left biblioblography: THE NATURE OF LANGUAGE: OF SWEEPING SIMILES, METEORIC METAPHORS, INANE ALLEGORIES, AND THE PROCESS OF SELF-CENSORSHIP

Thursday, June 29, 2006

THE NATURE OF LANGUAGE: OF SWEEPING SIMILES, METEORIC METAPHORS, INANE ALLEGORIES, AND THE PROCESS OF SELF-CENSORSHIP


I trust everyone here realizes that I have a glorious love of language. I enjoy wrapping my tongue around the well-turned phrase, the simplistic elegance of a straightforward homily, or a gem of a quote that opens the door in the mansion of the mind.

A recent blogversation prompted something that’s been turning over in my skull for quite a while.

A recent post here (just a snippet):

In my post on morality, I said “I found the flavor wholly repulsive, and turned my face away from that innate darkness that humans have built into their nature. With no help from religion, I might add.”

To wit, the response on the other blog went as follows:

“These statements sound an awful lot like the doctrine of original sin. Yet, while recognizing the “innate darkness” humans have, they venomously deny original sin. Secondly, if humans have “darkness built into their nature”, what makes that darkness wrong?”

Now, it’s not his fault that he drew more out of my words than what was meant. Allegory tends to dent the dialogue: one searches for excess meaning, when sometimes, as Freud put it: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

And then I remembered this gem:

“Anthropomorphism? You mean like, “Mother Nature”, which is a term more often on the lips of macroevolutionists than intelligent design supporters.”

Double take, and say what?

And it put me in mind of a correspondence with Michael (aka ‘HairlessMonkeyDK’), where I sent him the synopsis of my novel, which described a Christian captain of a whaling ship embarking on a mission to rescue his niece and nephews from an evil creature. To wit, he responded that it seemed, well, antithetical to my current belief/non-belief system. I recall (doing this from memory), going into this knee-jerk, long, involved explanation about the hows and whys and whatnot (how it was written in my pre-atheist days, etc.). That night, I went to bed, and realized: WTF? Why did I even need that long drawn-out explanation/set of excuses?

Short version: I don’t. So I sent him off another email, next day, rescinding all of it. I of course, was polite about it.

And so we come to the crux of the matter:

I will use any bloody turn of phrase I bloody well please, thanks much. Because:

  1. It’s called the First Amendment, and

  2. No one has a lock on specific phrases, quotations, citing of literature, etc.

I tire of asking, “Can I still use saint/demon/angel/soul (or any other word with religious significance)?” Can I say ‘Bless you?’ without being censured? Can I blaspheme freely, without someone claiming I’m lending credence and value to something I speak against?

Well, goddammit, I’m going to do so, whether I receive approval or not.

For instance: I understand that Harlan Ellison (a writer of such magnitude of power and grace, I am unworthy to tie his shoelaces) is an atheist. Yet he wrote some stories with religious undertones (or overtones, contingent on the title we’re talking about), without apology. Asimov (another writer whom I esteem, who is quoted as saying that the bible is the single best argument for atheism) was also an atheist, yet he wrote Azrael, a collection of stories about a man with a demonic sidekick.

So the short version: I’m a little sick of this PC crap, that stipulates what I can and cannot say. Henceforth, I will refrain from phrases like, “It touched my soul” (as I am fairly positive there’s no such thing). But if I refer to ‘that innate darkness’, or use a comment like ‘wrestling with his/her/my/their demons’, and you think this is some sort of nod or validation of the other side, well, you’re SOL.

So here it is: I’m giving myself a free pass. That’s right: I’m gonna use whatever colors are on the palette to paint my picture on the blank page. Since the English language is public domain, I will borrow as I please, select phrases that evoke a specific image, to make a point, or draw on the canvas.

Because there’s no copyright, trademark, or exclusive rights to any well-turned evocative imagery, phrase, concept, or sentence that’s in the public domain.

As Phillip K. Dick (another marvelous author) once said: “The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.”

And let’s face it, folks: letting them get away with a corner on the market in matters of speech, is giving them control over how we speak. Whether the control is microcosmic or macrocosmic, it’s still control. Something the religious have had for far too long.

Herein, then, is my formal declaration: I snap the leash, I snap at the hand that holds it. I will not be censored, or censured in this manner.

Anyone want a cigar? No?

Till the next post, then.

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8 comments:

Beowulf said...

You have to admit it though, even though it wasn’t your intent to convey it, your statement does sound like original sin. Sometimes things can be said inexplicably. For example, though people do not specificity state things like “I am depressed”, it is possible for people to pick up hints of their depression in the way they talk, walk, and eat or what not.

