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post #49
bio: jen
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1/11/2005
15:19

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Zeitgeist

Recently, in one of those mega-super-bookstores for the mall shopper, I noticed the word 'zeitgeist' on a trade paperback book cover. It was not in the title. Rather, it was part of a quote from a famous author recommending the book.

The quote said something like 'it captures the zeitgeist of a generation' and accompanied a cover picture of a blurry urban setting with shadows and neon. It was enough to capture my attention and make me pick up the book, study it, then put it back down again. I had enough books to read.

I immediately forgot the title, but the word 'zeitgeist' stayed with me. It was a cool word---beginning with Z, then moving into the ei-ei symmetry of the syllables, then those hard T and G sounds dividing the syllables and ending with the ST. Way cool, but what did it mean? Was it even an english word? To the dictionary!

I looked up Zeigeist in the dictionary. Coming from the German (zeit for time and geist for spirit), it means the spirit of the time. It's a noun, so you can say, 'the zeitgeist made me do it' or you can go the melodramtic route and exclaim, 'the zeitgeist! ohhh the zeitgeist!'

However, to say, 'these crazy zeitgeist times' makes no sense because you're just saying these crazy time spirit times. What the heck is time spirit times anyway? Definitely something crazy; therefore, the whole phrase is redundant.

The zeitgeist. Ahhh. The zeitgeist. What is the spirit of this time? What is the zeitgeist right now? Is it even possible to capture the zeitgeist in the right now or do we need the lace curtain of nostalgia? Do we need to be looking back at something as if looking at a blurry photograph in order to exclaim, the zeitgeist! ahhh the zeitgeist!

I don't think you can capture a zeitgeist. Time is constantly moving, and a spirit can never be held in your hand. Even a liquid spirit needs a glass.


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