Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mead: "Like a withered rose, the contingency is one moment of the situation."



     “Wonderful.” It is a simple word of the impression which follows after looking at a beautiful red rose. While such rose is still “fresh” with a delicate combination of youth and scent, one will naturally consider it as a beauty of the world. However the beauty is not a fixed term of the situation but rather a term of the temporality. In a case of the rose, no matter how beautiful a rose can be, it will not last its beauty because the rose without a doubt will wither in the end. A rose alone has much of a different variety of the situation. In one situation, it is under the bed of earth as in a shape of the seed. In another, it can be glamorously beautiful when it is blossomed. And when time passes, it meets a phase of aging process. In the end of the situation, it withers like a dry crisp leaf. If a beauty is considered when a rose is fresh, then it is only existed under a certain frame of the moment. As “freshness” as a basic symbol, the beauty is realized in one moment of the situation. Likewise, a beauty is lost when a rose withers in a certain moment as “agedness” is based as a symbol. As such, the contingency is one moment of the situation. Mead argues that “temporality is the essence of contingency” (Alexander 1987:209). There is a Japanese proverb which says that any object with a shape will be perished one day. Suppose it is true, then a beauty as the temporal matter is deemed as a value because it is the ‘only’ one moment of the situation among many which can be achieved. The limitation of resource in time establishes a beauty as a rarity, a one of the kind. Therefore a beauty becomes a value. Thus I picked a picture of a withered rose for the topic because its appearance describes a realistic sense of the contingency. A withered rose shows an evident trace on perish, where a beauty does not last forever.

     However, the contingency is more than simply a subject of temporality. According to Mead (1987), it is an element to define the nature of social order. “Order is pictured as irredeemably negotiated, as emergent from individual interaction, as having no collectivist roots” (Alexander 1987:205). The contingency is also one separate individual action that maintains a society altogether in an orderly manner. In a case of one married couple, an action of respect and understanding between them leads to a harmony of family. Also the matter of harmony within the couple is not merely limited into the couple but others around them. As they develop love between them, such action is a good of the couple themselves, their children, their relatives, their neighbors, their friends, and all kinds of people who influence under a circle of their social relationships. In order to realize a situation of harmony, a couple constantly needs to exchange an action of efforts one another. To put it specifically, the action of efforts takes a meaning to accomplish a situation of harmony. And, since the contingency is one moment of the situation, a couple must constantly proceed with an action of efforts to reach a harmony. Mead states “meaning is found in symbols, not acts” (Alexander 1987:206). As he concludes it so, a meaning is achieved through symbols, not acts. An action itself does not fulfill the meaning. For example in the married couple, a husband earns living and brings salary to his wife. His bring money to home is not what builds her trust on him. It is his respect to fulfill his responsibility as a head of household. His respect to the matter of household serves as symbol which makes a meaning. In exchange, her trust on him works as a symbol also. Through the exchange of symbols, they run a system of family order. To maintain a harmony, a couple should put constant efforts one another.



Alexander, Jeffrey C. 1987. Twenty Lectures: Sociological Theory Since World WarII. NY:
Columbia University Press.    


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