Bigsley the Oaf

Saying Anything at All

Posted in Uncategorized by bigsleytheoaf on June 15, 2012

Most people don’t say anything.

The first person who said “fire” was really saying something. What a bold move. To declare that this rock was not fire, this tree was not fire, this branch was not fire, this fire was fire.

To draw a line. To say this is X and that is not X. To not just take a line from someone else, but actually draw the line – this is to really say something.

Most people don’t say anything, then. They just relate categories that already exist. They do not create new categories.

And who can blame them? Most people who have declared things to be a way have been killed. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it certainly seems true.

This is complete conjecture, but I think this may be the reason that the powerful religious have been secluded from society, historically – to be religious is to stand in a realm where things can actually be said. A farmer may make declarations of a small type, but he would not be able to say “some are angels, other are demons.”

Maybe this is a distinction that other people already understand? I’m not sure. I think it’s a subtle one – the distinction between “to say” and not “to say.” There are probably plenty of times that people feel like they’re saying things, but they’re actually just running in the same little circles (run rabbit run).

I’ve just noticed, recently, that no one wants to say anything. They don’t want to say “that guy is bad” or “that woman is good” or anything – they just piddle around. One of my favorite quotes:

“I believe in clear-cut positions. I think that the most arrogant position is this apparent, multidisciplinary modesty of “what I am saying now is not unconditional, it is just a hypothesis,” and so on. It really is a most arrogant position. I think that the only way to be honest and expose yourself to criticism is to state clearly and dogmatically where you are. You must take the risk and have a position.” – Slavoj Žižek

Modern academics either seem frightened – i.e. paralyzed by their politics and ethics – or else idiotic – i.e. unable to access their deep intuitions.


Who among us will stand up and say something?


5 Responses

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  1. tobyschachman said, on June 15, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Language, with its labels, reinforces the social constructions we have developed. Labels help you short-circuit your experience and your intuitions. They lead you directly to socially acknowledged perspectives.

    This habit makes us lazy. We imagine that we process and synthesize our experiences but we actually just make associations between labels.

    Instead, you can train yourself to access your experiences and your intuitions directly. To do this, start by pruning your over-developed thought paths.

    As an exercise, eliminate the verb “to be” from your vocabulary for a week.

    • bigsleytheoaf said, on June 15, 2012 at 6:20 pm

      In my mind, there’s another side to the story.

      Namely, the development of language creates social institutions.

      I desire to be around people who are developing language and thereby the basis for new social institutions.

      Language is spell. Language is ritual. Language is not merely a tool of domination.

    • bigsleytheoaf said, on June 15, 2012 at 8:01 pm

      I read some of your thoughts on “to be” and I see what you’re saying. I think that you’ve hit on the very crucial fact of ontology as the basis of representation which is in turn the basis of framework which is in turn the method by which we systematize/operationalize society.

      In light of this, I think you need to find the balance. Let me put the question to you then: how should “to be” be used?

      • tobyschachman said, on June 15, 2012 at 8:57 pm

        By eliminating “to be” from our vocabulary, we do not necessarily transcend thinking at the level of labels or social constructions. But the practice can quickly help us identify where we resort to such thinking. For example, when I had trouble eliminating “to be” from a sentence, that often pointed to a deeply held “passivity” in my thought structure.

        We use “to be” structures to talk or think about external forces that we cannot control. By eliminating “to be”, we force ourselves to identify and commit to an agent or cause behind these ways the world “is”. Often when we do so, we realize that we have more control over these “external forces” than we give ourselves credit for. That in fact we invented them and can de-invent them when they no longer serve us. Then we can think directly, speak directly, act directly.

        Try just writing an email or having a conversation without “to be” and I think you will see this.

        Students of Korzybski developed e-prime. I haven’t read Science and Sanity but people I respect have recommended it. You could perhaps look into that for more thoughts along these lines, especially in regard to ontologies and their relation to society.

      • Graham said, on June 20, 2012 at 8:35 pm

        Notably, this is much easier in French. In French “avoir” is the go to verb for statements about the state of a situation or object, whereas the related English “to have” is far easier to excise. This has all sorts of implications about the nature of passive thinking and the cultural differences inherent in such an exercise.

        I’m a musician at heart, and I like to engage in a related thing that I call “active listening”. This is music that cannot be ignored — in your terminology, it can’t be systematized. But of course that’s not true. All sensory information can be systematized — the goal as a creator is to design art that challenges the appreciator to synthesize a new framework that, while self-consistent in describing/accessing the artist’s oeuvre, doesn’t apply to anything else. To be relatively perfect but absolutely flawed: this is saying something.

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