Friday, December 30, 2011

On the history of language...

I have spent a lot of time thinking of language. Stuff like, why is it that words often have sounds that literally evoke the meaning in a phonetic way.

"Hush" sounds like a soft "shhh."

"Whisper" sounds like a gentle whisper.

"Rock" sounds like a singular hard object.

And is it coincidence that "God" is so close to "good" or that "Devil" is so close to "evil"?

I sometimes see connections between words that make me thing their phonetic similarities reflect a deeper, meaningful connection that tells us that deep down -- perhaps on a subconscious level -- evolving humanity has recognized and signified a relationshp between those words (or the meanings they carry) that we may no longer consciously recognize. And if we do consciously recognize and appreciate it, we may gain some insight and wisdom about the world around us. Basically, learning about the nature of reality through hidden clues left by our ancestors in the dipthongs and sounds that evolved into our modern language.

But then I recall that there are languages where this stuff probably does not carry over. Like African language based on clicks and such, or Asian languages that sound very warbling and gurgling. What does this do to my theory that we naturally choose words that have a sound that evokes the spirit of the meaning of the word? I don't know. Alas, I am not a linguistics major, so this is like "armchair linguistic philosophy" and could be laughable to a real expert.

One thing that did occur to me, in thinking about the different kinds of languages in the world, is how language evolved to be different in different areas of the world. And it immediately struck me that language evolved as humans were making a shift from animal intelligence to human intelligence, and so on that cusp of evolution our ancestors used more and more sound to communicate ideas to help hunt, gather, wage war, whatever.

And at that time, the world was still a very untame place. People were not the "cock of the walk," but had to fear predators and such, at least in some parts of the world. So I assume one major decision made in choosing how to speak and communicate was to BLEND IN. You wanted to make sounds that predators might view as natural sounds of the trees or the rivers or the wind, not as sounds made by potential prey. So in a forest setting with crunching leaves and branches, people might use sharper, crunchier sounds for language. In a desert setting with howling winds, words might be less consonant. In a very watery place with rivers and marshes, the language might be very gurgling and soft. In a very rainy place with droplets coming down almost constantly (and even after rains, canopies of leaves hold water that drip drops for hours) language mght be more rhythmic. For similar reasons -- camoflauge, basically -- people might choose sounds that mimick other creatures with whom they live, the growl of a bear, the chirp of a bird, etc.

Now, that is only one side of the coin. The problem with using sounds that blend in is that, if they blend in, they may be hard to be heard and recognized by those you want to hear them. So there is a counterbalancing need to use sounds that will cut through the sounds of your natural world, that will be unique. The extent to which people chose sounds for camoflauge (i.e., that blended into their environment) or that stood out as unique (i.e., to better be heard and recognized) was probably affected by how predatory the environment was. People living in areas with little or no natural predators probably adopted linguistic sounds that were more unique and contrasted to the environmental sounds, while people living in areas with more predators probably chose linguistic sounds more in tune with environmental sounds.

There could also be shifts in time. People living in an area full of predators might have started out using linguistic sounds that were very camoflauged and blended in, but as their tribes and strength grew, they might have found they were kings of the land and had less fear of predators and then felt free to shift to sounds that carried better and contrasted more. So as language evolved over time, there may have been shifts in what influenced the choice of sounds and dipthongs from which to create language.

Any linguistic experts, feel free to chime in or correct me.


Raising children as psychotherapy and spiritual guides.

I learned to use a French Press a week ago. You fill a cylinder-shaped tube with coffee grinds and hot water, then shove a slightly smaller cylinder-shaped tube through the first, and it causes pressure that forces the liquid through a filter covering tiny holes on the far end of the first, larger tube. The liquid is forced out as soon as the smaller tube starts entering the larger tube, because of the push of air pressure, like an invisible force, before the end of the smaller tube even reaches the water-coffee grind mixture. But you keep pushing to get all the liquid rung out.

This serves as a nice visual analogy for how raising children evokes therapeutic events in parents. As my children grow older and move through different phases of their childhood, it reminds me of my own experiences at their age, spontaneously bringing up memories -- including traumatic memories. Or, sometimes, it does not bring up particular memories, but it does evoke feelings, almost like deep within us is the person we were at 5, at 7, at 9, at 15, etc., and as our children move through those ages, it resonates within us and gives power to those parts of ourselves and we find ourselves somewhat "possessed" by the person were were at that age.

