October 1, 2023: When Language Becomes an Altar Instead of an Exchange

Romanticism implies nostalgia for damaged goods. Brad Mehldau

If we esteem them too highly, good works can become the greatest idolatry. Martin Luther

Communication involves sounds and body posture, listening and seeing. All four are required to limit transcription errors and increase descriptive effectiveness. Hoo-nōs

Intro to “A Bit of Language/Communication” Theater:

I am proceeding with an assumption that language is itself a behavior that reflects a subjective reality and can very much affect our objective reality. Too many eschew language, assuming it unimportant compared to behavior—think “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Such a stance is tantamount to ignoring the “tells” in any exchange. In this once again age-of-the-assholes, aka a “Ship of Fools,” or a “Confederacy of Dunces” who are bent on shutting down a system to prove its standing to the heart and mind, we have returned to a radical minority trying to be the tail that wags the dog (too many analogies?). These literal dunces who think shutting down or who think revolution is the solution do not come close to representing “our better angels” who know the system must flow, to go. The heart and mind know the solution to a pinched, defiant asshole is fiber and liquids before the system gets so constipated the entire entity shuts down. If it comes to that degree of constipation, it may require surgery, but not revolution, to move the effluent to where it properly belongs. Attempting to court the pinched, defiant asshole much less electing the asshole to govern (really, that’s a “solution”?), is the rest of us joining the fools and dunces, because we think no one deserves to be denigrated or we’re otherwise angry at what “should” be, so we fight shit with shit. That bit of idolatry, that altar—to hold onto shit so we can sling it in a shit-fight—always leads to a mess. It is not denigration to let our crap go to the crapper.

Obviously, I am also proceeding with the assumption that sometimes it takes a thousand words to see the picture.

The “Attempting Communication” Theater Bit:

Idolatry is a trip of a word. It implies sin—missing the mark. What is it then to have folks with wagging fingers, who make an idol of not having idols?

Romanticize is also a trippy word. However, it may reduce knee-jerk responses inspired by the “sin” of idolatry (or the confusion of any god- or devil-terms as they can be a siren song calling us onto the “Jagged Cliffs of Categories”). Nonetheless, when using the term, I’ve noticed it inspired some consideration—or at least some slowed-down response as opposed to stampeding to a negative category.

Nevertheless, words and language are not the thing being described, they are merely an attempt to describe. And keep in mind that many sentient beings communicate via sounds and body posture, not simply sounds alone.

The point about the quotes above and what follows, as well as my attributions, is that we can romanticize so much and then create a language for it and lean on the words, instead of the meaning—in other words, we build an altar that becomes an idol. Like altars (interesting that “altar” and “alter” have the same sound and can be used to explain each term), words stand for something other than what the word is. This romanticizing someone or something and having it metamorphize into idolatry is easy if we do not pay attention. Think about all the platitudes we have for morality. children, marriage, pets—okay, it’s too long a list to go on, but a few examples are called for:

The Terminology Bit:

Prolife is now seen as limiting, especially for those same folks who believe in capital punishment or who don’t give a crap about legislating for healthy children after they’re born—or even for the pregnant mothers.

Prochoice is now seen as limiting, especially since there are so many exceptions that do not involve choice, though many of the folks who rail against prochoice, demand it for everything else (“don’t tread on me,” eh?).

Side Note: I heard someone say that all the men onboard with Prolife (or Pro-baby—though isn’t that after they’re born?) are afraid women left to their own devices will refuse to have any babies—especially male-babies, except for the few selected to join a concubinage. Years ago I read somewhere that if the complaint is how men run the show and that women are in charge of all things in the home (including raising children), maybe women are the problem. Perhaps that’s a reason to not have any children at all? Wait, what would wars be like?

Back at It:

What are the results of the these now known limitations to prolife and prochoice? To shift the language without shifting the meaning? That’s falling for a language grift—the main tool of grifters, who are out for what others have, to use as the grifter desires (including votes).

More Language/Communication Theater—in a kind of Paradox or Koan Form:

“Spare the rod and spoil the child.”—”Spare the child.”

“To be truly married is an unbreakable bond.”—“To be truly married means being independent together.” (Paraphrased sayings.)

“Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” More than one area of any Christian Bible. “Your problem is you’re…too busy holding onto your unworthiness.” Ram Dass

“Morality is only moral when it is voluntary.” Lincoln Steffens. “Force and mind are opposites; morality ends where a gun begins.” Ayn Rand

“Dogs love unconditionally.”—”Dogs may love, but, like people, they can get rather nasty when they don’t get what they want, much less not getting what they need.” (Paraphrased sayings).

“Wherever an altar is found, there civilization exists.” Joseph de Maistre. “Bind me to your will, bind me with these threads of sorrow, and gather me out of the afternoon where I have torn my soul on twenty monstrous altars, offering all things but myself.” Leonard Cohen

“The idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” Many Sources. “Idleness is fatal only to the mediocre.” Albert Camus

“The strong survive.”—”The cooperative thrive.” (Too many folks to ascribe to one.)

“The early bird gets the worm.”—The second mouse gets the cheese.” (Classic sayings as are the next two.)

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”—“When the cats away, the mice will play.”

“Too many cooks spoil the broth.”—“Two heads are better than one.”

The Wrap:

There are few permanent solutions; few morals are static. There are few freedoms without discipline, but lots of disciplines without freedom. Yep, It is hard work to accurately describe realities, desires, wants, needs, goals. It is hard work to choose (including to vote), but avoidance is an even harder long-term choice. It is hard work to be responsible, to be a steward of sentience. It is hard to raise children, even the “children” of our first thoughts or feelings, but “rising up” is the alchemy that makes work our gold. However, “rising up” often follows only after “stepping down” from our altars. Sometimes finding one’s mind, often follows “losing” the old one.

All of this is about giving up or letting go, to get. And none of that means shriveling. It is counterintuitive in our present evolutionary “terrible twos” state, to get something by letting go or to get attention by paying attention. But it does not take a genius to see what comes from hoarding shit.

Let us get back to the table of effective language and communication—sounds and posture, careful listening and seeing: the heart and mind eschewing knee-jerk and interacting with integrity. The rear aperture’s job is to stay pinched until it’s time for the crap to leave. Hmm, as it’s well past that time, I guess even the asshole isn’t doing its job.

The Post-Script:

Geez, some 1,300 words, not counting these. Apparently I take 30% longer trying to “see the picture” (insert jokes here—at least I edited this last sentence from “to try and ‘see the picture’” to head some of my own jokes about me accurately describing reality).

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