Thursday, December 28, 2017


     In art, I use words as I please, to mean whatever I like, and I’ll invent a word if I feel it necessary. But in science I prefer to be precise, clear and consistent. I strive never to use one word to describe two different things, or two different words to describe the same thing. When using a common word in a specific way as a “term of art,” it never hurts to define your terms. So I shall.
     The use of the word “man,” as in swordsman and horseman, is currently unfashionable.  In the interest of inclusiveness and equality in diversity, various alternatives have been proposed. I thought I should explain why I would employ such a “politically incorrect” term as “swordsman,” so as not to give offense when I do.
     The word “man” has it’s origin in the root of the Sanskrit  “manas,” the Indian word for “mind” or the “eternal thinker. “Man” is not synonymous  with “male,” but rather with “human being.” When writers mention “man’s inhumanity to man” they don’t mean “Males’ inhumanity to males,” implying that the females of the species are neither guilty of inhumanity nor targets of it, , but rather  “human beings’ inhumanity toward human beings.” If a plague wipes out all “mankind,” both males and females of the species will vanish.   When the Oracle at Delphi admonished, “Man, know thyself” the admonition was not only to those human beings who happened to have a penis. Really, it seems to me either quite “dumbed down” or smarmily disingenuous to equate “man” with “male.”  I think it’s much more about grinding a political axe than it is about semantic clarity, but then, I’m suspicious by nature.  
     Let me be clear on this point: I am aware of the ill effects of patriarchy on both men and woman, and I abhor them. I have always believed in the complete social, economic and political equality of the sexes. I taught sabre to women long before the Powers That Shouldn't Be finally "allowed" women to fence with the sabre.
     I use “sword” + “manas”/man, meaning “mind,” to say that the swordsman is a human being whose consciousness is integrated with the use of the sword and is thereby altered.  Horse + “manas”/man, or “horseman,” denotes a human being whose consciousness is integrated with that of the horse and is thereby altered. You could say that the “horseman” is one who is so intimately connected to the horse, that they are now part horse and part human. Likewise, the swordsman may never again be “whole” without the sword.
     Some people have suggested using “person” instead of “man,” as in chairperson, or waitperson. “Person” comes from the Latin word “persona,” which was the mask an actor wore.  So the “chairperson” is someone who puts on the  “chair” mask to run a meeting; a waitperson is someone who puts on the mask of waiting, usually between auditions. “Person” seems to me superficial and, temporary, and not at all the sense I want to give you in describing the martial artist having a peak experience via the practice of the sword.
     Instead of bowman we could say “archer,” instead of swordsman we could say “fencer,” instead of horseman we could say “rider,” but these things all merely describe what someone does, not what someone is. That is, they describe physical activities, not altered states of consciousness. Fencing is external to the individual; swordsmanship is internal. Riding is external; horsemanship is internal.
     Maybe we need a new word. 
     If someone invents a better one, one that makes sense, one that has the right denotation and connotation, and rolls trippingly off the tongue, I’ll happily adopt it.  Meanwhile, I will use “man” as term of art with the specific denotation and connotation herein described.
     No offense intended.