counsel of God,” translated in Vulgate as sacramentum.

And beauty passes on, as the moon spins through the heavens, the tails of comets — time, transiting, ever — to a new view of things.

I offer only one thing, to the nature of the rippling story above. Take that time, to be there — go in, and see what you can find, in the metamorphosis of meaning.

Take time.

For your self.

O.E. self, seolf, sylf “one’s own person, same,” from P.Gmc. *selbaz (cf. O.N. sjalfr, O.Fris. self, Du. zelf, O.H.G. selb, Ger. selbst, Goth. silba), P.Gmc. *selbaz, from PIE *sel-bho-, from base *s(w)e- “separate, apart”.

tim | revisiting Decatur Studios
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