Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ideas Have Consequences Chpt 8: The Power of the Word

Community can be possible only via the vehicle of language. Words connect me not only to my contemporaries, but to my forefathers. I have access to a great, universal memory bank when I engage in reading.

If our language degenerates, if we begin to love THINGS rather than words, the link that binds us in community is broken. Do you remember the old song, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" It asks a great question! If we cease to be word- lovers, if we cease to read--- our conversation with past generations is broken. We are bankrupt, without the wise guidance of collective ages and having no compass for the future.

When words devolve and become merely utilitarian, we lose the ability to engage in higher thinking. We are robbed of the rich opportunity to grasp truth because we're not able to use metaphor or understand symbolism. This handicap cuts us off from the past and prevents us from laying up for the future. In the words of Richard Weaver:

"(snip)...father and child live in different worlds, and speech fails to provide a means to bridge them."
Need proof? Note that languages have been dropped from the core curriculum of our educational system. My husband, born in 1953, said that all 4 of his older siblings learned Latin, but it had been dropped by the time he went through the system. In my own small-town school system, it was not even an option.

Notice also that poetic/literature courses no longer compose the core curriculum of many schools, but are considered electives. I shudder to recall that "Fiction of the 70's" gave me the necessary credits to graduate from high school, while I missed Shakespeare and Homer. My tastes were not developed. I did not know what was good for me or what I was missing.

Richard Weaver, the author of this book, writes a prescription for the rehabilitation of the word:
  • poetry (via literature and rhetoric)
  • logic (dialectic)

This is classical education; it is what saves us from utilitarianism, from brutality, from degenerating into sentimentality.

In the second part of his rx, the dialectic, Weaver notes that the science of naming is indispensable to logic. He equates "namers" with "lawgivers" and makes the point that "stable laws require a stable vocabulary." (What does that do to the idea that our constitution is fluid?)

This chapter encouraged me. It affirms my daily, plodding efforts to incorporate Browning and Coleridge and Dickinson to our our routine. These efforts bring us out of the temporal and save us from a merely utilitarian existence.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
~~~2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (New King James Version)

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