Friday, June 23, 2006

Time, person, year, way...

According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, the 25 most used nouns in the English language are: time, person, year, way, day, thing, man, world, life, hand, part, child, eye, woman, place, work, week, case, point, government, company, number, group, problem, fact.

All very prosaic. Very workaday. Time leads the way, with year, day and week bucking up the calendar. Hand takes precedence over eye. Man, child, woman in her place. Case in point: government and company. Problem precedes fact. Work is always with us, of course; play is not to be found.

Nothing in the list that reflects science or technology or the lofty ruminations of academics. More surprising, nothing that reflects religion.

When it comes right down to it, it's as the poet Rilke wrote in the Ninth Duino Elegy: "Perhaps we are here only to say: house, bridge, fountain, gate."

"Praise this world to the Angel," says Rilke. "Do not tell him the untellable...Show him some simple thing, refashioned by age after age, till it lives in our hands and eyes as a part of ourselves. Tell him things. He'll stand more astonished."