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Posting 129, Word Count: 430.

Language is a Playground

Speaking a particular language can be a kind of hive mind, but language is independent of patriarchal structures, and is always evolving from bottom up. New words, meanings, and expressions bubble up all the time without any input or influence from authorities. Teenage girls in the San Fernando Valley have fun playing around with language (I was like, “What-ever!”) and the English language embraces and incorporates the novelties. Philosophers are another example of people who frequently introduce new expressions. Any living language is changing constantly, just like living culture generally, if not artificially hampered and frozen by self-appointed authoritarian enforcement. Language has been adored by various philosophical theorists as a definitive model of a rigidly structured universe, governed by imperious rules, but in fact it is an open and inclusive play of expectation and surprise, imitation and originality, a barely-supervised playground. Novelty and surprise are essential to language, and the source of novelty is individual people exercising their creativity in play with others. New words, meanings, and expressions can and do bubble up because the orientation (thinking, sensibility) of every individual goes far beyond language, as geography goes beyond the streetcar tracks.

History and Culture

There has been a conservative meme equating history and culture, demanding that cultures be preserved as precious artifacts and sacred relics so that history or the ancestors are appropriately honoured, the lessons of history appreciated. However, learning from history is not the same as preserving culture. History as an idea is everything that happened in the past, but most of what happened does not deserve to be honoured, although the more history that can be generally known accurately, the better. Uncritically honouring the ancestors, the forefathers, a selectively edited look backward, is another conservative meme, but only a thoroughly romanticized, redacted, and glamorized interpretation of history would find the acts of the ancestors mostly worthy of honour. Communications of history must represent complex context, normally in books which report on large swaths of detailed records and memories, recognizing patterns of relevance and influence formed by individual lives, actions, and events. (the hermeneutical zoom) Historians are human and always work with incomplete and often biased records, and personally interpret those records through the lens of their own and their community’s biases. So, history, even as reported in a scholarly way, must be approached critically. Publicly installed monuments as a sort of historical record always separate some simple icon from its actual historical context, and so are always romanticized history, decontextualized. Living culture is changing constantly and needs to change.

Copyright © 2018 Sandy MacDonald.