Tinsled Rhetoric

Here it comes. Some more neurons from yours truly, firing off like ping pong balls. When I’m not enjoying the promise of Autumn with short walks to visit old paths and stones in walls I had almost forgotten, I have been compiling thoughts like so many layers of onion. Here, I peel them. I share with you a mod-podge collage of what I have been reading, contemplating, perusing… But first these words, defined:

smooth: In a way that is without difficulties.

sonorous: (Of a person’s voice or other sound) imposingly deep and full. Capable of producing a deep or                          ringing sound.

rhetoric: Language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but often regarded as                  lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.

Who’s this stodgy dodgy learned man?


                         Berrien County in southern Georgia is named for him. He’s John Macpherson Berrien (1781-1856).  Who is he, you ask? Came across him in a book. I tried to read “Dark Places of the Earth” by Jonathon M. Bryant, which is the true story of an African slave ship’s fate. While I found certain passages compelling, I couldn’t complete the book because although I found the story intriguing,

I didn’t like the stiff and formal storytelling. Sorry, Jonathon.

The book lacked a “smooth and sonorous” telling, which would’ve given it heart. Instead I found it monotonously fact-spewing. I did skim through the book though; and gleaned some interesting dialogue of the times. In fact I gleaned some dialogue ABOUT dialogue. Berrien was a judge. Upon sentencing a man to death in 1818, he bellowed, (rather melodramatically, says me):

“Alas! What is man? The child of error–the sport of every vitrious passion–a helpless vessel on the tempestuous ocean…without a rudder to guide it from the shoals and quicksands of vice. Such is the wretched condition of him who…refuses to yield to reason’s guidance.”

Said Henry S. Foote of Judge Berrien’s speech giving abilities:

“He spoke in a voice that was distinct… impressive and sonorous. He indulged in no flights of fancy and no tinsled rhetoric. He spoke in a clear and copious stream of his methodical and well digested flow of logic…like some smooth majestic river.”

Sounds like Foote is quite the fan of Berrien! If only the author in “Dark Places of the Earth” had written so clearly, impressing me with his “sonorous” river of majestic words! Anyway… I came away from the half-read book with that little descriptive phrase: tinsled rhetoric. I don’t know why I think so, but it has a ring to it. Being a visual person, it is not hard for me to imagine people who speak in such a way that tinsel hangs from their very manipulative and insincere words (rhetoric)? I have come to believe though, that so called tinsled words are okay, if they are felt. Tinsled rhetoric on the other hand, is like decorated turds. I’ve heard a lot of that in the current political spouting we are all subject to….Without decoration, an evergreen tree is an evergreen tree. But tinsled boughs transform it into something else entirely. But, unlike rhetoric, trees are already sincerely majestic and hauntingly beautiful to begin with… before you add the tinsel…

Have you ever read Emily Dickinson’s haunted chamber poem? Here it is:

Emily Dickinson : One need not be a chamber to be haunted

One need not be a chamber to be haunted,
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
Material place.

Far safer, of a midnight meeting
External ghost,
Than an interior confronting
That whiter host.

Far safer through an Abbey gallop,
The stones achase,
Than, moonless, one’s own self encounter
In lonesome place.

Ourself, behind ourself concealed,
Should startle most;
Assassin, hid in our apartment,
Be horror’s least.

The prudent carries a revolver,
He bolts the door,
O’erlooking a superior spectre
More near.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)	?

(For her poem on comparing the human brain to haunted corridors, the 
somewhat reclusive Emily had it described as "exquisitely dark and 
introspective," so says an online reviewer. Certain works of art haunt 
the brain long after viewing them. Here are a few that are as smooth and sonorous as Berrien's speeches supposedly were in their day...

From Joshuea Abarbanel, and the collection called See Life: (I love the pun.)


Ever see a cabin made from cordwood? Check out these:

cordwood wall

Thierry Dronet

(Thierry Dronet)

chickencoop by Tom Huber(chicken coop by Tom Thurber)Tom Huber shed

They start like this one, above…

And now for strainer art by Isaac Cordal:



Some people see strainers and see the use for which they were designed. Some people assign strainers a new use. Some folks see cordwood as a useful and practical commodity. Some folks see cordwood and design for it a new use. I think some of the aforementioned potential candidates need to use their brains in new ways!

I happened upon these unique art forms above; quite accidentally. It got me thinking about my curious need to know new things that I possessed as a child just as fervently as I possess that trait now, in adulthood. I did not have the ability then, pre-internet, to “google” any topic that intrigued me. I had a set of encyclopedias and the public library. Learning something new meant deciding on a topic and a physical trip to the library to borrow several books on the topic of interest. A book might then propel me to search for more info once my topic was narrowed, or to branch off into other subjects.

Surrounded by physical books in the comforts of home, I hoped to come across interesting information. Often I took notes for ideas on further reading. I would happen upon a side subject or a book recommendation. This prompted additional library trips. Of course today, if a topic interests me online, I can instantaneously click a link over to a side interest… But there were no links then. No instantaneous googling. In fact, when planning a trip, arriving at the destination required studying a map. Most likely a Rand-McNally. Not a GPS. The destination is the same, the means is changed. Times change.

And some things don’t change at all. I’m as much an ambler as ever, for example. (Remember, I warned you about ricocheting ping pong thoughts.) It’s just that my subjects are more easily attainable. And the glints of mica in paths traveled often, they don’t change. There’s a nostalgia to that. Art surrounds us, as it always has. An outlet, expression, statement. My own words ( consider my book Under The Banana Moon and the various places I’ve published) and my own artwork. They have traveled to far reaching places… My expressions are more well-traveled than my physical self.

Emily said– there is that interior white host to confront. (The ghost of contemplation we meet in our brains’ corridors, right? Specters of introspection.) The brain’s corridors can be haunted, as surely as a house can be haunted, she said. Ourself, behind ourself, concealed. Moonless self-encounters. 

haunting: Poignant and evocative; difficult to ignore or forget.

That is what living is. Had Emily lived today, would she be labelled depressed? Yeah, probably. But introspection is healthy I think; without it people are one dimensional. Back to Google for a moment: One thing I do hate about instantaneous information is that… terrible inhumane injustices in the world can appear instantaneously on a newsfeed when we least expect it. Berrien described ‘man’ (humankind) as a “rudderless vessel” of sin afloat on a “tempestuous ocean.”

He’s right of course. Confronted with the daily atrocities we all face daily, I’ve come to think that with a little self examination we are not really as rudderless as it feels to navigate the nonstop sea of sewage that can be the world as it exists in all its tinsled rhetoric today. Is your rudder faith? Sprituality? Art? Journaling? Exercise? Hobbies? Books? Family?  Sometimes rudders are hard to come by. I just have to remind myself to stay afloat.


Who knew tinsel came in so many colors?

SEE LIFE art: http://design-milk.com/see-life-layered-wooden-sculptures-inspired-reefs/

CORDWOOD DESIGNS: http://offgridconcepts.blogspot.com/2014/09/cordwood-homes-and-cabins.html

STRAINER ART: http://beautifuldecay.com/2013/05/03/shadow-street-art-portraits-using-kitchen-strainers/

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