Saturday, February 13, 2016

Refused

Words are telling...

Take "trash," for example. All language is built on images and metaphors, and "trash" is probably from Old Norse: tros--fallen leaves or twigs. At the dump there is a separate place to dump fallen leaves and twigs--apart from the "trash." They call it "yard waste." The old Norskies called a fenced enclosure a "gardr", which I guess yielded both "garden" and "yard" in English. One time I was hauling "yard waste" and somebody set out a bin entirely full of black dirt. It was so heavy, the hydraulic lift on the truck could not lift it off the ground. I had to call a buddy to help lift it. This is not "yard waste," this is "yard." But I guess it needed to go. "Insane," but more on that word later.

I do not understand some people and their "yards." Or their "waste"...

"Waste" evolved from words for "desert," or desolate places. But not until the 19th century was there a "waste basket."

What does this:
Have to do with:





But I digress.


In English, "trash" referred to people before it became household refuse. Shakespeare used the word in 1604 regarding persons of ill-breeding. These would certainly have been white people, being that it was 17th century England. Thus all "white trash" should own the term as given them by the most sublime of poets in the English language. Not until the 20th century did we "take out the trash."

Now "sanitation" comes from the Latin for "health" and "sanity." Sanitation workers are therefore, by definition, sane.


"Garbage" is from Old English (and apparently Old French-ish) for the discarded bits of animals headed for the dinner plate. Which reminds me of one of my first posts about picking up a deer carcass. Now that was "garbage!"

"Refuse," though, is a most telling word: What has been refused, rejected. Our "waste" practices betray an illusion of unlimited resources. That we can make stuff and throw it away, ad infinitum. The deeper meaning of "refuse" could be the refusal to see that this is not working. We are not looking 7 generations ahead, much 70 times 7. And maybe this is the connection our language betrays... the desolation of waste-full-ness. From T.S. Eliot's poem The Wasteland:

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust. 
Have a nice day!

2 comments:

  1. Fantastic piece as always John!
    Reminds me of my Sophomore year environmental homework; poem entitled "WASTE"

    WASTE
    Wanted not,
    And
    Simply
    Thrown away,
    Everyday

    (Poem by Paul Winghart published in the 1991 edition of the Homestead Highschool Exposition Journal.)

    Keep 'em comin'!

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    Replies
    1. Paul, I always knew you had poetry in you!

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