Updated: Mar 17
“A hill full, a hole full
Yet you cannot catch a bowl full.”
Mother Goose, The Mist (Goose et al. 1916)
We find spikiness, projections and outwardness exciting, and associate such qualities in the mind with excitement and other phenomena in the hotter category. Excitement and these things go together in the expressions “exciting” (out), “outburst” (out—disorder—exciting), “outpouring” (out—fluid—exciting), “spitting nails” (out—spiky—mad), “out of order,” “out on a limb” (out—long) “outrage” (out—angry), “pull yourself together” (in—calm), “reel it in” (in—calm), “emergency,” meaning both outwardness and a time to be excited, and "cross," representing both a pointy object and outward movement. Spikiness, like fluidity, is essential to various agonistic and sexual encounters throughout the animal kingdom, sometimes in the form of relatively long, thin, expandable features, and permanent spikes in the form of horns. The offensiveness commonly attached to extending the longest finger at someone else, pointing, or sticking out the tongue also probably make sense in this context. Our name for the former action, “flipping off,” is a conceptual combination of disorder and outwardness, which seems appropriate in the context of a potentially general association between protrusion, disorder and outwardness. Roundness, flatness and inwardness are relatively unexciting in “pitiful,” “sinking feeling,” “cool, calm and collected,” “soul crushing,” “dull,” “flat,” “in a rut,” “the bottom of the barrel,” “cold as a well digger's ass” and, perhaps, “boring” and “a bore,” which mean in one sense unexciting and, in the other, the opposite of a projection. Other expressions suggesting we find spikiness and outwardness exciting may include “conspicuous."
Excitement is not the same thing as attraction or intrigue, and complex juxtapositions of out and inwardness are common in animal aesthetic phenomena. Expressions juxtaposing out and inwardness include “know the ins and outs of,” “far fetched,” “from near and far,” “garbage in garbage out,” “eat your heart out” and “easy come easy go.” In and out are mixed with imperceivable opposites like coldness, order, darkness, containment, centrality and roundness in such expressions as “chill out,” “out of sorts,” “out of the blue,” “cast a wide net,” “point out,” and “cry your eyes out.” Many others are listed in List 3: Mixed sequences. Mother Goose rhymes in which there is a contrast between out and in include “Intery Mintery,” “The Chimney,” “Bedtime,” “The Man in Our Town,” “Ding-Dong-Bell” and “The Mist.”
Spikiness and inwardness are important in religious symbols such as the cross, which, being very spiky, should appear to us as exciting, and, like fluidity, be coupled intriguingly with inwardness, as in the holy cross, assuming “holy” to remind us unconsciously us of a hole. That the cross can be replaced in holy cross with exciting, essentially fluid-like phenomena, as in “holy water,” “holy spirit,” “holy ghost” and “holy hell” suggests the cross is exciting and in some ways conceptually an opposite to roundness and holes. Drinking the blood of Christ couples fluidity with inwardness as well. The fluid circle Enzo in Zen Buddhism is reminiscent of the Holy Spirit. The expressions “soul searching” and “deep breath” are probably related here as well.
Goose, Mother, and Blanche Fisher Wright. “The Real Mother Goose.” Apple Books. 1916. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-real-mother-goose/id434385887.