yiannis d. ioannidis

Return and Recovery

There are two ways of getting home; one is to stay put and never leave in the first place. The other is to walk round the whole wide world till you come back to the same place. I tried to trace such a journey once in a story I wrote.

I conceived of it as a romance taking place in those vast valleys with sloping sides, like those on the flanks of the hills on which the ancient White Horses of Wessex are scrawled. It concerned some boy whose farm or cottage stood on such a slope, and who went on a quest to find something like the effigy or the grave of some giant; and when he was far enough from home, he looked back and saw that his own farm and vegetable garden, glowing softly on the hillside like the colours and quarterings of a shield, were but parts of one such gigantic figure, on which he had always lived, except it was too large and too close for him to make it out. That, I think, is a true picture of the progress of any genuinely independent intelligence today; and that is also the subject matter of this book.1

Return (n.) : the action of returning, the sending of what is due: return of money, of a gift, of an engagement ring. || return to the place of departure, repatriation: return to the homeland, retutn ticket || [ecclesiastical]: return to the faith, repentance: return of the prodigal to the fold. || [commercial]: items not sold esp. press, magazines, books etc. (singular or plural)

[Military tactics]: See agrressive turnabout.

[Rhetoric]: Thus has reversal been designated by certain commentators2

That’s enough for now; these things are entirely personal, they are precisely what they need to be, in order for Buenos Aires to be there as well.

Buenos Aires is the street further up, the one I never crossed, it is the secret depths of every neighborhood, the inner courtyards, it is what the outer walls obscure, it is my enemy, if I have one, it is the one who does not like my verses (I don’t much care for them either), it is that out-of-the-way bookshop we might have gone into once and now have forgotten, it is the enchantment of an old song some passerby is whistling and you don’t recall it straight away but it moves you, it is what has been lost and what will come, it is what is far away, what belongs to others, something that turns a corner, our neighborhood which is neither mine nor yours, that which we don’t know and that which we love.3

Return of the Prodigal; see Sunday of the Prodigal (Luke’s Gospell 15:11-24).4

A foreigner visiting Oxford or Cambridge for the first time is shown a number of colleges, libraries, playing fields, museums, scientific departments and administrative offices. He then asks «But where is the University? I have seen where the members of the Colleges live, where the Registrar works, where the scientists experiment and the rest of it. But I have not yet seen the University in which reside and work the members of your University

It has then to be explained to him that the University is not another collateral institution, some ultimate counterpart to the colleges, laboratories and offices which he has seen. The University is just the way in which all that he has already seen is organized. Once these have been seen and the way they are co-ordinated has been understood, then, the University will have been seen. 5

Electrical return circuit: [Electr.] A specially designed circuit to shut down or turn on one or more lamps from two or more switches, called return switches (aller-retour). 6

…τὸ δὲ πλοῖον ἐν ᾧ μετὰ τῶν ἠϊθέων ἔπλευσε καὶ πάλιν ἐσώθη, τὴν τριακόντορον, ἄχρι τῶν Δημητρίου τοῦ Φαληρέως χρόνων διεφύλαττον οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι, τὰ μὲν παλαιὰ τῶν ξύλων ὑφαιροῦντες, ἄλλα δὲ ἐμβάλλοντες ἰσχυρὰ καὶ συμπηγνύντες οὕτως ὥστε καὶ τοῖς· φιλοσόφοις εἰς τὸν αὐξόμενον λόγον ἀμφιδοξούμενον παράδειγμα τὸ πλοῖον εἶναι, τῶν μὲν ὡς τὸ αὐτό, τῶν δὲ ὡς οὐ τὸ αὐτὸ διαμένοι λεγόντων.”7

Translation: The ship by which [Theseus and] the young returned from Crete had thirty oars and was preserved by the Athenians until the time of Demetrios Phalireas (317-307 BC) at which time the old wood which had rotted, was replaced. Ever since then, philosophers started disagreeing about its status. One side claimed that the ship remained the same and the other that it is not the same ship.

Epistrofia or pistrofia [Folklore]. The first visit after the wedding to the bride’s parental home, also known as “gyrismata” (turnings) “antichara” (joy reciprocated) “antigamos” (counter-wedding), et al. This is customarily done on the first Tuesday or Thurdsay after the wedding or, more frequently, on the following Sunday.8

Whether we choose to reckon it as still the same ship is a question not of what we consider “the same” but of what we call “a ship”; a question of how we choose to define that term over time.

