This is an interesting idiomatic phrase we use and hear all the time. We mention things ” in passing,” like: “Her name was said in passing.” It means an incidental and oblique reference on the margins of a central theme or message.
I find that what is said ” in passing” often has more import than the subject in principle focus. Close cousins of the ” in passing” remark are the parenthetical and qualifying comments. They may say more than even the speaker realizes.
In this year’s US political theater, no one makes more use of complex, nested parentheticals than Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump. The ” in passing” clauses are the message.
Trump said in one recent speech , “Look, having nuclear — my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart — you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world — it’s true! — but when you’re a conservative Republican they try — oh, do they do a number — that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune — you know, I have to give my, like, credentials all the time because we’re a little disadvantaged — but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me — it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right — who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners — now it used to be three, now it’s four — but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years — but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.”
So, what’s the real message?
I think it boils down to something like, ‘the bad guys are out-maneuvering our politicians and making us small, so what we need is “me”, Trump, someone strong, with smart genes and a proven record of winning. ‘
Trump uses the parenthetical to amplify the real message which is all about emotion, and which contains no actionable policy whatsoever. It’s about the promise of the proportionately ever smaller white, blue collar demographic feeling big again.
Interestingly, Trump often uses the made up adverb “bigly”to talk about why he is the man for the job with an outsized cure for all that ails is. It is pitched straight at the heart of those feeling especially vulnerable.
While the 2016 political drama offers colorful examples, I am inclined to listen more intently for the “in passing” remarks that I use and that I hear others use. It seems these are more likely to give voice to the “shadow” ( what it is we fear, our unconscious anxieties, and that part of ourselves from which we are inclined to turn away).
In passing, the language of our fears can be heard in our digressions and qualifications ( i.e., the small print of our minds). Attending to it is a path into our individual and collective unconscious.
© The Harried Mystic, 2016 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.