Monday, April 22, 2024

Language is a Battlefield

Apologies for this meandering post.

Just flipping through After Enlightenment in search of the seed of a post, and this sentence stands out: "if language is lost to secularism, everything is lost." 

A Bold Statement -- everything? -- but I vaguely recall many posts on the idea that language is indeed a battlefield and that it is a quintessentially spiritual battle. It is nothing less than spiritual warfare, with one side pretending to enclose spirit in language, the other side engaged with spirit per se, i.e., a vertically open system, open to what transcends human speech -- especially reality.

What is man without language? But what is language if it is but a closed and self-referential system that does not make contact with the Real?

The Aphorist writes that 

It is not the ideas that I look for in the intelligent book, but rather the air that one breathes there.

Agreed, but what kind of air is this, and why do lesser books result in spiritual asphyxiation? In the case of the latter, 

Reading makes the fool more foolish. 

Say Yes to drugs:

Reading is the unsurpassed drug because it allows us to escape not only the mediocrity of our lives but even more so the mediocrity of our souls.  

For Hamann, "the origin of language is not human or divine," rather, "at once human and divine." In the final analysis "the mystery of language is fundamentally a Christological mystery": "language is revelatory, to the point that one can say, 'No word, no world.'" It "mysteriously touches upon all things: it is the point of contact between things divine and human."

It seems that language itself is already a revelation, over and apart from what it reveals. For Hamann,

language was everything: it is what miraculously reveals the world, and... equally miraculously, God reveals himself.

"Contra postmodernity, far from being an immanent totality or function of the will to power, it is the 'tabernacle' and 'chariot-throne" of the Holy Spirit."

Which is again one more way of saying that it cannot be enclosed in immanence without betraying itself and sinking into a deformation of the soul, into one of the varieties of pneumopathology. 

Like Universal Existence, which is its prototype, language encloses us ontologically in the truth, whether we wish it or not: before all words, its all-embracing meaning is "Be"; it is Divine in its essence. "In the beginning was the Word” (Schuon).


All expression is of necessity relative, but language is nonetheless capable of conveying the quality of absoluteness which has to be conveyed; expression contains all, like a seed; it opens all, like a master-key...

According to Pieper, "By its very nature, speech points toward something which is not speech. What is it then? It is reality!" In an essay called The Abuse of Language and the Abuse of Power, he writes that

It is above all in the word that human existence comes to pass. And thus if the word decays, humanity itself cannot fail to be affected, cannot fail to be harmed. 

For speech has a two-fold function and therefore a potential two-fold dysfunction, "the corruption of the link between the word and reality, and the corruption of the word as communication." Thus,

Speech which emancipates itself from the norm of (real) things, at the same time necessarily becomes speech without a partner.

Postmodernity is nothing less -- because there could be nothing less -- than speech about nothing addressed to nobody. "The moment a person"

deliberately ceases to govern his words with a view to stating the reality of things, he automatically ceases to communicate anything. For language becomes communication the moment it expresses a link to reality, and by the same token it ceases to be communication the moment this link is destroyed.

And truly truly, tenure takes care of the rest. It's the Devils's Bargain, for "when words lose contact with reality, they become an instrument of power." Lose your soul and gain the world

When one person ceases to speak to another in the artless and spontaneous manner which characterizes genuine conversation, and begins to consciously manipulate his words, expressly ceasing to concern himself with the truth -- when, in other words, his concern is something other than the truth -- he has, in reality, from that point on ceased to regard the other person as a partner in a conversation. He has ceased to respect him as a human person. Thus, strictly speaking, from that point on all conversation, all dialogue, all mutual exchange of words, comes to an end! 

No wonder it is impossible to have a rational conversation with these people, for language is turned against itself before it even speaks. And

Once the word, as employed by the communications media, has, as a matter of principle, been rendered neutral to the norm of truth, it is, by its very nature, a ready-made tool just waiting to be picked up by 'the powers that be' and 'employed' for violent or despotic ends.

Fake news leads to real violence -- for example, with the BLM riots or the anti-Semitic and pro-Hamas violence of our elite universities.

Entirely predictable, in that "the abuse of language by the communications media could actually be diagnosed as a symptom of the despotism to come, while the virus [was] still in its latent stages."

Once again we see that -- as was to be expected -- the fate of society and the fate of the word are inseparable. A relationship founded on violence... corresponds to the most pernicious destruction of the link to things as they are.

1 comment:

Open Trench said...

Good evening. I feel uneasy being the first commenter. Typically Julie will make a comment by now. But, this is my last opportunity of the day.

But why comment at all? What good will it serve anyone?

To this question I have no specific answer. I perform acts as instructed; my wish is constantly to be a "plastic instrument" of the "Divine will." I do not ask why I do what I do. It wastes mental bandwidth to ponder it.

I am aware the Adversary is always in the room and is an excellent mimic of the Holy Spirit when He wants to dupe and control. So who knows, maybe I am a tool of the Evil One.

But such is my faith in God that I don't entertain that the Devil can get the larger part of me. I belong to God and to Jesus and in this certainty I assert my righteousness and my authority to speak and act as I am bid.

From the post: "Once the word, as employed by the communications media, has, as a matter of principle, been rendered neutral to the norm of truth, it is, by its very nature, a ready-made tool just waiting to be picked up by 'the powers that be' and 'employed' for violent or despotic ends."

One word: War. Language is a battlefield. Words are heavy munitions lobbed by oppositional forces into each others ranks to destroy and dismay. The good Dr. confirms the adage "the first casualty of war is the truth." Both sides sling lies as fast as they can. Any force worth its name will form a disinformation signals section. It is a must.

We named ourselves Homo Sapiens, the wise hominid. Another apt name would be Homo Bellicosus, the violent hominid.

War is what's for dinner. You will find combat within yourself, within your marriage, with hour children, within your extended family, within your circle of associates, within your civic institutions, with other national entities, and with the Adversary himself. Constant war is the lot of humanity. Lean into it.

It is a wonder there is even as much truth told in this world as their is given this milieu.

I don't mind war; it is what I know, a familiar companion. I have never taken truth for granted. I respect truth; it takes truth to win. Sun Tzu himself said "Know thyself, know thy enemy, and victory is your lot." To the truthful go the spoils. The arc of an arrow or a ballistic missile does not lie; it is truth in motion. You must aim truly. The blast of a shell burst is pure chemical truth-telling; shrapnel sings a deadly and factual song; it will indeed take your limb off and split you open. Nothing personal, just physics.

The sacred proximity of the enemy, and the joining together to trade mortal blows, is the crucible that strips away falsehood and reveals the truth of things.

With that I bid thee all a pleasant evening. Keep your powder dry and your musket oiled, for tomorrow we assault the enemy works.

Love from the Trench.

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