Encountering the word “discursion” is somewhat of a linguistic equivalent to an archeological find—discovering a once useful tool buried under centuries of history that has a story to tell. The popular writer G.K. Chesterton thought to use it in a title of collected essays first published in 1910, Alarms and Discursions, an anthology that has drifted into obscurity along with the word. Today, “discursion” is even relatively absent on the world’s reference source to all things language, the internet. Apparently, it is yet another casualty of the American lexicon that has shed thousands of words in the last hundred years. That’s unfortunate, because words represent unique thoughts and feelings. Indeed, the fewer independent words we utilize, the less accurately we can communicate.
While it belongs to another era, discursion has a few modern synonyms—thought, musing, formal analysis, reasoned discourse, deliberation. The aggregate definitions of these synonyms could pretty well sum up discursion, but this word has an additional layer of meaning that enables a more precise application. The extra dimension suggests moving from topic to topic with apparent ease, as a mind with range, and perhaps not without the slight appearance of tangential rambling. However, this running to and fro actually demonstrates the interconnectedness of all things. Discursion is the habit of the active mind that finds the world too wonderful and various to ignore its paradoxical unity. Or, explained another way, discursion is the mental act of logically dispersing the natural consequences of a few central facts in every imaginable direction.
Chesterton applied a few central facts to the divergent subjects of Alarms and Discursions. A master of counterpoint, Chesterton set the nouns in his title against each other to give us further insight into our word. If “alarms” conjures a sense of urgency, “discursions” stands for a sort of aloof pleasure. Everything he wrote about he no doubt felt gravely important, but thinking and writing about them filled him with a paradoxal sense of frivolity. He pursued discursions for their own enjoyment, and not only because he thought them important. But even the enjoyment and the importance derive from the same thing…
Discursion is marked by serious thought, and fueled by a sense of wonder. It is a process undertaken with analytical rigor and simultaneously, with playful vigor. Discursion is too important to just comprise a discipline of the mind and disposition—it is a pastime. It is a companion on a contemplative stroll through nature. It is a welcome guest at a fireside gathering where company argues the fate of the world. It is the cheer and joy of life felt among friends, who with pints in hand, converse the topics of the day from top to bottom. Discursion is both serious and light, and most of all, it is borne out in its breadth, an implicit affirmation that every last inch of the universe is touched by the Source of Life. And because life is good, no matter is unworthy of rightful consideration.
In addition to all this, the word “discursion” possesses an elegance of a bygone era, which is a good enough reason to dust it off. And so we are the Discursionists. We think about and comment on history, theology and philosophy, politics and society, law and business, science and medicine, art and entertainment, or anything that is interesting, which is practically most everything else. In the face of this vast world, humility is the proper posture. So, above all, we hope that our thoughts are characterized by intellectual honesty in pursuit of truth.
Really, a few of the only rules around here are to express what we think is right, and admit it when we’re wrong, because aside from ego, which is of little consequence, we all have every incentive to be corrected. As you read, we also ask that you acknowledge the worldview that shapes your reactions and the standards upon which it is based. The last rule here is to love discursing. Our own particular discursions will flow from what we take are the few central facts, which you can read more about and interact with on each of our individual profile pages. And, of course, we encourage you to contribute to the conversation. Hopefully, in the process, we can collectively unearth the word “discursion.”
It goes without saying, but opinions are solely those of the individual writers.