Jim Earl


Postcard from the Fragment (On the Origins of Modern Discord)

The following etymologies have been provided by www.etymonline.com, a map of the wheel-ruts of Modern English. (my bolds)

Dear Everybody (Anybody),

Why is it if you try to find out the etymological history of both theology and theory, you get different results? Isn’t theo “God”?

theology
mid-14c., from O.Fr. theologie “philosophical treatment of Christian doctrine” (14c.), from L. theologia, from Gk. theologia “an account of the gods,” from theologos “one discoursing on the gods,” from theos “god” (see Thea) + -logos “treating of.”
So Theos is god, but I have to see Thea…ok. Is this the old M/F again?

Thea
fem. proper name, from Gk. thea “goddess,” fem. equivalent of theos “god,” from PIE base *dhes-, root of words applied to various religious concepts, e.g. L. feriae “holidays,” festus “festive,” fanum “temple.”

Yet Thea doesn’t end there if I continue to dig through to…

theory
1590s, “conception, mental scheme,” from L.L. theoria (Jerome), from Gk. theoria “contemplation, speculation, a looking at, things looked
at,” from theorein “to consider, speculate, look at,” from theoros “spectator,” from thea “a view” + horan “to see.” Sense of “principles or methods of a science or art (rather than its practice)” is first recorded 1610s. That of “an explanation based on observation and reasoning” is from 1630s.

So theology (theo+logos) might be words about speculation about what we’re looking at. Fools assert that God sits in a room with a view; theory might suggest that god is that room, and that room is any view at all.

theater
late 14c., “open air place in ancient times for viewing spectacles,” from O.Fr. theatre (12c.), from L. theatrum, from Gk. theatron “theater,” lit. “place for viewing,” from theasthai “to behold” (cf. thea “a view,” theates “spectator”) + -tron, suffix denoting place. Meaning “building where plays are shown” (1570s) was transferred to that of “plays, writing, production, the stage” (1660s). Spelling with -re prevailed in Britain after c.1700, but Amer.Eng. retained or revived the older spelling in -er. Generic sense of “place of action” is from 1580s; especially “region where war is being fought” (1914).

So the theatron that would be a place to worship the female goddess is instead a place for viewing, something beheld, beheld within, a field upon which action takes place.

But theology, that is an account of the gods. Not those who are beheld, but those who create what is beheld; not the place of action but those who act.

Yes and the theater of it all is the wars provoked by the simple misunderstanding by humans of the fact that what you look for you will find. The world is as much a product of our imagination as we are of its. In fact there is no way to distinguish where “we” end and the “world” begins. We are Earth’s attempt at awareness. We’re wrapped up on here, in this, like it or not.

If tragedy repeated is comedy, how many times does a comedy have to be repeated until it is no longer funny? In these days, I wonder how we will come to see that the theater of the conflict between theory and theology, with respect to their immutable equivalence, has gasped its last guffaw and Mother Nature (boss round these parts) will snuff out the tellers of bad jokes.

Wish we were there,
jim
xx

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