Whatever the case may be, do not be deceived by the brevity, for in the words of the Aphorist, Prolixity is not an excess of words but a dearth of ideas. It actually made me see stars. As in the Aphorist's maxim that The collision with an intelligent book makes us see a thousand stars.
That's close to the truth, being that I highlighted nearly every sentence. Usually, when I highlight something, it's not in order to "remember" it in the usual way. Rather, it's because a star flashed into view. Actually, I've developed an informal system of notation with about five levels, depending upon the density of stars. The last level is dog-earing the page. That happens when I've collided with a supercluster.
The whole thing is both timely and timeless, which I suppose amounts to the same thing. Or at least what is timeless is always timely, even if what is timely is rarely timeless. At any rate, let's take out our telos-scopes and see if we can unpack some of the stars.
First of all, even the title is provocative: how is it even possible to abuse language? Language isn't alive. Or is it? And what can it possibly have to do with power, much less the abuse of it?
Pieper doesn't put it this way, but I believe language is indeed alive. It is a medium of life, much in the way of circulating blood. Quite simply, in the absence of language, there would be no way for mind and spirit to circulate. Obvious, no? Haven't you ever felt more alive after reading or hearing something? (Or more dead, depending.)
As we shall eventually see, this goes back to a triune structure of reality in which God eternally speaks the Word. And if you only look close enough, everything is composed of intelligible words. It is why we can understand the world, for it is not made of atoms or quarks or waves or particles, but of language. We are immersed in wordstuff, which is why existence is so endlessly fascinating. Or boring, depending upon the soul's level of literacy.
Pieper adverts to the misuse of language as "an eternal temptation which, throughout the course of history, man has been, and always will be, called upon to resist."
Interesting. Could our primordial calamity be related to language abuse? Something inside me says "yes." And what is the Crucifixion but -- literally -- the last word in abuse of the Word? It is the attempt to snuff it out entirely. For what is Truth, anyway?
That's a cynical question. No, it's worse than that, for it betrays the seduction of sophistry, the same sophistry that has been with us from the time of Plato right down to this morning's New York Times. What is academia but a Temple of Sophistry?
Which only emphasizes the power of its lure, a lure that can be traced back to Genesis 3. Jumping ahead a bit, here is how Pieper describes the original vision and purpose of the university. Try not to laugh. Or cry. Or be triggered:
[T]he concept 'academic' has... retained a common or identical feature over the course of time, a feature which, moreover, is easy to define. [Bear in mind this was written in 1964, when academia was far less woke than today.]
This feature is the fact that a 'zone of truth' is deliberately set aside in the midst of society, a hedged-in space to house the autonomous engagement with reality [!], in which people can inquire into, discuss, and assert the truth of things without let or hindrance; a domain expressly shielded from any conceivable attempts to use it as a means to achieve certain ends [!], and in which all concerns irrelevant to its true purpose, whether collective or personal, whether of political, economic or ideological import, must keep silent [!].
In short, the university is indeed supposed to be a safe space: for truth! Because if truth isn't safe, then none of us are.
How does truth decay begin? It must have to do with the detachment of language from reality. Note that this is not a bug of postmodernism, but a feature. For again, language is no longer about real things, but about language.
Thus, not only is postmodernism sealed in tautology and sophistry, but it is a statement about the permanent and ineradicable stupidity of man. In this context, exposure to the university can only arm and aggravate the stupidity, not ameliorate or cure it.
What is truth? "A person must not have progressed very far in his education if he has not discovered good reasons to justify the worst behavior. The evil which has been done in the world since Adam's time has been justified by means of good reasons."
Okay then. What is evil?
Evil on a wholesale level begins in corruption of the word; or better, corruption of the function of the word. Which is whatnow?
Two things, distinguishable but inseparable: knowledge and communication (of reality):
Its first achievement is the fact that reality becomes manifest through the word. One speaks in order to make known something real in the act of calling it by name in order, of course, to make it known to someone else.
This latter reminds me of something I learned in my psychoanalytic training which actually turns out to be true: that all language has a from --> to structure, even interior dialogue.
This goes back to Bion's idea that communication begins with the mother-infant dyad, which is the most primordial level of interpersonal exchange. It eventually evolves into proper speech, but any number of things can go wrong along the way, such that the person becomes more or less capable of communicating his interior world in the form of speech.
People who cannot do this end up splitting, repressing, or projecting it (for it still exists, only in an unglishable and therefore externalized form). These primitive unwords become flesh. In a bad way. (For unspeakable truths can also become flesh in a good way, as in love; or, love is the way they are communicated.)
In other words, they become leftists, wordlessly communing with fellow leftists who are likewise incapable of articulating WTF is wrong with themselves.
Take, I don't know, Lena Dunham, who is persecuted by imaginary airline attendants who express reservations about the left's obsession with normalizing aberrant and confused sexual identity. If you ask her WTF is wrong with her, she will not be able to point to something inside, but rather, express alarm at something she has projected into you, you alt-right fascist! In short, you are her unspeakably badword made flesh. No wonder she's alarmed, for there are no safe spaces inside her head.
To be continued...