Syzygy and Me

I am no expert in poetry.

The argument could be made that no one truly is, but moving past overwrought sophism, I think I can soon make it abundantly clear that my attempts at being and becoming a writing creative are somewhat juvenile. However, I will mollify my own defeatism by adding that I hold great respect for the written word.

The fact that what is deeply embedded in the mind of one individual can be transferred into the mind of another equally shuttered individual is a feat worthy of the title of “miracle.” Look no further than the prevalence of the idea that incantations can invoke magic, or more specifically the written rune of Germanic mythology, or the talismans of Fulu Taoism. Strangely, in this era of connectivity and interactivity and globalization, the shrinking world and the network of human lives that crisscross the 21st century experience can numb us to how uniquely profound communicating through words ought to be. You, the reader, capable of the super power that is mind reading at this very moment! And yet, when confronted, we all recognize such self-evident claims that words have the power to build and destroy. Then it seems paradoxical that despite this, the sheer preponderance of words produced, consumed, and recycled in our daily lives, much like the people we come across, will dilute their worth.

This isn’t really how it’s meant to be.

The history of any one word can be traced back to the very beginning of mankind. That is to say, it is possible for an all-knowing God to perform such a wonder, while we ourselves may never have access to such an archive of philology. However, conceptually, I am merely saying that any one word has behind it thousands and thousands of years of evolution that eventually brought it into the lexicon of the modern day. It is like beholding the branch of a massive, thousand-year-old oak, knowing that snapping it off harms the entire tree. How precious is any one leaf of such an awe-inspiring, ancient, living creature?

Any one person has behind him or herself a lineage of countless mothers and fathers, an immeasurable wealth of stories, each with their own soaring climaxes and settling denouements, all to produce one person. How precious is any one person, indeed. And yet, we treat our fellow man expendable, never able to observe in the heat of the moment the great pains, the twists and the turns of history that it took to create this singular, irreproducible individual. But even this, in the end, is a part of a bigger story.

I suppose to return to my original point, we may treat words and people in much the same way in that we are exposed to them so often that we take them for granted. Certainly, we do not take the few hundred or so people in our lives for granted! And more certainly, it is impossible to grieve for the two hundred thousand people who die every day. I would be the greatest hypocrite if I should say that I am an exemplar in this regard. I’m prone to the same numbness! Stepping on another human being in order to move ahead is just the way of this world, is it not? It is eat or be eaten, kill or be killed, survive or die and the strong will exploit the weak. Allow me for a moment to leave this point dangling.

What is the significance of syzygy? It is an astronomical term referring to the linear alignment of three or more celestial bodies. For instance, a solar eclipse is a syzygy of the Earth, Moon, and Sun, in that order. It comes from the Greek root word σύζυγος (pronounced suzugos), an adjective literally describing those who are yoked together, like cattle meant to till the soil, figuratively describing those who are united or bonded. It is further derived from sun- (together) and zeugnunai (to yoke), which later became syzygia to the Romans, meaning conjunction. More broadly, it is used in other fields to generally describe the unification of two opposites or paired entities.

The significance ought to be clear. It is a splendid word that could evoke so many different concepts, all conjoined into a single, odd, rare word — to an extent, a recursive word. It’s an ideal for which to strive. Joining words to concepts. Joining words to words to form ideas. Joining people to people through words. Any permutation would seem to be a valid thesis.

And to return to the dangling thread, it is this joining that can bring new life to numbness. We live on a world in which we are yoked together, in syzygy with one another to survive an existence that is unknowable and terrifying. Many of us have come to our own answers on how to live, but it cannot be shared unless it is first translated within ourselves into words and expressed. Then, perhaps we can start to understand and become the tiniest bit closer to seeing what binds us rather than what distinguishes us. To that end, it starts with me and my own words; I believe in that miracle.

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