Language Means Directed Attentions

The mind, along with the body’s needs, chooses and directs attention. I think we can start there. Our culture, our idiom, our language, all direct our attention. Questions direct our attention.

How we move our attention, either supports or distracts us from our intentions. Our ability to talk about a task easily, makes it easier to finish it, and finish it in line with our intentions.

Every field of endeavor has its own jargon for this reason. Different fields of science may have their own grammar; some even involve entirely different languages than English (such as algebra). Think of David Bohm’s quest to create the English-based “rheomode” (verb-only English) so he could easily talk about quantum phenomena.

Building pyramids, as I’ve mentioned oft before, required the innovation of professional classes. Societies without strict roles simply don’t build pyramids. What do wandering free families need with a pyramid?

If you want to accomplish something in a sustainable fashion (i.e. with grace and ease), you need to learn its language. To hunt a deer, you must learn Deer language. To navigate the ocean in a kayak, you must learn Ocean language. To revivify traditions of Family, Village, and Land, you must learn the languages of these organisms. Speaking the language used for building pyramids,  in the context of building family, will make this work harder, sow confusion and distraction, and constantly drag against a task for which it has no functional language to talk about.

An example – if you descend from a long line of English speakers, does anyone in your family ever talk about “frith”? Frith comes from Old English, and indicates the deep peace and security that comes from healthy social and kin companionship.

Trick question, sorry. Frith died out in use as Middle English emerged. But let me reask that – do you even have a word for such a thing? Do any heavily acculturated modern peoples even think about such things? Perhaps the lucky ones. For most of us, we lost the word as we lost the value for this peace that we feel in the secure bonds of a joyful gathering of kin, blood or not.

What you have no words for, you will rarely think about; and when you do think about it, you will have long-winded attempts to encapsulate your meaning. I haven’t even really plumbed the depths of “frith” – I regard my above definition as a rather shallow and brief one. These long-winded attempts to talk about something mean that you can’t easily do anything about it.

Idiom can impact this too. You don’t always need words, sometimes you just need idiom to keep an idea alive. Our replacement idiom for frith, however, pales in comparision: “blood is thicker than water”. I don’t entirely know what that means, actually. However, think of the Gypsy Roma and their animate idiom towards killer cars, water, alcohol and electricity.

To reviviy traditions and technologies, we must create the language tools to speak of them: idioms, words, and grammar. We can start anywhere, though.

Sometimes it only takes a word – like “frith”.

Written by Willem