Friday, January 1, 2010

where am i?

there ought to be a word!

i feel like the word displacement should refer to lack of sense of place, or loss of sense of place. but no, according to

dis⋅place⋅ment  [dis-pleys-muhnt]

1. the act of displacing.
2. the state of being displaced or the amount or degree to which something is displaced.
3. Physics.
a. the displacing in space of one mass by another.
b. the weight or the volume of fluid displaced by a floating or submerged body. Compare Archimedes' principle.
c. the linear or angular distance in a given direction between a body or point and a reference position.
d. the distance of an oscillating body from its central position or point of equilibrium at any given moment.
4. Machinery, Automotive.
a. the volume of the space through which a piston travels during a single stroke in an engine, pump, or the like.
b. the total volume of the space traversed by all the pistons.
5. Nautical. the amount of water that a vessel displaces, expressed in displacement tons.
6. Geology. the offset of rocks caused by movement along a fault.
7. Psychoanalysis. the transfer of an emotion from its original focus to another object, person, or situation.

for the sake of brevity, i was tempted to cut out a couple of those. but i couldn't, because it somehow proved the point: we have all these highly technical and specific definitions of displacement, yet none lined up with what i was looking for.

we've got rootlessness and detachment and drifter, but somehow none of these conveys what i'd like it to convey. rootlessness and drifter imply a choice; detachment, a non-feeling.

i think it's interesting that in attempting to explain the utter disconnect of his main character in Independence Day, richard ford describes the main character's thoughts in this way:

"I am not sure what chokes me up: either the place's familiarity or its rigid reluctance to act familiar. It is another useful theme and exercise of the Existence Period, and a patent lesson of the realty profession, to cease sanctifying places -- houses, beaches, hometowns, a street corner where you once kissed a girl, a parade ground where you marched in line, a courthouse where you secured a divorce on a cloudy in July but where there is now no sign of you, no mention in the air's breath that you were there or that you were ever, importantly you, of that you even were. We may feel they ought to, should confer something -- sanction, again -- because of events that transpired there once; light a warming fire to animate us when we're well nigh inanimate and sunk. But they don't. Places never cooperate by revering you back when you need it. In fact, they almost always let you down, as the Markhams found out in Vermont and now New Jersey. Best just to swallow back your tear, get accustomed to the minor sentimentals and shove off to whatever's next, not whatever was. Place means nothing."

which is more a hatred of place, a feeling of being betrayed by place, than 'drifter' or 'footloose' can imply.

of course, there's not only situational or self-imposed displacement. there's also displacement that occurs because of outside forces. and the most beautiful, concise depiction of outside-enforced displacement i've ever come across is the following poem by ed edmo, from oregon ("From Here We Speak: An Anthology of Oregon Poetry", Oregon Literature Series, OSU Press, 1993):

I sit in your
crowded classrooms
& learn how to read about dick
jane & spot
        I remember
        how to get a deer

        I remember
        how to do beadwork

        I remember
        how to fish

I remember
the stories told by the old

         spot keeps

        showing up
                   my report card
                   is bad

-Ed Edmo.

happy new year. where are you?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! I often feel this way, and there is no direct correlation in the definition.