Bonyolult

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One of my favorite words in Hungarian is “bonyolult,” (“complicated, messy, intricate”), which sounds like what it means: all wound up in a bundle. According to Wiktionary, it is the past participle of bonyolul, (“to become complicated”), “an archaic verb which was formed from the bonyol- stem of bonyolít (to make something complicated).” Some linguists trace bonyolít to the Proto-Finno-Ugric *puńa (to wind up, twist).

The photo above (which I took on Sunday evening) expresses bonyolultság well. The stump is full of life: if you look closely, you can see leaves on some of its thin branches. The water looks dark, but in the upper left corner, there’s a hint of pink (since the camera is facing north or north-northeast, and the sunset was not yet over).

I would not say that complexity is the crowning principle of life. It goes along with certain simplicities. Complexity on its own becomes unintelligible, whereas simplicity becomes reductive. Neither one, at the exclusion of the other, can be beautiful, nor does the combination guarantee beauty. Beauty is one of the strangest things in human life: on the one hand subjective and private, and on the other, breaking out of subjectivity; on the one hand, conditioned by society, and on the other, proudly unconditioned. When you find something beautiful, you are all alone and in company, both of these purely, both at once.

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