Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Loss of a Common Language

Lately I have been listening more closely to our parishioners, people at social events, people standing around chatting in the post office and grocery stores, my son's peers and other younger folk I run across in the course of a week.  As I have listened and done some reading of late, ( eg: The Malaise of Modernity by Charles Taylor and Conscientious Objections: stirring up trouble about language, technology, and education by Neil Postman) I am realizing what a great loss we are suffering as we continue year by year to lose a common language of reference to things outside of ourselves; our insistence that our identity must come from within ourselves based on our own perceptions of reality.

Universally accepted definitions, authorities and other frames of reference that began their most serious decline in the time of the Romantic Era poets and artists and have carried over into more modern forms of art and literature, have found their way into every day modern culture.  I have become my own point of reference and subsequently invent my own descriptive language to describe what I believe and feel about myself and about the world around me. Attempts by others outside my own self to relate or connect me to outside authorities or broader definitions I did not arrive at by my own process of thought or feeling are to be either ignored or disdained or run from in terror in case they begin to influence my own personal "truths".

Perhaps one contributing factor causing the people of my son's generation to persist in this refusal to seek or to accept a common language, common authority, is in part due to a modern style of parenting that tells me as a mother that my child must never experience any form of criticism, any form of authority outside his own perception of what is right or wrong, any interaction with others that may harm his own feelings of self-worth. Self esteem, positive self talk....self, self, is all about the self and so the loss of common language to define society and commonly understood morality are racing forward like a runaway train. I am no longer accountable to my society or a common Creator for what I believe or how I behave.

We are losing our common understanding of the way the social universe works and we are following a frightening path leading toward the end of our civilization if we can't turn ourselves away from ourselves and begin once again defining ourselves in relationship to others in order to regain a less fragmented society.

There are so many contributing factors to our preoccupation with ourselves as individuals, to our loss of common language, morality and authority, but this is only a blog so all I can do here is give my little rant and move on. The more I read and listen I realize what we humans are losing and how it is affecting our society, so the more concerned I am becoming for future generations.

We are so involved with ourselves, with our own definitions of ourselves and our place in the world as individuals that we have fallen as a society into the very trap the bible describes as "each one doing what is right in his own eyes".  According to the bible the end result is not going to be pretty........ 


bullwinkle said...

We have lost any idea of absolutes...

No absolute morals - they are what you perceive them to be.

No Truth - it's all relative.

No right or wrong - they are what we perceive them to be.

The list goes on. Working at a secular institution opens one's eyes.

Susan said...

We have certainly lost a societal context for the formation of absolutes. Absolutes are being relegated to the back benches of ancient religious ideals it seems. Well, this is certainly all part of the huge time of transition going on in how the church operates in and reaches out to the rest of the world and it is confusing, but also exciting to see how we too are changing...hopefully though for the better.

bullwinkle said...

Yes, the church now needs to educate itself without losing any absolutes.




The biggest thing is to be educated, you can't fight a battle on enemy
turf without knowing how the enemy fights or how to counter it.