Wednesday, January 18, 2012

ZEN ophobia?



What is happening with our world when ‘Zen’ is taken over as the name of a detective in a new television drama on ABC1 TV (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)  based on books by Michael Dibdin? It seems to be the same silliness that uses names for cars: Jaguar; Liberty; Outback; etc. Think about it: does this claiming and reclassifying of the references of words change us? Does all of this devalue our experience of the world? Are we demeaned by this game that seeks to gain our attention and form our preferences by self-consciously manipulating feelings and concepts? Or is this just all too xenophobic – being afraid of things strange and different? While cars may not have much of an impact on their subjected namings and their origins, when it comes to Zen things become different. Here something complex and subtle is being tossed around willy-nilly to become a new ‘character’ in our world of entertainment. Scrooge would say “Humbug!” It is an old word meaning hoax or jest, but this is much more serious. It has more to do with negative feelings about this manipulative abuse of language for commercial gain.
Consider the icecream cone called 'Enigma' and the moble phone company simply called '3.' The icy treat is certainly an enigma. As for '3,' well the little book on the French cathedrals highlights the difference between smart brand and :meaning:
Numbers are also symbolic: three is the symbol of the Trinity, and for that reason is the symbol of the soul and of all spiritual things. There are three theological virtures: faith, hope, and charity.
Hélène Fouré, The French Cathedrals, Their Symbolic Significance, bruce Humphries, Boston, 1931, p. 31.
One wonders, given this context, if there is any virtue in '3' the brand.
Symbols are not mere intrellectual items to be toyed with at whim. They have - had - an integral role in life. Take, for example, the number  eight. Fouré explains:
Eight is the number of the new life. After the first life, represented by seven, is over, life begins again; it is the symbol of resurrection. That is why out of ninety baptismal fonts kept from the Middle Ages, we find sixty-seven having the form of an octagon. The sinner being baptised leaves behind his first life in order to follow the law of God; eight is the symbol of regeneration. (ibid, p.32)
The symbol is the reality - well, one aspect of it. The brand is a clever, attractive label designed to entice.


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