Have you been to a funeral at which the life of the deceased is ‘celebrated?’ Doesn’t celebrating a life at a funeral crowd out grieving at one? I wonder if we’re meant to really grieve – when someone we love dies – without our grief being confused by other emotions.
I remember when my friend P’s father died. He called to tell me when it happened and described grieving in terms of a dam slowly opening. He said that grief came to him in a controlled flood of pain and loss that subsided as if invisible gates had closed just when he had reached a certain threshold. And later the gates opened again and tested him to a high degree and closed again before he was overwhelmed.
In the letter excerpted below, Wittgenstein recommends letting grief right into your heart. If you approach your grief cerebrally – hold it at arm’s length – it may frighten you, he says. However, if you let it in your heart, you will not be afraid. It’s like letting a god possess you in ecstatic ritual; or keeping your friends close and your enemies even closer.
I was tempted to end this post by saying that grieving unblocks us and allows us to go on living positively in a sort of self help way. No doubt there is more to W’s writing on grief, but in this bit he doesn’t even hint at grief being used to get to another state of being like happiness or contentment. Continue reading
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: education, home schooling, Michel de Montaigne
The French Renaissance essayist Montaigne had this to say about homeschooling: to practice it is to abandon our children to foolish, indiscreet and ill conditioned parents. Better to instruct them in the way of the law because the wellbeing of the state depends on it.
Plutarch is admirable throughout, but especially where he judges of human actions. What fine things does he say in the comparison of Lycurgus and Numa upon the subject of our great folly in abandoning children to the care and government of their fathers? The most of our civil governments, as Aristotle says, leave, after the manner of the Cyclops, to every one the ordering of their wives and children, according to their own foolish and indiscreet fancy; and the Lacedaemonian and Cretan are almost the only governments that have committed the education of children to the laws. Who does not see that in a state all depends upon their nurture and bringing up? and yet they are left to the mercy of parents, let them be as foolish and ill conditioned as they may, without any manner of discretion.
Michel de Montaigne, Of Anger
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: Erich Heller, george orwell, George Steiner, Politics and the English Language, The Tongues of Eros
A Chinese sage of the distant past was once asked by his disciples what he would do first if he were given power to set right the affairs of the country. He answered: ‘I should certainly see to it that language is used correctly’. The disciples looked perplexed. ‘Surely’, they said, ‘this is a trivial matter. Why should you deem it so important?’ And the Master replied: ‘If language is not used correctly, then what is said is not meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what ought to be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will be corrupted; if morals and art are corrupted, justice will go astray; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion’.
[copied from Lars Iyer’s site Spurious]
“The slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. If one gets rid of these habits, one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration.”
George Orwell, 1946, “Politics and the English Language.”
The extinction of languages which we are now witnessing – dozens pass annually into irretrievable silence – is precisely parallel to the ravaging of fauna and flora, but with greater finality. Trees can be replanted, the DNA of animal species can, in part at least, be conserved and perhaps reactivated. A dead language stays dead or survives as a pedagogic relic in the academic zoo. The consequence is a drastic impoverishment in the ecology of the human psyche. The true catastrophe of Babel is not the scattering of tongues. It is the reduction of human speech to a handful of planetary, ‘multinational’ tongues. This reduction formidably fueled by the mass market and information technology, is now reshaping the globe. Military technocratic megalomania, the imperatives of commercial greed, are making of Anglo-American standardized vocabularies and grammars an Esperanto.
George Steiner, The Tongues of Eros
Said, “Pray, which leg comes after which?”
This raised his doubts to such a pitch
He fell distracted in the ditch
Not knowing how to run.
The Centipede’s Dilemna, Katherine Craster, Pinafore Poems, 1871