Thursday, June 21, 2007

pierre le feu

Pierre (aka Le Fou) is on fire now that he has a new home. I think of it as his master suite (some might call it a double wide) with the equivalent of four sofa beds (three dowels reaching end to end and one blanched manzanita branch) and an all-night diner off in the corner near the sunken bath (a silver soap dish).

Although getting him to move was more work than getting the men here to sweep, I ingeniously mated the old cage door with the new, took all the bells and whistles out of the small green loaner and put them into the suite. I then tantalized him with an entire spray of millet (= to a big fat belgian chocolate bar),

Next I laid on the floor, under the glass table, facing the ceiling and waited. I also watched. He'd peek into the doublewide then back off, stand behind the green bars and look longingly in at the canary seed. It reminded me of ballet satire, although which I can't say. I'll have to leave that to the Trocs. Soon he dipped his beak into the new air, but then retreated and affected nonchalance, as though the new cage might disappear if he let on he knew it was there, waiting for him.

I admit that at this point I thought briefly about social theories of control (Foucault), behavior modification (I'm putty in the presence of mint ice cream), and how we discuss freedom as though it were the ultimate Big Mac, this most paradoxical and elusive of virtues. But then Pierre took the leap and he was in. Freedom, he made clear, includes the large cage that protects him from the predator while offering lettuce, seed, water and space enough to dash from wing to wing. Like a young dancer on the Opera House stage, the small fellow stared out with an air of awe and wonderment, watching the trees and listening to the distant trills. Then, for the next hour he flew across his cage. During periodic intermissions, he swelled happily and sang.

The Greeks tend to have multiple words for things that matter, like beauty and friendship. I went in search for the roots behind the word "freedom." Here's a bit of what I discovered at

"The old Germanic words “free” and “freedom” can be traced to the Indo-European *prijos, meaning “dear”, “beloved”, “one’s own”. Akin to this word are the Sanskrit priyas and the Persian (Avestan) fryo, which have the same meaning.

When it comes to Celtic and Germanic sources, we can find the Welsh rhydd, “free” and the Germanic (Gothic) frijon, “to love”, “to be fond of”, frijaz, “beloved”, “belonging to the loved ones”, “not in bondage”, “free”, freis, “free” and freihals, “freedom”, as well as the Old English freo, “wife”. As I mentioned in my Hex magazine article Days of the Week , it has been suggested that the original meaning of *frijaz was probably something like ”from the own clan”, from which a meaning ”being a free man, not a serf” developed.

Also related to the Indo-European root word *prijos are the Gothic frijonds, the Old English freond, the English friend and the German Freund. It has been suggested that in Celtic and Germanic cultures these words were applied to the free members of one’s clan (as opposed to slaves). There is also a connection with the Old English freod, “affection, friendship”, friga “love”, friðu “peace” and the Old Norse friðr and Frigg “wife of Odin”, literally “beloved” or “loving”.

When one seeks and finds the cultural connections of these words and their derivatives, a clearer picture emerges. The terms “free” and “freedom” are revealed to be closely connected not to the modern selfish notions of “doing whatever one wants”, but to communal living and to finding the most intimate expressions of one’s relationships with their loved ones, family, clan, tribe, or nation. This is understandable as real freedom can only be meaningful in the context of society, as the ancient pagan ideas on freedom and responsibility have attested.

When it comes to those who think that new, modern definitions of freedom are better suited for them, I might add that they can always look at the Greek word idios, meaning “one’s own”, “private”, from which comes the word idiot, “the man who thinks of nothing but his own interest”."

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