Learning a language is probably one of the trickiest things humans can do, when you think about it. Even someone native born to a language will not know all the words in their own language, they won’t know how to say them properly, and they won’t know all the little grammatical rules to speak it properly.
But, as a rule, we all manage to speak our languages well enough, and we do this by agreement of what each word means within that language. For instance, when we use the word Sun, we are speaking of that big yellow ball in the sky that probably wants to kill us. When we speak of water, we mean that liquid that flows around everywhere that we need to live. We do not, as a rule, change the meaning of words from one thing to another without a set agreement, and if the meaning of a word does change, we do not then use that change to trick our opponents and treat them as fools for not knowing the “new” definition of the word.
I bring this up because of what Halstead said in response to my critique of his post where he went after Beckett for saying that polytheism would re-enchant the world. Now, I did briefly touch on this in the previous post, but after thinking about it, the subject really needs a bit more than I gave it.
“And is the world, Helheim, death, or anything else made less enchanting for her being her own person rather than just part of a larger….being/archetype/somethingorother? Or is it made more enchanting? When we read a story, for example, is the story made better when the characters are individuals, or when they are baseline tropes/archetypes?”
Here, Helsen seems to be using the term “enchantment” in an emotional sense. For example, one can be “enchanted” with a person, or one cannot find a story to be “enchanting”.
But that is not the sense is which I and many other Pagans are using the term. The re-enchantment of the world refers to the return of a sense of our essential participation in the world.
Now, in yesterday’s post I put up the definition of Enchantment, which means to make magical or inspire a magical feeling. This is the dictionary definition, that which has been agreed upon by those given place to review how society uses a word. No where in that definition was “participation” located.
However, Halstead no where in his original post made any indication that his definition of “enchantment” was anything but the standard one. So when you think about the fact that we had Beckett, Halstead, Me, and then Halstead and it took at least three posts for Halstead to clarify that where as Beckett and I were using enchantment in the magical sense, Halstead was using a completely different and made up definition of the word.
Now I work with a few English majors and I asked them about this, and they said a book called Frendle would be relevant to this discussion. At first, I thought them correct, because it is the story of a boy exploring language and changed the word used to describe a pen from “pen” to “frendel.” But then I got to thinking that this is the reverse of that. Instead of renaming an object, Halstead has taken a word with one meaning and used it to describe something else. At this point, it would be as if Halstead used the word “pen” to describe what the rest of us would call a motorcycle…and then treated us all like idiots and went off about how wrong we all were, because we thought he was talking about a writing implement instead of a bike.
And if you think I’m blowing it out of proportion, let me draw your attention to this again:
Helsen’s next point reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of what “enchantment” means….Here, Helsen seems to be using the term “enchantment” in an emotional sense. For example, one can be “enchanted” with a person, or one cannot find a story to be “enchanting”.
The word enchantment has been around for centuries. In that time, its fundamental definition has not changed. it means to “Enchant” or “make magical” both physically and emotionally. Yet, in using that centuries long definition, I have fundamentally misunderstood what the word means?
For some people, it’s hard enough to have a conversation with people who have different views than you. You think you’re right, any anyone with any intelligence would want to be right, so they would agree with you. And then some prick comes along and manages to punch holes in your correct thinking. Then you either have to find a way to change your mind, or defend your current views. And if Halstead’s responses were anything to go by, I was an incredible prick that punched some serious holes.
But what you cannot do in a conversation, is change the meaning of words. Unless the word’s meaning is agreed upon, debate is useless. On one side you had people like Beckett and me saying “to make the world magical, we must believe in the magical beings who made it such.” On the other you have Halstead basically saying “in order to participate fully in the world, we cannot have distractions like those magical beings.”
And too an extent, both sides are right. Where Halstead has ultimately failed, though, is that instead of saying “participate” in the world, he tried to use the same word as we polytheists were using to describe making the world magical again. So at this point, I can only ascribe two possible origin points for Halstead going after Beckett in this manner.
- Halstead has so completely erased the original and common definition of enchantment from his mind to the point where only his definition remains, and upon seeing Beckett using the word could not help but insist Beckett was wrong. Even though in the end it was two separate conversations and Beckett was correct under the true definition of the word.
2. Halstead intentionally changed the definition of enchantment so that when encountering someone like Beckett, he could then use people’s own assumption that the word enchantment meant “to make magical” so as to deliberately deceive people into agreeing with him against Beckett and the polytheists who believe like B.
If the former, then Halstead has unfortunately disconnected horribly with the world he so desires to participate in. And I would feel sorry for him. However, if the latter, it is an act of such treachery and deceit as to be almost unconscionable. Frankly, I would like to give Halstead the benefit of the doubt. The problem is, after what I have read of his articles both for writing these responses and for the ones I’m still looking at doing, I am not so sure how safely I can give that doubt.
Still, regardless of either mistake or ignoble intent, Halstead has rendered the discussion of re-enchanting the world he started with Beckett meaningless. Not because re-enchanting the world is a meaningless thing, indeed it is a great and noble thing. But rather, when you refuse to even agree on what a word means with your opponent, you sacrifice all ability to reason with him.