Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

I Get Seized by a Metaphor

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

I Get Seized by a Metaphor

Article excerpt

It happened over thirty years ago. But I remember it clearly. I was looking at a diagram I had drawn. I had charted out the periods of history of various cultures, following the diagram in the back of a famous book by Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West (1992). I had expanded the number of cultures a bit, but followed Spengler in drawing a linear diagram, straight lines from left to right. So, for example, I had a line for the history of Rome, and the Roman Empire. This line ended with the fall of the city of Rome in ad 476, followed by a Dark Ages. I also had a line for the history of Western Europe, which standard academic studies begin with the Dark Ages of the period ad 500-1000.

As I thought about these, I realized that these were not two separate histories, as was studied in college. There was a connection. As I looked at my linear diagram, I saw the end of the line on the right move around and connect up with the beginning of the line on the left. The straight lines became a circle.

This was an actual visual experience. I saw the straight lines curve around and join up. I was seized by the metaphor: cultural history moved in circles.

Once I started looking, I found similar circles wherever there was a long enough period of time. The Middle East has gone around the circle more than once. So has China. Likewise, India. I also found evidence that Central and South America have gone around the circle. …

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