Syntheton


Syntheton (sin’-the-ton): When by convention two words are joined by a conjunction for emphasis.


Peanut butter and jelly. Perhaps our first lesson in taking delight in the melding of unlike things—we see and taste the compounded edibles juxtaposed on two slices of bread—making a sandwich—a handwhich holding the potentially conflicted elements in a baked vise tightened by our fingertips as we pull out little semicircles following the curvature of our chomping teeth, then swallowing the mashed up mess, and maybe taking a gulp of milk to speed it down our throat.

You can choose what to slap on a sandwich. Whatever lands there, for better and for worse, is held there in your grip. In a way it’s like a belief—you hold it and it projects a future, but you don’t know how it’s going to work out—until you take it up, bite it, and chew it, and swallow it: until you eat it.


But all prepared food, except grilled meat, fowl, and fish, is a mixture—a mixture that is calibrated to the measure of the tongue and the gradual development of taste. Taste: a compelling inducement—maybe the most compelling inducement. The palate is a powerful competitor for truth’s clear gruel-like substance. Truth’s lack of flair, it’s flavorless presentation, it’s nearly invisible presence, has set it above taste in cultures that devalue desire and it’s earthly foundation, even if it may fail to influence anybody to do what’s right or good. But, truth can be put into a sandwich—a sloppy, dripping, tomato-laden, mayonnaise-soaked sandwich. Yum! The truth can taste good when it’s surrounded by condiments. Even baloney can help make the truth effective when it’s smeared with the right kind of mustard.! And perhaps, served with a slice of cheese on freshly baked rye bread.

A Parable of Desire

Once there was a man who loved Subway Sandwiches. He had eaten every sandwich Subway makes and became wise. If he had a decision to make, he would look at the Subway Menu, and remember each sandwich’s effect. One day, he had a particularly difficult decision to make. He had never been circumcised. His girlfriend was pressuring him to have his tip snipped even though he had just turned thirty. He had been studying his wrinkled Subway menu for hours, looking for a sandwich that would help him decide what to do. His eye fell on the Tuna sandwich: “Bite into it, and experience flavour that’s as fresh as an ocean breeze. Submerge yourself in its waves of unique taste!” He thought: “That’s it! I must free myself from staid misconceptions and leap into a new me as a circumcised man, with a fresh loaf of love! My girlfriend will hold me in higher esteem and will court my hooter in an attitude of total desire. Thank you Subway!”

Well, there we have it. For the man in the parable, happiness is a warm bun, packed with tuna salad. It is important to note that palates are as diverse as there are tastebuds. One man’s tuna is another man’s snot. So, you’ve got to discover the non-destructive desires that drive you ahead—the things you like that like you. When I’m in trouble and I need direction, I eat two or three brain-scarring jalapeños. I wear gloves and have a lot of water by my side. When I’m half-blinded and feel like I have a nuclear reactor melting down in my throat, the answer inevitably comes to me in the form of crying and running out the front door yelling “¡eureka!”

So, nobody’s perfect. If you can remember that, you have a chance.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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