Grace in a Grand Am

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If your experience with an expression has been limited to a particular context, you're likely to assume that the meaning it has in that context is its "true", "real" meaning. If you then come across it in other contexts, you might well assume that its occurrences there are somehow connected to the uses you're familiar with. This belief might have nothing to do with the facts of linguistic history.

Case in point: a recent discussion of uses of the term non-dual (or nondual) on Jerry Katz's Nonduality Blog, which treats nondualism, "the understanding or belief that dualism or dichotomy are illusory phenomena" (as the Wikipedia article puts it). Katz explains:

I monitor in a non-scientific way the appearances of the words nondual, nonduality, nondualism, in blogs and the press. I don’t think there is any question that in the last ten years there has been a significant increase in the use of those words in the mainstream press. I also think there is no question that the increase in the awareness and usage of those terms has occurred within the field of spirituality in general.

But what I have realized is that the term non-dual is being used increasingly in ways unrelated to spirituality, philosophy, expressions of reality, or even science. I’m not going to speculate on what that means or whether what I’m seeing is real phenomenon. I’m only pointing it out.

I found all the following usages of non-dual in the last two months. It seems like an explosion in these findings. I wonder if it presages a greater spiritual explosion.

(Note the probable instance of the Recency Illusion, signaled by "increasingly".)

Katz's own explanation of nonduality begins:

What is nonduality?

Nonduality means “not two” or “nonseparation.” It is the sense that all things are interconnected and not separate, while at the same time all things retain their individuality. An awareness of nonduality gives you a bigger perspective on life, a greater sense of freedom, and brings you a more stable happiness.

Katz provides a series of examples from what he sees as a recent "explosion" in occurrences of non-dual, including this one from Lynne Murphy (who pointed me to Katz's site in the first place):

In spite of the fact that the only non-dual-citizen in the household… (link)

Two more:

I am as always arguing for a major set of improvements to the A9, which is the only non-dual-carriageway link serving Scotland’s cities. (link)

GM non-dual post mirrors (mickey Mouse ears) power $60.00 (link)

Katz concludes:

If the non-spiritual usage of “non-dual” is becoming more frequent, why so? I see it as the sense of humor of Grace or universal Intelligence as it brings understanding toward itself. The use of “non-dual” to describe automobile parts and railway travel [well, actually, roadways] demonstrates the humor and poetry of Grace as cars and trains symbolize the carrying of information regarding nonduality.

Or am I seeing something that does not exist? What’s more truthful, that I’m imagining things or that Grace is screwing around?

Katz is entertaining the possibility that Grace is guiding lexical innovation, using his favored sense of non-dual as the taking-off point. Hence his title "Grace in a Grand Am", making reference to a Grand Am auto part (the non-dual post mirrors above).

Now, in the real world, a non-dual X is simply something (of the appropriate category) that is not a dual X: a non-dual citizen is someone who is not a dual citizen, who does not hold dual citizenship; a non-dual carriageway is a roadway that is not a dual carriageway, not a divided highway; a non-dual post mirror is a single post mirror. For each specialized use of the modifier dual, there is a corresponding use of the negative modifier non-dual.

The occurrences of non-dual are just productive uses of the negative prefix non- with adjectives, as in non-American and non-equivalent; such words can be coined as needed (and have been coined for hundreds of years), and dictionaries list only a small sampling of the possibilities. What we see here is not the guiding hand of Grace or a spritual explosion, but productive morphology.

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