Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Lately — and maybe always — I am bewitched by translation and etymology. Both imperfect, curious, spiraling. In their mouths, any word becomes an hour, and every hour spent coaxing: lost, incongruous, evolving meanings into being.

They are tools, lenses, questions: salt-scrub and sun. Peeling, scoping, fossil-digging. Our words have thick skins, but they will probe beneath our tongues: soaking the words in solution, revealing their bones.

With them, we may open up more space beneath the syllables: the sounds from which we always plead precision, and always fall short in.

But I like that we fall short. I like that it allows the words, like us, internal multitudes and contradictions; I like that it eludes simplicity. I like that it renders approximations out of our definitions. I like that it demands humility.

Today I am thinking about the Spanish “encontrar,” which means, in multiplicity: to meet, to encounter, to find.

I like the strangeness in the sameness there. To my ear, to “encounter” implies an element of chance, of newness, while to “find” implies we’ve been looking. 

I like that the word contains both. I like this inherent multiplicity, this colloquial evolution in meaning: to meet up, to run into, to pass on the street.

Encontrar”— like English contrary, counter, contrast — traces back to the Proto-Italic root komteros, meaning “opposite, the other of the two who meet”.

I like this, too. In it, the idea that we are always posed in contrast to what we encounter, and nearing difference as we’re drawn to. In the meeting both a finding and an othering; an opposition, a discovery or return to one, a new self-figuring.

Te encuentro: I find, run into, encounter you. I am oriented toward and also in opposition to you.

I like this, too. In te encuentro, I will both find and meet you. The startle and familiarity of love’s discovery; the glimpse of recognition, and reorientation, that we experience when we feel like we are seen.

I like that it implies we meet again. It's the relief of inevitability; a predestination, a near-mandated collision, an intimation of the sweet. I like that, wherever we are, we must already be on course.

And I like that, in “te encuentro”, you will be whoever I next pass on the street. Finally, gratefully. In multiplicity.