a valentine’s day special
If you search online you may find that the word arcane originates in 1547 with the Latin root arcānus secret, hidden, from arcēre to shut up, keep safe.
That’s ok. But I’m here to tell you that arcane originated in 1994 in a film called Reality Bites. I don’t consider myself much of a romantic but I am about to share with you a cinematic moment which, in my teens, epitomised the flawed beauty of love: a moment of clarity; of honesty. And a sentence that has stayed with me since I first saw the film at about fourteen.
Let me give you a quick rundown: Troy and Lelaina have been friends for years. Troy loves Laney, but he’s a bit of a deadbeat – employed in some dive and a serial womaniser – and Laney is pursuing a high-powered media career.
After years of sexual tension they succumb to their lust and sleep together, but Troy takes off the following morning without a word.
A few painful weeks later, Troy turns up at Laney’s front gate. He has come to tell her that he’s changed. He has experienced an intense period of personal growth. He sees the world and his place in it in a new way. He has had an arcane glimpse of the universe. Yep, that’s what he says. Arcane. It’s a beautiful moment. Laney runs towards him, they hug, and it’s all on.
Arcane is a lovely word, and one you can use without joining the pompous literati, because Ethan Hawke (Troy) used it. And we know he was a deadbeat.
Arcane refers to secret and mysterious knowledge that is accessible only to an enlightened inner circle. Arcane knowledge is often ancient. You know, like the DaVinci Code 😉 Well, Mr Brown destroyed that for all of us, didn’t he? You could say that by popularising the theories in his book, he made them less arcane.
The word arcane can have a positive or negative connotation. For example, the arcane discoveries of Chinese medicine have much to teach the Western world. But the arcane language found in many academic journals is exclusive and elitist.
So, how to use in a contempo context? Here are some suggestions:
At Glebe Markets: ‘Yeah, I heard about that arcane doof. You gonna get a heads up about the location on the day?’
At the café: ‘It’s an arcane blend of coffee from Tunisia, but man it’s good. Try it out.’
On a first date: ‘So tell me more about this arcane job of yours?’
Yep, that’s bound to impress.
Arcane always refers to the secret, hidden or mysterious: that which can only be discovered through experience or close study. Often it is spiritual or ancient, other times mundane, but always little understood. Which presents an alluring challenge: as well as trying to use arcane in a sentence, I feel compelled to actively pursue the arcane in my life. Whether it’s the puzzling minutiae of my new camera, Rudolph Steiner’s theory of anthroposophy, or how to make cheese. You know, whatever. I invite you to do the same.
In peace and wordliness 🙂