dividual

There’s something vividly evident in the visual form of dividual: with nothing to lead it in, the symmetry of divid is highlighted – mostly cut already at the notch v – and we see an odd residual ual at the end.

But what to do? We have divide but not divid. We can take individual and divide it into in and dividual, but beyond that the axe breaks, unless we wish to break a morpheme, chop divi off (the fall ‘of a god’ in Latin) and get something truly dual. No, no, individual is dividual but dividual is individual.

Do I have your undivided attention now? We talk of individual things and of individuals; if we are writing stiff stuff, we may say, for example, “This treatment is not recommended in individuals under two years of age” or “I approached the individual with my sidearm drawn.” It is a long word and so carries more weight; it has more syllables and seems more unassailable. But there is a bit of a divide between our passing use of it and its construction and root sense.

An individual is not subject to division. Thus any individual animal sees its individuality given the lie by a vivisectionist. I may joint an individual chicken (defunct, decapitated, and deplumed) into individual pieces, and cut the individual pieces into cubes of meat: how the heck are they individual if they can be divided? Well, it’s like this: once they’re divided, they’re not individuals anymore. If I take an individual carrot and cut it in coins, it is not an individual carrot anymore. It has been redefined. It is the individual until it is divided, and it does not remain the individual after that, so an individual cannot be divided.

A bit of lexical hairsplitting? Certainly, but take a quantum of solace in one thing: a quantum is the one thing that is truly and utterly individual – it is an amount that cannot be divided into smaller amounts. Everything above that is dividual. From the perspective of the social and legal dividual, the group entity of a society, you are an individual, a single entry in a database (though each line of an Excel sheet has several cells), but from the perspective of your parts you are a dividual, even in the visual aspect: cut your hair or your nails and you have divided some of yourself from the rest. Your attention is dividual too; in the riot of daily life and its emotional upheavals, sometimes you need to split off a separate piece of your mind in order to make yourself a separate peace.

You will not find one part of an individual, visible or invisible, that is indivisible. There can always be a residual. But do not take a place in the vigil for individuals; send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for all of thee. No one is an island; we are all parts of the mainland but we are all also archipelagos. We are complex; nothing is simplex, not even the soul, which swirls with spirit aromas like a glass of wine poured from a bottle of the everything. There is joy in division: it is how you know thing from thing, thought from thought, moment from moment; it is how you taste so many things in life. If you were not dividual you would be lacking the whole picture; you would just be a pixel. A quantum. And a quantum is soulless.

One response to “dividual

  1. You are dividually unique! Wonderful writing!

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