Friday, March 16, 2012

blackbird coterie squirrel

Posted by Picasa Suspicion  is in the blackbird's eye.

Some  time ago I reflected that the way groups of people collect round certain blogs and engage in a more or less continuous dialogue. It is not a new practise.  The blog is not far removed from what used to be called a coterie where people with like interests gather in one another's  houses or in bars or cafes to exchange views. But coterie is not the only such word. In Spain  tertulia  describes  such a group which meets always informally in cafes for spontaneous discussion. It is featured in Jacinto and Fortunata the ponderous 19th Century novel by Perez Galdos set in Madrid. Although coterie is word with French origins and a French equivalent, I see that there is another French word to describe a group which meets to discuss topics of common interest. It is cenacle. The word is derived from the Latin cena and originally referred to the Last Supper, evolving eventually to mean any gathering of writers, artists  and the like for discussion. I suppose that the Greek word symposium meaning, dinner party,  comes into the same category.  Plato has handed it on to us in his dialogue of that name  where guests under the tutelage of Socrates  attempt to define the nature of love.  In the electronic age we can take our pick of labels according to our cultural preferences, but for my part I am glad that the technology exists to allow dialogue of any sort and on any subject to occur between friends old and new, even if it is virtual  and we have to call it " blogging".

A squirrel having  found a nut, scampers on to a low branch to enjoy his meal undisturbed. I never tire of photographing squirrels and don't miss the opportunity this afternoon as the creature is only a few feet away. As I manoeuvre into the best position for an uninterrupted view,  and press the camera button, I hear a sound at my shoulder, a laugh, the sort of laugh  that a squirrel might make. But it isn't a squirrel, rather a schoolboy who thinks, as I do that there is something comical, because slightly human, about the way the squirrel holds the nut in its forepaws, and rotates it taking little bites at every turn, and the look of pleasure on its face. We exchange smiles, squirrel-like smiles.


Roderick Robinson said...

I think coterie is half of one of those pairs of virtually identical-meaning words which define the speaker's stance. Thus: my coterie is your clique. More typically: freedom fighter vs. terrorist. Back in the fifties Tom Lehrer came up with a more subtle one: "We have a bomb, our enemies have a device."

Unknown said...

I am glad that you should have introduced the word "clique". But it strikes me that clique is invariably a term of disapproval. It it is unlikely that any one would object to being described as a member of a coterie, a cenacle, a tetulia or to being a guest at a symposium. To be spoken of as part of a clique on the other hand... Device is interesting euphemism for bomb. But then with such comparisons we soon get into the realm of terrorist v freedom-fighter or rebel; rioter v protester; trouble-maker v whistle-blower.