I'm always challenging young reporters (and a few old ones) to tell me something I don't know. For me -- and probably for our readers -- an element of "discovery" is one of the things that make a story worth reading. And for newspaper reporters, what good is telling readers only things they already know? They wouldn't think their 50-cents was well spent without a little "gee-whiz," would they?
Gee whiz. Maybe it's an idea they hadn't ever considered, or a real-life situation they could never imagine on their own. Maybe it's the linkage of two distinctly different moments or notions into one, as if providing the missing link.
Or maybe it's just one perfect word.
While reading a novel into the wee hours last night, I had a moment of discovery. In this case, it was a single word.
It's derived from Greek, meaning a “thing in itself” -- the opposite of phenomenon, the thing that appears to us. Noumena are basic realities that cannot be perceived by our usual senses. You can't touch, taste, smell, hear or see them, although you might sense phenomena they cause. According to philosopher Immanuel Kant, they aren't "knowable" but they must be "thinkable" because moral decision making and scientific investigation depend upon the assumption that they exist.
Desire. Reason. Ambiguity. Jealousy. Pride. Evil. A soul.
OK, that's a poet's take on a word (and a philosophy) that's far too tangled for this blog and blogger. Poets suck at complex details. The eggheads over at Wikipedia can quibble endlessly about disambiguation and proto-existential phenomenology, but a poet just likes the way the word rolls around in the mouth ... and how it gives a name to a whole species of things he thinks about.
What else would be a noumenon?