The extraordinary greatness of the Roman Empire manifests itself above all in three things:
- the aqueducts,
- the paved roads,
- and the construction of the drains.
The Way of the No Way-Way
Via — the Way is a Way
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
But what is the Roman way? The Roman way is a via. Via means ‘way’.
However, the Romans did not differentiate between a way and the way, not having any definite or indefinite article, so it can can be read either way and which way to read it will have to depend upon where we read it. Via becomes concrete by context, discrete by description, its meaning mapped, but is indeterminate on its own — ‘indeterminate’ here not meaning ‘indefinite’, as in via ‘a way’ may be ‘the way’.
On its own the way-word via is a wayward word to us, does in no way tell us if the way is a particular way in any way. Perhaps it does, perhaps it is, perhaps not. Without context we lose our way with via. It remains nondescript.
The way is undefined by via, meaning indeterminate via contains the definite-indefinite articles, but not vice versa; the particular articles ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’ do not and can not articulate indeterminate status. At least not on their own.
The way of particular articles is either way, the indeterminate either way or both ways, perhaps also neither way, or any combination hereof, leading us to conclude that ‘a’ way is, in a way, a definition of ‘way’, making the indefinite article a definite article, too. If the indefinite is definite, truly the definite-indefinite polarity would seem somewhat indeterminate.
The Viaductus Way
Viaducts Not Viaducts
The Romans also did not actually have any word for the ‘viaduct’, or viaductus, but we will Latinize it anyhow. As we are not going to talk about viaducts proper, it may be good to use a metaphor that is one small step to the left of the viaduct viaducts. In distinguishing it, even if ever so slightly, we make our chosen word terminological, which is to say that we give it some definition.
The Way of the Goal
The word terminology is related to terminus, which means ‘end’ or ‘goal’. A terminal is a train station that is also an end station, trains leave it the same way they entered. The word ‘terminology’, and related terms, can inform us about the nature of definitions.
Definitions are often misunderstood to be what they are not.
If upon a journey with the goal of reaching a station that happens to be at the end of the line, a terminal, reaching that station is not to have a restricted goal. The terminal goal is defined, but not restricted. Reaching the terminal is to achieve the purpose of the journey.
The Goal of the Way
Terminology is a means to an end, a way to reach a goal. The individual terms are stations on the way to the end station. They make the final stop possible. To define by terminology is thus not — or should not be — to cut things off, to separate.
To distinguish Julius Caesar from his sister Julia Caesaris is not to separate them. In fact, by acknowledging a person as an individual we are rather doing something contrary to separating them from any one or any thing, as being acknowledged as the one one is is the opposite of being separated; an integrating experience.
The via in the viaductus means way, but what is the meaning of ‘ductus’? To begin, it is derived from duco. Ductus is the perfect passive participle of duco, which translated means ‘lead’, meaning the verb lead, not the noun. Ductus, thus, means led or guided.
A canal conducting water illustrates the meaning of ‘lead’ in context. The canal is perfectly passive, participates in leading the water towards where it is headed not by doing anything, but by merely being there. In this sense, canals are like terminals. In contrast, the terminal is what makes the journey meaningful, whereas the canal makes it possible. Canals contain. A canal in channeling the water adds nothing to it, takes nothing from it.
In the Ways of Water
Actually, aqueducts might have been a better choice in some ways. Not only is the term template for ‘viaduct’, at least the word viaduct, if not the phenomenon, thus aqueductus is more original, the nature of water-ways is also more in the way of the no way-way than distinct-discrete-concrete traveler-ways are.
But the phenomenon viaduct will be older than the phenomenon aqueduct, all possible roads leading to Rome before there were waterways leading there. At least if we are speaking of artificial waterways. Natural waterways — rivers — would be older than roads. Well, perhaps not, as rivers were roads once upon a time.
Alas, removing via, replacing via with aqua, removes the implication via qua method, which would be a loss. So, via qua viaductus it is.
The Way of Water
The Concrete Way
But it could very well be kept in mind that waterways — meaning ways water travel rather than ways to travel water — act differently than more concrete ways.
Not that aqueducts are less concrete because they transport water. The Romans discovered concrete and made use of it in both aqueducts and “viaducts”. The discovery led to the Concrete Revolution, as it has been called, a revolution relatively simultaneous with the Abstraction Revolution initiated by Plato over in Athens, introducing Forms and intelligibility. The Concrete Revolution paved the way for concrete architectural discoveries of new forms, many being discovered only today by archaeologists.
One concrete example how concrete was used by the Romans is found in the Pantheon — the temple consecrated to be the domus (home) of all the gods of Rome—, used concrete for the dome of the home of the gods of Rome.
We need to clarify things a little, to avoid misunderstandings. The concrete the Romans discovered, the first concrete, was the pseudo-concrete, which came before concrete concrete became concrete.
But the Romans were not actually the first concrete nation. Crete, for instance, was a concrete nation before Rome, concrete used in the home in Crete half a millennium earlier than in a home or a dome in Rome. Actually, there was no concrete home in Rome as Rome did not even yet exist in the time of concrete Crete, the concrete architectural findings on Crete dating to the eight century B.C.
Well, tradition has it that Rome was founded mid-eight century, 753 B.C., on the banks of the Tiber river. Perhaps there is a slight but rather small chance that the Cretan concrete that has been discovered by archaeologists was discovered by the Cretans precisely — allowing half a century as ‘precise’ — after Rome had been founded, but that would seem unlikely, no? If the Cretans of a millennium earlier, the Minoan Cretans, used concrete for drainage, which there is concrete evidence they did, concrete evidently had been around for some time. Only not in then non-existent Rome.
Pseudo-concrete concrete in Rome or not, first concrete or not first, same-same but not same, or not, Roman pseudo-concrete, even pre-Roman Minoan Crete-concrete, is same enough for our metaphorical purposes. We need not get too pedestrian, too concrete, when establishing a metaphor.
Anyhow, the implication sought, of course, is that the fluid Viaductus Method is a Non-Method Method. The method is a the medium is the message-method, demonstrating by embodying, illustrating by reflecting, talking by walking the talk. A Via Aqua-ish Viaductus-Method.
No Concrete Accretion
The way of which we speak could be called the way of no, the way of Zero, the way of no way, the Via Negativa. It is an abstract way, requiring that the concrete be subtracted, perhaps also that the discrete be retracted, to allow the abstract to be enacted.
The path of the No-Way is a road via which one can find new ways, empty of the old ways. The No-Way Way is a very concrete way. As is concrete itself, the ingredients turning and tumbling and mixing together to form a sticky, smooth material. It need not be perfectly smooth, it need not be like, say, water, but must be self-similar enough.
Same-same but not same same-same. Same-same-ish.
Water Is Not Same-Same-ish
Actually, the smoothness of water would not be good for concrete, for concrete would not be able to hold things together if it was like water. Water may be smooth, but it lacks the stickiness of concrete. Water is more towards same-same than same-same-ish.
Concrete needs to have a level of granularity, but it must not have a granularity that is too granular. Make it too quick and it will become no concrete brick, even less a corner stone, neither will making it too thick to stick do the trick with the brick.
Context Is King