Some statements lend themselves well to schematization, in that you can abstract away from their concrete reference and play with their interchangeable elements in terms of a deeper underlying sense and further inference. Let me illustrate this, first with a poem:

’’The reeds give way/ to the wind/ and give/ the wind away’’ (AR Ammons)

From this the following schema can be extracted: X gives way to Y and gives Y away—where X stands for something explicit and Y for something more implicit. For example, one’s actions give way to one’s deeper impulses and give those impulses—one’s deepest values—away. That is, the laws of the formless manifest in the land of the forms. (The inference being: Listen to what others tell you but never buy into any of the content, always pay attention to what they’re actually doing; or applied to one’s own self: Listen, but do not take much stock in a word you narrate in your head, focus on what you’re actually doing.) Or another good example could be: asking (loaded) questions give way to your tacit judgments and give those prejudiced premises away. Pretty straightforward.

Next, take the following maxim circulating on the internet:

’’Genes load the gun, the environment pulls the trigger’’

—that is: X loads the gun and Y pulls the trigger. For example: one’s attitude loads the gun and social feedback pulls the trigger, or mindset loads the gun and circumstance pulls the trigger. In other words: What we give is what we get, and vice versa. Again, pretty straightforward.

Speaking of triggers:

’’Understanding what someone says to you is attributing to them the ideas which their words arouse in you.’’ (RG Collingwood)

Admiring or loathing someone, for instance, derives from the act of attributing to them the thoughts and feelings—the raw reactions—that their words and actions trigger inside us. Our encounters are never unmediated. The medium, indeed, is the message: To see an X about someone is to attribute to them the X that their Y arouse in us. As in:

’’Reason manipulates reality in a merely administrative rather than understanding sense’’ (RP Blackmur)

—or: One engages others, for instance, in conditional rather than unconditional terms—again, our encounters are tainted with reactions, fear, transference.


’’Price is what you pay, value is what you get’’ (Warren Buffett)

X is what you pay, Y is what you get. Time and energy is what you pay, a skill is what you get. A sequence of setbacks is what you pay, success is what you get. Pain is what you pay, gains is what you get.

Lastly, skirting the tautological, a question I read somewhere:

’’Do people ruin marriages or do marriages ruin people?’’

Do people ruin X or does X ruin people? Does the use of social media corrupt people or do people abuse social media? Does the capitalist system corrupt people or do people abuse the system? Etc.


The system loads the gun, the individual pulls the trigger. Opportunity and power give way to people’s character and give people’s character away. Etc. Etc. You get the idea.

Fun little toys, these: them gnomic utterances. Let me know if you know some more.

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