Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More




Recontextualization

Novato, California, USA

February 9, 2009
Reposted June 1, 2021



This essay, Recontextualization, is the companion piece to Naked Presence: Deploying A New Grammar.

It is also the first entry in The Laurence Platt Dictionary:


1976
Werner Erhard
I'm a big fan of the dictionary. Any dictionary. I don't mind if it's the Oxford version or the Cambridge version. My personal dictionary, the one I own at home, is the Webster's version. Not because I prefer Webster's. It just happens to be the one I bought thirty years ago. Its well thumbed pages are discolored brown by the sun, its cover held together by threads. Every time I want to check a word and reach for the tattered tome, it's one of life's great moments. Something new is about to come forth. I flip to the page of interest with bated breath.

What I'm a fan of is the rigor  of going to an arbiter, to an authority, to an oracle, to a reference ie to a dictionary to discover the meaning of a word, to get clear about the correct usage of a word, to realize the implications of a word, and to study the correct rules, grammar, and syntax for using a particular word.

I don't vote on words. I don't vote on hammers, wrenches, or screwdrivers either. I don't vote on words or tools. I just use them. And if one no longer works for the task at hand, or breaks, I get another one.

But suppose, just suppose for a moment, for this conversation, suppose I vote on words. Which word is my favorite?

There's no question about this for me. I don't need to stop and think to come up with one. There's no doubt. My favorite word is recontextualization.

Recontextualization isn't in my dictionary. Recontextualization isn't in any  dictionary. Yes, a form  of recontextualization appears in the dictionary. But not recontextualization the way I speak recontextualization. That's because academics who compile dictionaries, those good people who've lately included words which until now were unheard of in the King's English - like "google" (the verb), "cell phone" (not a device for calling from prison), and "laptop" (not thighs) - aren't yet completely facile with languaging transformation.

Ordinarily when we speak recontextualization, it suggests stating a different meaning for words, for example to correct a false impression or misunderstanding. We say "My words were taken out of context. I didn't mean it that way.". We then correct the misunderstanding of what we said, and we say, having set the correct  context for what we said, we've recontextualized  it ie we've restated it in a context that makes sense, that's accurate (in this usage, "context" is the context of meaning).

That's the ordinary usage of recontextualization. That's the usage of recontextualization which is in the dictionary. Here's the extraordinary  usage of recontextualization, the usage which isn't in the dictionary:

Who I am is the space in which the events of my life occur. Who I am is literally the context  in which Life itself shows up. And recontextualization is transformation.

There's a way we live which has us be in  the world yet apart from it. If you tell the truth about it, that's the way we live almost all the time. But if I'm the context in which Life itself shows up, then when I live that way, the world and everything in it shows up in the context of who I am. When I live that way, the world and I are one seamless whole. When my perspective on the world shifts from "I'm in  the world yet apart from it" to "The world shows up in the context of who I am", then I've shifted the context of Life itself. Quite literally, I've recontextualized  Life itself and everything which goeswith  Life (as Alan Watts may have said).

This is the extraordinary  usage of recontextualization. Recontextualization used this way as a deliberate act  is the singular defining moment of transformation. This usage of recontextualization sources the experience of Life transformed like a possibility. This is the usage of recontextualization which isn't in the dictionary. Neither will this usage of recontextualization be added to the existing usages of recontextualization in the dictionary until the academics who put "google", "cell phone", and "laptop" in the dictionary are transformed and start languaging transformation.

Recontextualization. I love this word.



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