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4 September 2012 | Draft

Enstoning in Memorials and Monuments

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Annex 4 of Fivefold Clustering of Ways of Being Stoned: Imagination, Promise, Rocks, Memorials, Petrification (2012)


"Stone" is used metaphorically and otherwise in a quite disparate range of contexts. These nevertheless offer an elusive implication of connectivity which merits exploration, as attempted here -- especially given the associated sense of concreteness.

This offers an alternative understanding of the frameworks of belief systems, their articulation, and the problematic relationships between them -- exemplified by the communication processes in any gathering in which multiple themes are evoked and challenged from a variety of perspectives -- and to relatively little avail. Use of "stoned" as a provocative mnemonic device is then arguably appropriate through the distraction it offers, whether through use of drugs by individuals, or collective dependence on oil as a drug.

The argument is developed in the main paper in the light of five ways of clustering "being stoned", each summarized in a separate annex:

The "rock cluster" (Annex 3) can be understood as intermediate between the earlier "potential cluster" (Annex 2) and the deliberate embodiment of its articulation into configurations of stone -- as characteristic of this "memorial cluster". The "rock cluster" is therefore distinct in that the focus is on singular "rocks", even though many may be employed (as in "stoning"). Any singular architectural use -- as with foundation stones -- anticipates the configuration and construction characteristic of this "memorial cluster". Given their function in relation to (collective) memory, the constructs may be variously designed to impress, even deliberately to evoke awe to that end.

Sacred sites and ritual settings: As variously implied above, stones have long been a focus of ritual, possibly as a culmination of pilgrimage:

Institutional construction: The various forms of "potential" (as noted above) tend to be embodied in architectural structures ("in stone") following their definitive articulation (metaphorically "written in stone"):

Memorial constructs: In addition to those considered above, considerable importance can be attached to physical, virtual or notional constructs which enable "re-collection" and "re-membering", especially collectively and over extended periods of time (Societal Learning and the Erosion of Collective Memory, 1980; Pointers to the Pathology of Collective Memory, 1980; Minding the Future: thought experiment on presenting new information, 1980).

Wisdom "stones": Beyond the metaphorical use of foundation stone, keystone, gemstones, and the like, "stones" may also be intimately associated with knowledge and wisdom in their most integrative and elusive sense:

A remarkable articulation of relevance to this argument is offered by Jing Wang (The Story of Stone: Intertextuality, Ancient Chinese Stone Lore, and the Stone Symbolism in Dream of the Red Chamber, Water Margin, and The Journey to the West. 2000). In a section on the problematic of contradiction and constraint:

It is on the ground of the stone tablet's deeply ingrained historical obligations of remembering, and particularly of inscribing the past, that it serves as a potent sign of historical consciousness, and in this sense alone can it be seen as the mirror-image of the "stone of three lifetimes".... And yet this is not simply a past whose meaning is exhausted because it is sealed off as passé. On the contrary, it is an enigmatized past that demands to be deciphered and, in a paradoxical way, re-created. It is in this particular shade of meaning of the mythology of the past... that we can perceive the subtle folkloric presence of the inscribed stone in the metaphor.... only when the past is seen as an oracular riddle does it have to be remembered, decoded, and then brought to account for the present (p. 192)

In this study of three of the most familiar texts in the Chinese tradition -- all concerning stones endowed with magical properties, the author Jing Wang develops a reconstruction of ancient Chinese stone lore. Bringing together Chinese myth, religion, folklore, art, and literature, this book is the first in any language to amass the sources of stone myth and stone lore in Chinese culture. Uniting classical Chinese studies with contemporary Western theoretical concerns, Wang examines these stone narratives by analyzing intertextuality within Chinese traditions.

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