Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

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Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

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Article excerpt

PAUL DENNITHORNE JOHNSTON [*]

A YOUNG HERO needs a guide. He must find a guru wise in the ways of the universe, a dispassionate master who has transcended linguistic relativity and surrendered egocentric needs, a sage who has relinquished the distractions of appetites and vanities, thus achieving a tranquil non-attachment from which to oversee vital lessons relating to life -- and death.

Pang Lawws found his mentor in an unexpected place.

A young person, bemused among gaudy allurements of life's candy store, knows not how to discriminate, knows not how to tell good advice from bad, nor whom to emulate, nor whom to shun. To survive to maturity, the young hero must learn to evaluate skillfully and choose ethically. He must mindfully train himself to perceive the difference between wild dreams and rational aspirations, to know when to act courageously and when to walk away, to distinguish between philosophy, rhetoric, religion, sophism, and paid political advertising.

He must come to know the fallibility of his own observing and abstracting and therefore know that he, and the rest of us, can't know anything.

Etc.

Recently, evil dictator Mack E. O'Wally had ordered Pang to destroy asteroid 2202 Bluto, Pang's former home, because the asteroid's present course would soon smash it into Earth. For several reasons, including malice, O'Wally had also ordered Pang's friend Dolly, along with Reggie, who'd discovered the threat of the rogue asteroid, and her sister Veggie, an expert on small rocks, to accompany Pang. If this motley crew were to fail in their mission, the catastrophic collision of asteroid and Earth would annihilate most life, if not all, in the vicinity.

Time was running out, yet preparation for the mission consumed more precious time as support teams gathered vital equipment and supplies: drills, explosives, ground vehicles, diggers, survey apparatus, sonar, life support systems, dehydrated pizza. While Dolly, Reggie, and Veggie had to remain in their cells, Pang could roam freely inside O'Wally's Executive Space Ship My Air Force One because he had no identity chip implant to trigger the virtual door of his cell.

Pang loved peanut-butter sandwiches but the gooey spread usually stuck to the roof of his mouth, so he liked to drink a glass of mock milk, too. He obtained his sandwiches from a snack trolley pushed slowly though the ship's corridors by an ancient hunched-over man whom Pang had come to regard as a sort of friend.

On this occasion, Pang noticed that a different individual had taken over the trolley, an ancient hunched-over woman, who, oddly enough, resembled the ancient hunched-over man who usually provided sandwiches and rarely said a word. Pang sometimes felt reluctant to initiate conversation because of painful mishaps arising from his ignorance of the idiosyncrasies of language and culture. However, he was feeling particularly lonely, so he summoned the courage to speak.

"Thank you. I have enjoyed your sandwiches," he said pleasantly.

The ancient woman stared at him silently, her wrinkled face expressionless, hollow eyes inscrutable. Pang, suddenly fearing he'd made a social error, blurted, "The sandwiches I got from your brother, I mean."

The desiccated old head moved a fraction, the cavernous eyes caught the light. The ancient person spoke in a low, wheezing, gravelly voice that rightfully belonged inside a long-neglected crypt.

"I have no brother."

Pang's face burned. He stammered apologies, turned, and fled. In the security of his cell, Pang unwrapped his sandwich, bit into it and chewed. The peanut butter stuck to his palate and he swiped at it impotently with his tongue. He had forgotten to get a glass of molik.

After much agonizing, Pang decided to find the vendor on her returning round and ask for molik, no matter how embarrassed he felt. He left his cell, strode along the corridor, then began to plod when he heard squeaking wheels. …

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