Monday, September 14, 2009

I fault myself

I have a nagging feeling that I need to add another questionable avocation to my heading. "Blogging?" Perhaps, yet that is more a sub-topic. Maybe I need to take the time to think about what it is exactly in these pursuits of mine that make them questionable. Easy: each lacks in some manner.

On one of those social sites, a college friend wrote:

"Our language is the reflection of ourselves. A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers." Cesar Chavez

to which I responded:

 "Language may be a reflection, yet it is not exact; hence, the need for discussion as an attempt to clarify."

to which another responded:

"Ya, niggah, dat right."

Tonight, after returning home from seeing a play with DW and a friend, I saw that two more responses had been posted, and when I called up the site, the crass statement above (not mine, the other) had been removed, presumably by the gentle-mannered initial poster. The next response was from a woman who wrote:

"The Chavez quote was wonderful --"

Again, the initial poster:

"I thought so you!"

Given as I am to second-guessing myself, I thought that my response might have been too pithy, as it seemingly generated only the censored remark. I certainly did not want this college chum, nor the friends whom we share on that site, to think ill of me. So, I set to dig deeper and wrote this email:

My dear Xxxxxxx,

I hope that you understand from my response to the quote that I am not criticizing the sentiment expressed within. I believe that on the surface it in indeed lovely.

What may stop me short is a reflection back upon the struggles of Chavez and the FWA. They had to work long and hard for people to understand the plight of farm workers, and I dare say the struggle is far from over. Yet, for them to make any progress, a campaign had to be waged, an information campaign, so that a dialogue could begin. People needed to understand, to overcome misconceptions. Once the discussion began, people's minds were changed, and so was their "exactness."

Language is powerful, yet meaning is elusive. Clarity is a constant struggle, whether it be between long-time intimates or with the cashier at the grocer. One might say that "the enemy" depends on the ambiguities in language to manipulate people into thinking that there is no struggle. "Believe me, end of story." Politicians and talk radio hosts come to mind. That "exactness" depends on no discussion, on maintaining ignorance. One believes face value is truth and nothing improves. And that is be why we must look beyond sentiments.

I may be rambling a bit, I am not quite certain. Nor do I want to appear to be lecturing. It is difficult to convey complete ideas with little snippets on Facelessbook, so I thought I'd give this a try.

Peace and hugs,


P.S. And what was that one guy about, the one you apparently deleted? 

 And I hit "Send."

And then I started to second guess myself some more. I went back to read the quote again. Perhaps I had missed something, not read close enough.

"Our language is the reflection of ourselves. A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers."

 Two words stood out: "exact" and "growth." Language, Chavez seemed to say, was capable of being the former (never mind that a reflection is not the object itself) and allowing the latter, a becoming, if you will. In that I had chose to ignore the word "growth" because "exact" had stuck in my craw, I felt a need to comment further, and posted this comment below my friend's:

"An afterthought: language can change, and within that change might lie the growth of which Chavez speaks."

Another snippet. As I reread it, I see gaps that one may or may not be able to close. Language changes because language can effect change, even within itself. Change is growth? Change is at the very least not static.

It is late here, so I do not expect a response to come right away. I may do well not to expect a response at all, for I have found that silence often follows what I may think is sincerely said; that, and anticipation being what it is for me.


TenMile said...

"exact reflection of the character .."

I think that's what was missing from your summary.

bastinptc said...

TM, I don't quite understand (a request for elucidation). I don't believe exactitude (now that I think about it, exact-ness, yes) is a quality humans possess, yet I may not have made that clear. Plato's cave and all of that... We have im-perceptions that we work from for others, and play with as ourselves.

I'll catch ya in the (my) morning.

KenP said...

I'm not a linguist or a lot of other things. So...

The thing I think I've noticed is that language is anything but exact. British humor (humour) has used that cuttingly well.

Various languages create a phrase/concept from an entirely different view. Some, in literal mode, make no sense to anyone who's thinking is from a different one. Exact seem locked to the eye of the beholder.

The Tower of Babel may have been God's biggest joke/dig.

I rather enjoy the inexactness of language. It can be a great foil.

bastinptc said...

"The Tower of Babel may have been God's biggest joke/dig."

It may have not been needed, simply because...

"I rather enjoy the inexactness of language. (Me too.) It can be a great foil."

Crash said...

1. bastinptc and TM, you are both masters of using inexactness as a foil. Having fun with thoughts and lowly blog-readers through written use of language. (Language can exist without words, don't know why I tossed that in.)
2. Change can be change for the worse.
3. If you get picky enough, even mathematics is not exact, so language certainly cannot be exact. Your comment about needing clarification is right on the money. Unless you are doing your prose poetry! I guess one difference is whether you are using language to communicate information or to stimulate thought.

Anonymous said...

I became disenchanted with a lot of what I knew because it fell under the heading "useless"

There is useless language and there is useful language.
Perhaps a different topic altogether.
I've boiled down lots of communications to one sentence, "be like me." I wish I'd said, " I agree, more often." It would have let me focus on more pertinent issues.


Anonymous said...


If you r gonna add bloggin to your list of questionable avocations (difference tween "avocation" and "activity" in this context?) In my opinion (humble or not) you should add it if the blog becomes a metablog with blogging as its subject.

Is it already, is it enough, is it covered by the phrase other questionable avocations?

Tune in next week.