Most of our general terms are defined on the basis of the criterion of continuity, because continuity supports causal connections. 9

Epistrofia (feminine) [Antiquity] Invocation of Aphrodite related to her attribute as goddess of love. It signifies the heart-tending one (latin Venus Veticordia), with the opposite invocation known as Apostrofia.10

The constant yearly employment of this ship as the sacred ship by which the ritual annual voyage was made from Piraeus to Delos, seems to favour the view that this was indeed the ship Theseus travelled in. But does that fact really suffice to silent all claims that a ship reconstituted from the discarded wood may well be closer to the ship in which Theseus sailed, both in material, design and navigation?

Few of us will hurry to make a choice between the two options so far specified. Some will even say that we don’t have to choose. They will ask us to imagine that the issue is being debated at a time that no longer believes in Apollo but still believes in Theseus, and intends to erect a monument to him and place his ship upon it. Archaeologists might then argue that the ship put together from discarded planks would be the right one to use for that purpose. This, in turn, might be disputed by the superannuated priests who would favour the ship in working order, still undertaking the ritual journey.

The difficulty is a certain incompatibility between the terms of the two positions. For the sake of a conciliation, it might be suggested that, if one party favours an archaeological relic and the other a functional continuity in time, then the dispute really is traceable to a disagreement about what it is for something to be a sacred ship. It might be said that the archaeologist who favours the reconstituted ship has a different interest from the priest who favours the continuously repaired ship. Both are making use of the same term “ship” but, having different interests, they do not share a common referent, i.e. they don’t mean the same thing.

In seeking Theseus, archaeology by its nature looks back. But Theseus himself was looking forward to the priests who would continue the cult which he established.11

Epistrofion [Nautical] (com. pistrofa, french le gabord, calbord i.e. the gardboard-strake): the first strake next to the keel of a wooden ship; a thick plank forming a ridge along the side of a wooden ship.12

Solution: we put aside the term “the same thing” which is ambiguous and we answer that it is the same ship (defined as construction or structure) though not the same collection of planks.13

Agressive turnabout [military tactics] According to French military regulations, and therefore the Greek (Mit. Reg. 1905 § 270, 1914, § 262) a counter offensive for the re-occupation of defensive lines recently overtaken by the enemy who has not as yet sufficiently regrouped or organized their defense.

Such a counterattack is always frontal and supports success hopes exclusively on prevailing disarray, confusion and exhaustion of the enemy once occupied the position. It is self-evident that, once the occupying forces regroup and begin to organize the defence of the positions occupied, any action to attack is, from that point on, not designated as a counter offensive but as a conventional attack with the tactical aim of reclaiming the lost positions.14

It’s dawn… I see the moon faint through the black clouds; I am going back to the bridge; upon it, a dark entity, soldiers on foot, move in a throng. It reminds me of deep dark nights. They get close, scatter, then join up. The officers run on horseback, the servants run behind. They remember the restaurant, the lit room; out of the city a car emerges with one headlight on; inside, it made me afraid to see, were villagers. I arrive at the furnaces: a red mouth, a dark figure inside; above, the moon has hidden. I turn my eyes to the city; nearby darkened mountains. I see out to the plain. A white calling – I do not go to it; I walk past the mill to see the room… I see nothing… The ailing man at night needs a calming light; upon the table the clock; it’s ticking; you can hear it.15

Cut-up, February 2016

1. G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (1925).

2. Great Greek Encyclopedia Pyrsos, Vol. XI, Athens, 1931

3. Jorge Luis Borges, “Buenos Aires”, In Praise of Shadow (1969).

4. Great Greek Encyclopedia, Pyrsos, Vol. XI, Athens, 1931

5. Gilbert Ryle, “Descartes’ Myth”, in The Concept of Mind (1949).

6. Great Greek Encyclopedia “Pyrsos”, vol. XI, Athens, 1931.

7. Plutarch, Theseus, 23.1.

8. Great Greek Encyclopedia “Pyrsos”, vol. XI, Athens, 1931.

9. W.V. Quine, Theories and Things (1981).

10. Great Greek Encyclopedia “Pyrsos”, vol. XI, Athens, 1931.

11. David Wiggins, Sameness and Substance Renewed (2001).

12. Great Greek Encyclopedia Pyrsos, vol. XI, Athens, 1931.

13. Vincent Descombes, «The Collective Individuals» (1992).

14. Great Greek Encyclopedia Pyrsos, vol. XI, Athens, 1931.

15. Stratis Doukas, “The Return” (1943), from Enotia (Kedros, 1981).