Monday, June 25, 2007

Language Cannot Say it All

Why don’t I feel that language, the spoken and the written word, is as crucial as it used to be? When did language –especially my first- stop feeling special and start looking like piled newspapers; plenty, dusty, and outdated?

For five years, I have been loosing faith – especially in literature! Every now and then, I would try to pick some books in hope of reconnecting, of reawakening the little girl who is welling to see life pass her by as long as she can read & write about it.

But that girl wants something more now. She has a yearning to reach out, to express, to explode, in an extreme that language –her language at least- is simply incapable of.

Desperately, and as if caught right at the end of time, she searches for a medium. Be it humanities, arts, sports, or sciences, enduring the fascination, as well as the horror, that the leap from one faith to another opens beneath her feet.


Gray Sense said...

Furthermore Aysha,

I think language doesn't say it at all. It only spins clouds of vagueness around ourselves.
When digging into language, I often end up with bloody lies laying on my hands.

what a pity!

Lawrence of Arabia said...

i think the imperative now is to find a way to make language speak when the forces of the day do everything in their power to make language empty of meaning. you are quite correct in pointing to the damage this does to literature and correct as well in your sense that literature has largely failed to meet the demands of the moment.

but i do not think we can give up on language because, quite frankly, we do not have anything else. instead one has to throw oneself into the confusion of language follow it to the point where one can make language work - to the point where language can somehow demonstrate its own emptiness and brokenness, demonstrate the truth of the situation in which it is functioning.

we can go back to this idea of the freedom or liberation of women that was discussed in your last post. i will take a french example because it is easiest, but it is just an example of a larger pathology. the liberation of women in france has meant that one can go topless on the beach but cannot wear a headscarf to school or in a government job. at this point the word freedom has become twisted beyond recognition, even on its own terms, and somehow you have to bring that out. (one can also note the confused idea of freedom in sarah brightman's work in my last post as another example, and etc., etc.).

you have to work-over and break the language in order to make clear what it is saying. when/if you do this YOU will be the one who is accused of distorting and twisting the language, but what you are really doing it revealing the distorted and twisted nature of the culture which the language carries and within which it functions. in a broken world one must write broken sentences.

now my arabic is (very very...very) poor. but i get the sense that when, for instance, all the news outlets are controlled by one prince or another that the news coming out of ksa is close to meaningless and that there is an emptiness in the official discourse of the kingdom that matches our own and degrades the language. so that there also you are faced with the challenge of making a language speak when all the forces that control that language socially are bent on emptying it so that it washes over people like a flood and sweeps them along where the powers-that-be want them to go.

[i think a comparison can be made to former sec. of defense rumsfeld's media sessions where he lied to the media with impunity and disdain because they were powerless to do anything about it and thus did nothing other than report what he said, letting the rhetoric sweep the country along where bush-rumsfeld wanted it to go. the point was to normalize the rhetoric itself so that it became more and more the 'truth'. and one could go on and on.]

Prometheus said...

‎"Language can not say it all."‎
I can not agree more, Aysha.‎
According to William James, language is the most imperfect and expensive ‎means yet discovered for communicating thought. ‎
Artists, poets, philosophers and other creative people are the ones who ‎experience this and feel it most.‎

Aysha said...

Gray Sense,
Your comment had a great impact on me. So beautifully written, intense, and truthful. I loved it!

I will have to quote you on EVERY SINGLE statement you made! Somehow, when I read your comment for the fourth time I had a feeling that only a person who had lost ALL faith in language can go back to speaking of it as such.

You made me question. "Why do I find a greater dislike to write in my mother language now?" And find the answer with you. "Because that language was the culture you lived, and known so much. It is the culture where you heard the very same word used over and over to serve different purposes to the point of breaking it of its well, spirit, and most importantly..truth!"

Yet, is it true that without language we have nothing else? A class mate once made a presentation on a serie of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". It was a show with absoloutely no dialogue, and was even nominated for an award. The writer wrote it as a response to the critics who said his genius is his dialogue. However, just as I say this I note how I described him "the writer." How did he draw the character? The plot? The story that took place as pictures...

It helps a lot to be surrounded by "believers."

Thank you LoA!

Abu Daoud said...

Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Word, after speech, reach
Into the silence.. Only by the form, the patttern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.

TS Eliot
Burnt Norton, Four Quartets

Dear Aysha,

You used the word 'loosing' though I am guessing you meant to use 'losing.' But perhaps loosing is the right word. It is a very old (jewish) rabinic term that Jesus used when he gave power to his disciples (called Talamiid in the injiil and Hawariuun in the qur'an): "Whatsoever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven, whatsoever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven."

Then by loosing your faith in words you are permitting them to leave you, to go away, to reach into heaven where they will reach maturity the fullness of wisdom and tasawuf.

And then, some day, when you least expect it, they will return.

Aysha said...

"the most imperfect and expensive ‎means yet discovered for communicating thought."
How true!

Aysha said...

abu daoud,
In one word: BEAUTIFUL!

Abu Daoud said...

I'm so glad you like it. You can pick up the collected poems of Eliot at any B&N or Borders.