In a short piece titled “God is Dead; So What?”, Richard Ostrofsky, an acquaintance of mine, lays out his overview of the present culture wars from a perhaps characteristically atheist perspective. He cites Matthew Arnold’s poignant 1867 poem ‘Dover Beach’, which I’d not thought about for over 30 years, and happily revisited. But we subtly disagree about the meaning of the cultural impasse this poem intuits, and about exactly what Arnold sensed over 150 years ago, gazing one night out to sea.
A young boy experiences the tug-of-war between the heady excitement and level-headed clarity which comes with the quest for knowledge.
Close your eyes, figuratively. If I ask you to picture the word green, do you imagine this or perhaps this, or something closer to this? How does your typical green image differ from mine or that of your daughter or a business colleague who lives in Costa Rica? Assuming we could develop a statistical norm for what speakers of American English generally mean by the word (and some studies have tackled this question), it only opens the door to further more interesting psycholinguistic puzzles. For example: has the concept ‘green’ changed subtly since the days of Thomas Jefferson, Shakespeare, or William the Conqueror? Do children conceive ‘green’ differently than senior citizens (perhaps even the same individual at different ages)? How does this compare with a Brazilian person who is thinking of verde? Or a Mongolian pondering ногоон?