C#36 – 14th Oct, rest day in Fillobal, 0 kms.

Ok. I’m rested with time on my hands. Time to share my thinking. Meanwhile Tony is trip planning.

  1. The Camino as a string of beads

We are each a bead. We are strung across the north of Spain. The string is constant but the beads come and go (people drop out) and the beads change order. Some beads cluster together and then separate. Other beads stay close.  The beads have been coming and going for centuries. I’m one of the beads.

  1. The Camino grapevine

It is a little spooky. You hear about other people on the pilgrimage, mostly at dinner when you are eating with a new group of people. They tell you the story of someone. We all have a good laugh, and then the next day, you are having a nice chat with a seemingly nice person, when something they say, sets off a warning bell. O, oh. Is this the famed snorer? The man you never want to share an albergue with? Or, is this the pair with the stinky clothes? Or, so this is the pregnant, Danish woman walking on her own with hubby back. Wow, she looks so well and is so happy. She’s doing the Camino while she can before the baby. And as she says, pregnancy isn’t an illness. Go her! So I’ve decided to take all gossip with a grain of salt. Everyone, regardless of their gossip-able attributes, is just a simple person, walking their own Camino. Go all!

  1. The semiotics of sighing

As I walk I’ve been conscious of just how much I’ve been sighing. It started me down the linguistic path of the function of sighing. We wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t for a reason. This line of thought led me to think of Michel Halliday. He was my teacher  and has had a profound effect on the direction of my life. He died on my birthday 15th April at 8pm, only a few minutes after I had blown out my birthday candles. This hit me hard. As I celebrated, he passed away. My candles marked a milestone in my life (only a modest one of 57yrs) but the moment of death for Michael. I cried for him. Yet he was a man that I didn’t know personally. He was a quiet, thinking man who would think while lecturing and use his hands to emphasize the beauty and delicacy of language. He opened my mind to linguistics and it has directed my understanding of the world ever since. It is the science underpinning all of our social and individual living. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to put shape to our thinking or share our inner selves with others. So out of homage to Michael Halliday, here is my take on The semiotics of sighing. From my observations of myself, and from the following orders of existence,

  • physically, I appear to sigh at the end of some physical effort. It marks an end point and some kind of reset, probably related to the lung intake. After the sigh, I think my heart rate slows back down. Recovery mode.
  • chemically, I feel better after a sigh. It feels like it activates a chemical response to help manage the ongoing exertion. It probably activates endorphins thereby chemically giving me a boost to keep going. My very own drug induced euphoria! So I like to sigh.
  • biologically, it is an important regulatory component of the breathing process, ensuring that oxygen is converted, thus entering the blood stream to drive the circulatory system and perpetuate life. Probably, if we didn’t sigh we wouldn’t have a reset and we’d be unable to slow down, reduce metabolic speed.  It would be like living a constant amusement park ride that never stops. Exhausting. (All of this is just guessing. I’m sure medical scientists would be able to do a better job, but I’m enjoying the thinking process!)
  • socially, we all know that when someone sighs, that we need to note this. It indicates that someone in our group may need time to rest. As we function in social groups, the integrity of the group matters in order to achieve the group aim. So the furniture removal team would need to give the sigh-er a moments rest before continuing. If not, then the piano gets dropped! If you want to walk together, hunt together, sing together, paddle together – and you usually do because there is safety in numbers… then the sighing behaviour tells us to be alert to risks to social cohesion. Socially, sighing tells us that someone in our group indicates their need to rest.
  • semiotically, sighing can come to mean a number of things. When we hear it or when we do it, we can make it mean different things for us. Scenario 1: I’ve been listening to a boring monologue by a bore, and I sigh. My meaning? Enough! I’m bored. Trouble is, the bore is still going strong and semiotically the sigh doesn’t have enough punch. So I have to change the subject or leave the conversation. The sigh can be too subtle. Scenario 2: I’m strolling along deep in thought and I sigh. Tony says, What are you thinking? I’ve let him know that I’ve completed something in my head. It is ready to share. I’m then happy to share my thoughts. I’m not very conscious of this but it usually begins a subsequent conversation. Sighing can mean, at least in my semiotic repertoire, I’m bored and I’m happy to chat. I’m sure it has other meanings as well, but it is these two that I have observed.

So I thank Michael Halliday for his role in my life. Because of his impact, I became a language teacher, a linguistics scholar and    a lover of language – words, language patterns, puns, humor and the awesome power of language. We live in strange times at the moment and I see language being exploited and manipulated by negative , geopolitical narcists across the world – US, Russia, China….and others. We need to guard language, understand it’s power, expose its abuse and use it for good not evil.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s