A series of word associations diagrammed as experimental illustrations. The word game is initially drawn as a freehand mind map on paper and later digitized. The descriptions recount my train of thought.

2021 –


AH-CHOO! A sneeze is an explosion, an escaping release, a forceful ejection, of illness and debris, of pest and saliva. It is also the expulsion of sound. Sound has to do with language. Many Sn- words are nose-related: Sneeze, Snoring, Sniff, Snuffle. Interestingly, the sounds of the nose are languages of haughty contempt: Sneer, Snicker, Snooty, Snitch. Contempt is a form of judgment. Of judgment, religion comes to mind.

BLESS YOU! This reflex response is a habitual utterance with a religious origin. It is a blessing and prayer, a wishful call to God for protection. That protection could shield the sneezer from the plague, and therefore a coming death, that the sneeze indicates. It could also protect against evil spirits from snatching the soul that has been expelled with the sneeze. A more cynical read of the protection would be that the listener is perhaps really more concerned with protecting themselves. Maybe the response is a projection of fear and disgust trying to keep themself clean from contamination.

Some folklores associate the sneeze with a neutral spirit, either good or bad, trying to enter or leave the body. Suppose it is the case that the sneeze is not a sign of the looming devil but actually a lucky omen that supposedly brings good luck and fortune. In that case, the blessing is kind gratitude and respect for what has been bestowed upon by the sneeze. That being so, the social behavior is a spread of feel-good affection and care and compassion that, hopefully, humanity is grounded in— although sometimes briefly disturbed, like a sneeze, by the fickleness of man, nonetheless always present underneath.


The words flutter and stagnation behave like homonyms in the context of a butterfly. Each carries different meanings that diverge. That divergence mirrors a butterfly’s symmetric shape with the separating line at the center.

Flutter can mean having “butterflies in your stomach.” The fluttery feeling in the stomach is commonly associated with nervousness, anxiety, and agitation in a social situation. Such feelings are quite the opposite of what a socially fluent “social butterfly” experiences.

A social butterfly is a socializer: dynamic, outgoing, and charming addition to any particular group. However, like a butterfly, they carry a lightness about them and are prone to travel, or flutter, from person to person without establishing deep connections.

To travel is to go from one place to another, and so is to transition. A butterfly is the emblem of transition. From caterpillar to pupa to a winged insect, its metamorphosis symbolizes rebirth and resurrection, the rising of the spirit and soul over earthly selves and the material world. In ancient Greek, the word for butterfly is psyche which means “soul,” and a butterfly represents its power of immortality.

Immortality is the indefinite continuation of existence, living forever without dying. Immortality is stagnation because it slows down and eventually ends evolution. The quest for immortality is closely related to and often confused with the quest for eternal youth. It is worth questioning what is more desired: living longer while aging or living longer only if forever young.

Coincidentally, youth ties back to butterfly; the famous The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a classic children’s book. Butterflies are also common coloring templates for kids where the shapes get filled with color.

Speaking of shapes, the shape of a butterfly is like a number 3. Cartoon butterflies have wings with exaggerated curves that look like a
and the butterfly looks like two 3’s facing each other.

3×3=9. 9 is a number symbolizing completion. The decimal number system starts with 0 and ends at 9. Therefore 9 is the biggest number in any aspect: the largest 1-digit number is 9, the largest 2-digit number is 99, the largest 3-digit number is 999, and so on. The number 9 as a meaning of finality is also Christian because Christ died at the 9th hour of the day. Death is stagnation, but so is immortality.