Generally, you use context to determine meaning. If the subject is morality (such as it was), words like “innate” repulsive” “darkness” can carry different overtones, but the jest seemed to evoke significant meaning that does not comport to some descriptive explanation. Rather, the words themselves (and in context) seem more to connote a presecrivptive meaning. Both of us interpret things from our own world view and both of us come to different conclusions on the source of those prescriptive motives.

Krystalline Apostate said...

BF:
You have to admit it though, even though it wasn’t your intent to convey it, your statement does sound like original sin.
Oh sure, to the religiously inclined. I hope I made it clear, I wasn't really steamed at you about that. I'm steamed when people start quibbling about usage.
Generally, you use context to determine meaning. If the subject is morality (such as it was), words like “innate” repulsive” “darkness” can carry different overtones, but the jest seemed to evoke significant meaning that does not comport to some descriptive explanation.
I'm w/you on most of that. What jest, the cigar?
Both of us interpret things from our own world view and both of us come to different conclusions on the source of those prescriptive motives.
Sure enough. Mostly I was railing at how misinterpretation is so commonplace.
Truthfully, our culture has been substantially impacted by religion. Most people aren't aware of it. 'Blind leading the blind' being a perfect example. Straight outta the gospels. Most folks don't know that: I just discovered it a few years back, after using it occasionally.
Here's an even better example:
I love the word Zounds. I like saying it. It translates to Olde English as 'god's wounds'.
I hate religion, but it has produced some of the more resplendant poetry & prose. I find there's the occasional insight, the fluid word, turn of a phrase.
By no stretch do I like it when some claim there's an implicit subtext. Sometimes, I say it because it sounds good. Sometimes I'm aiming at a specific picture.
Sometimes, there's a commonality in the human condition, the human mind. Something that crosses boundaries.

Krystalline Apostate said...

BF:
For the record, thanks for correcting your post from earlier.
Not quite sure I like the 'reluctant thinker' monicker, but oh well. I'll get over it.
But kudos for your honesty. After some of my tussles at the NGB, it's a refreshing change.

karen said...

RA
Because there’s no copyright, trademark, or exclusive rights to any well-turned evocative imagery, phrase, concept, or sentence that’s in the public domain.

Damn straight.

You write best what you know, or can imagine and convincingly convey to your audience. You've lived on both sides of the faith aisle, and have a vivid imagination and a strong command of language. So the sky's the limit.

Don't worry how your work is interpreted or what people will perceive your motives for writing were. The only way they'll know for sure is when the press starts to interview ya, and it says right there in the slick magazine article just what you meant by some particular metaphor.

Krystalline Apostate said...

karen:
Ramen luv ya, darlin.
Don't worry how your work is interpreted or what people will perceive your motives for writing were.
Yeah, I shouldn't.
This was advance notice, to avoid confusion.
& thanks for the ego boost.

say no to christ said...

Ra

I know exactly where you are coming from. I use a lot of religious overtones in my paintings especially pagan, but that by no means, means I am a pagan or a believer of any sort. And I am guilty of saying OMG all the time, but that doesnt mean I believe in a god. I also joke around about being this or that in my past life, but that doesnt mean I believe in reincarnation.

Also the lead singer from Coheed and Cambria has a series of science fiction mini novels that all the bands lyrics are based off of and have religious overtones, but by no means is the lead singer or the band religious.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coheed_and_Cambria

Rosemary said...

Reluctant:

Our language (if that's the right word) is loaded with all sorts allusions...religious, mythological, phrases from popular culture...movies, books, plays, that it's almost impossible to avoid them.

Anne McCaffery's "Pern" series is remarkable in that she created a whole world without religion. And, her writing contained no religious allusions...a very difficult achievement in my opinion.

However, I wouldn't trouble myself about what other people said about word choice. Use the words that say what *you* want to convey. I personally like aliteration(sp? just don't know how to spell it.)
Gawddamnit!!

Krystalline Apostate said...

SNTC:
I use a lot of religious overtones in my paintings especially pagan, but that by no means, means I am a pagan or a believer of any sort.
Yeah, allegory's a wunnerful thing, but it can be abused.
And I am guilty of saying OMG all the time, but that doesnt mean I believe in a god.
I've read theists who comment on that sorta thing.

Rosemary:
Our language (if that's the right word) is loaded with all sorts allusions...religious, mythological, phrases from popular culture...movies, books, plays, that it's almost impossible to avoid them.
Ain't that the truth.
However, I wouldn't trouble myself about what other people said about word choice.
I usually don't. I do get sick of the 'Ah-HAH! See, you're just in denial!'
refrain.
Gawddamnit!!
Hey, this is a FAMILY blog, watch yer...LOL.