Thursday, 24 May 2012

Disinterested

I saw disinterested used as though it meant uninterested recently in a surprising place. As it supports an important distinction the tendency to confuse the two ought to be resisted. Let’s see what Eric Partridge has to say in Usage and Abusage

disinterested is incorrectly used for uninterested or not interested; its meaning is ‘impartial’; not studying one’s own advantage. I have seen it also used for apathetic (- a usage given by Webster’s)

I see it’s still there in my copy of Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (1979) the one with drawings but alas mostly without the naming of parts like the baby Larousse. The rest of the definition is correct.

It’s easy to be a pedant nowadays, the bar isn’t set very high so I normally restrain my expatiating tendency to within the privacy of my home where exits can be secured. Why then this storm in a cocoa cup, this nervous snapping of a ginger biscuit?

It’s in the Bhagavad Gita and it’s called nishkama karma, translated as desireless action. To act without attachment to the fruits of one’s action is so to subvert the normal basis of action that it can be called actionless action. It is not that we are uninterested in what we are doing, we are disinterested. Thereby our action is liberated from the tyranny of time. It is a portal to ‘Eternal Life’.

6 comments:

elisa freschi said...

thanks, Ombhurbhuva, very clear example.

ombhurbhuva said...

Elisa,
thanks. Do you ever wonder how many commentaries on the Gita there are? Does anybody know?

john doyle said...

Does anybody care? Or is the number of commentaries a matter of profound disinterest?

ktismatics said...

Please disregard the prior comment: it is pointless toward no good end.

ombhurbhuva said...

John:

Off line for a few days so missed your comment which is a valid one.

- Who knows how many B.G. commentaries there are?

- Who knows.

- Only God knows maybe. To say 'God only knows' is strictly to imply that God/Isvara might know but cares not which does not agree with the sense that we have of the identity of the properties of God with her/his/its essence. His knowledge is interested because of the Love and disinterested because of the Justice.

Teach us to care and not to care

Teach us to sit still.

(Eliot:Ash Wednesday)

The number of commentaries and sub-commentaries is surely a problem for the librarian of Babel, Sanskrit Dept.

ktismatics said...

"her/his/its essence"

You omitted "their." I recently came across the noncommittal divine pronoun "godself," as in "...the identity of the properties of God with godself essence." Oh well.

I've recently requested from the Library of Boulder a book entitled House of Leaves, which I've heard described as an intricate haunted house tale that owes a debt to the Library of Babel.

"Teach us to care and not to care"

That reminds me of a joke my father once told me. You've probably heard it too though, so I wont' bother repeating it.