Edith Lázár — May 5, 2021
Bezmetic is moving, and it’s dizzying. The word denotes neither a lunatic nor a mad person, but someone who moves around in a dazzling way. Not running around without purpose, either, yet a bezmetic manifests an unquiet disorder in its pursuit. Bezmetic is a drunkenness of sorts, one that is only perceived as such and pointed out by others. »Why are you spinning around like a bezmetic?« would be the most common phrasing.
Bezmetic itself is a rather unusual word in Romanian, proving difficult to pin down. Its provenance has been sub-ject to debates, with both its use and formation shifting between its Slavic inflections – a trait of the Balkan region – and such modulations in our otherwise Latin language. From the Slavic root bezŭ
matokŭ, it suggests a beehive wandering around without a queen (matca), whereas the Latin hypothesis derives it from amphisbeticus, as »quarrelsome« or litigious. And then, it could be neither. Common parlance blends everything and adds more, making bezmetic noisy, dazzled, dazzling, dizzying, and incomprehensible. »Out of the perimeter« or habits, perhaps. Human and non-human at once.
The reader might well wonder what makes then such a confusing word a subject of attention. And subject it is, rather than an object, as bezmetic resists proper translation by being primarily a visual and bodily manifestation, a dynamo spreading and weaving other connections on its way. And thus, instead of looking at the word itself, we might need to look at something else.
In our abundant folklore, unspoken ties that bind humans to magic – of an utmost organic nature – permeate words and speech. The »mistresses of the wind/ladies of the earth and mist« are, perhaps, renowned for such unruly forces. Similar to naiads, young nymphs, the iele are »mysterious beings« who can without any warning punish or make fun of those with the audacity to ignore their unwritten boundaries. In local mythologies, they can make one from human to un-human (pe dată îl fac din om neom) – an »illness« often causing aimless wandering and temporary loss of speech. Some male ethnologists have cast them as ensnaringly young girls or »she-devils,« often binding young men. But in stories, the iele are neither good nor evil. Rather, their lost items are endowed with healing powers, and they tend to seek revenge only when provoked.
Language … still the most draconian of instruments through which we subjugate the ineffable and the sensible, giving it a place, a form, a naming – making it fit an order. Not being able to speak it out or see it out, in order to place a place or name a name, can then be seen as a manner of resisting ruling structures; just as wielding the words high up in fictions (as if by magic) can unhitch them from their prior meaning.
Somehow, bezmetic seems to elude the »rational« order and the empire of reason, which haven’t proved so reasonable anyway. It is precisely reason that has imposed violent and restrictive normalcies on what individuals should be, measuring and ordering us around. Out of this, we can sense that bezmetic was pointed at those refusing normative behavior – sexuality and gender included – as if »they don’t know what they’re doing,« as if they are failing an order. It shares this trait from the old Slavic words, bezokij – someone lacking a clear vision; and bezaku, the improper, or disorderly, as lack of conduct.
Worth mentioning is that until the nineteenth century, the prefix bez- circulated as a word in itself, meaning something that shouldn’t be counted; and then got paired with dezmetic – to come to one’s senses. But bezmetic stands most closely to bezna (the darkness or pitch black), the abyss of the vast marine space or the celestial one, the unknown universes resting in the corners of our eyes. Although bezmetic touches upon blind spots, it is only as a temporary state, carrying the promise of arriving at a shore. Yet, like magical thinking, it’s not back to consciousness, but into it. And just like the »order« the wandering beehive returns to, it’s never the same, even if we idealize it as such. Neither is the »order« to which a person returns.
And now that we are about to get back to the hive, we’re confronted with more threads. Could this be an artificial connection: »is the word used only for the honeybees, or is it used regardless of anything else?« As it turns out, the word’s main use does concern honeybees, as in everyday speech its transfer to »something else,« concerns mainly people. This transmutation holds little to no surprise. Honeybees have lived a long life as sociopolitical animals among humans. The bees became a utopic repository for community, collective care, and labor – the ultimate worker working »not for one alone, but for all its fellows.« So strong is this image that, when an eighteenth-century philosopher dared to suggest that bees are as vice-addled as humans, his book was publicly burned. Even our tech-infused language uses terms like hive-mind for horizontally built software or models of distributed intelligence, and swarm for the technicalities of algorithms. As through the looking glass, bezmetic appears as a knowledge »out of stupular thought,« an immersion into something that silently resists such structures.
If we are to thus envision arches from one to another, being bezmetic can be a practice in (dis)order, one of many ties that can bind, since it holds a galvanizing force. Bezmetic wanderings are both pre- and unsettling. They cast away the »rational« order not by opposing it, but by just not »seeing« it. As temporary states, they are able to make space, bodily and affectively, collectively as well, for other perimeters; and do so from a vulnerable place, where knowing and not-knowing are not hierarchical delimitations.
Andrei Oișteanu: Motive și Semnificații Mito-Simbolice în Cultura Românească, Bucharest 1989, pp. 201–02.
Andreea Bargan: »The Probable Old Germanic Origin of Romanian Iele (evil) fairies,« in: Messages, Sages and Ages, 2 (2), 2015. DOI: 10.1515/msas-2015-0007
Sergiu Drincu: »Prefixe Românești de Proveniență Slavă (2)« in Philologica Banatica, Vol. 2, Timișoara 2014, pp. 80–81.
See Bezna as a tool for speculative thinking and Alina Popa and Florin Flueras »The Second Body« (the peripheral body and thinking with the unknown). Available online at http://bezzzna.blogspot.com/2013/06/bezna-4.html (accessed November 17, 2020).
Drincu, p. 82 (see note 3).
Mariana Silva: »The Insect Wing of the Museum of Social Forms,« in: Matter Fictions, Berlin 2017, pp. 101–02. Silva notes that from Aristoteles to Karl Marx, or recent anthropology studies, honeybees have been domesticated into »natural« models of order and collectivity serving varied regimes, including the constitutional monarchy or liberal democracy. The »outrageous« book Fable of the Bees was written by Bernard Mandevill.
I would like to thank Flaviu Rogojan for drawing my attention to bezmetic’s erratic meanings.
Edith Lázár is an art writer and (unprofessional) fashion theorist based in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.vShe has a background in art history and is a dropout academic in the field of philosophy. Her research and wanderings focus on fictions, aesthetic politics, speculative design, and the sociopolitical threads of fashion. She is the cofounder and part of the curatorial collective Aici Acolo and she was a design/fashion theory fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude in 2019. Her soft spots are science fiction, eerie words, secondhand clothes, and mangoes.
© 2023 Akademie Schloss Solitude and the author