This means if you were dealing with a particular abandonment issue at age 5, then when your kids reach age 5 you may not recall any particular event when you were 5, but you damn well are going to by more sensitive to abandonment issues in ways you may not even recognize, causing you to feel different, act different, and react different. It can cause issues with your spouse, with your views about life or your career.

So, basically, as my children age, they are evoking spirits within me of my past selves, which effects a subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) transformation on myself. People are always transforming to some degree, based on outside influences, current-day experiences. But this is an added wrinkle and complication, a transformation evoked from within, and a transformation that in some sense can be called a regression. I'm not saying it is overpowering, or that we all revert to the maturity of a 5 year old when our kids are 5. It is not so simplistic or all-powerful as that. But it is a force to be recognized or, unrecognized, it can have more power than it otherwise would.

I see two main benefits of recognizing this phenomenon. First, as our children move through ages where we ourselves had some trauma -- anything from teasing in school, parents' divorce, an injury, death in the family -- and that part of ourselves gets "evoked," we have an opportunity to reflect upon it in a way we probably never would have done if we had not had a child pass through that age to evoke it within us. When this happens, our reflection can lead to coming to mature terms with that event, eliminating the skewed memories and flawed blame and/or guilt that attached to us when we first lived through those experiences. Basically, we work through the trauma and reach a healthier state of mind about the event, letting go of negative emotions that hold us back, and limit our current maturity. (As we mature, earlier traumatic events that have "stuck" with us can be like anchors or hooks in time that hold back our ability to spiritually or emotionally mature, which is one way you can get a 40 year old with the maturity of a 12 year old.) So, basically, raising children can be an unique therapeutic event, as our children evoke and transform us and give us unexpected opportunities to heal and mature.

A second benefit, perhaps more spiritual in nature, is that as our children pass through ages we have already lived, and evoke in us the spirit of our younger selves at those ages, it is sort of like we relive those ages on a level we could not otherwise have done. I see this as a form of immortality, or at least significant life-extension. People chase plastic surgery and medical solutions to help them stay young, trying to recapture youth, but none of it is ever so complete as the youth that is recaptured when you are bonded to a child who evokes in you your own youthful spirit.

I guess the point of recognizing all this is happening is that if we are ignorant of it, I think that makes it much less likely we will actually reap the benefit of trauma resolution and will, instead, simply act out the traumas of our evoked younger selves in ways that can be meaningless or even destructive.

I suppose people without children may find alternative paths to evoking their younger selves and resolving traumas from younger days, such as psychotherapy, hypnosis, meditation, etc. However, I'm not sure any of that can be as thorough or complete as the way my children, as they age, are effortlessly evoking from me the defining moments of my own childhood, the way the smaller tube in a french press thoroughly and completely pushes out the liquid from the water-coffee grind mixture in the larger tube.

Well, that's my view at the moment. My opinions are subject to evolution and revision, and bear in mind everything is relative.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Playboys and Patriarchs

I've created a theory of romantic compatibility.

I see men as basically divided into two types: Playboys and Patriarchs. Women can similarly be playgirls or matriarchs.

Playboys / playgirls want to have fun while they live. Play is their priority.

Patriarchs / matriarchs want to create something that will live beyond them, whether it is a family dynasty or a social cause or even a business enterprise.

The difference between these two types of people is simple: spiritual maturity. No one (at least I cannot conceive of anyone, though I could be wrong) ever starts out as a patriarch or matriarch. We ALL pass through a stage of being playboys or playgirls as we spiritually mature from infancy and early childhood. Some of us either get spiritually stuck at that stage and cease maturing. Others might mature but then have experiences that make them regress.

There is absolutely NOTHING inherently wrong with being a playboy or playgirl. I'm not here to say that one level of spiritual maturity is inherently "better" than another. That sort of "holier than thou" thinking is counterproductive. It leads to anger and resentment and trying to argue people into becoming more mature, which (in my experience) never works.

There is a very common saying that people who enter a relationship expecting to change the other person are doomed to failure and disappointment. I am not quite so pessimistic. I do think it is probably best and easiest to enter a relationship with some one of the same spiritual maturity level as yourself. In fact, I think this is the source of fastest, deepest love and compatibility.

However, it is simplistic to talk about people trying to "change" their loved oen when they have linked themselves to a person with a lower level of spiritual maturity. A better word than "change" is "mature." It is not like trying to change a person from hating broccoli to liking broccoli. What you are trying to do is get some one stuck at a particular level of immaturity to get past the issue that is blocking their natural progress and ascendance, so that they can mature spiritually.

I am optimistic (idealistic?) that with the right approach, people can help their loved ones get unstuck from a low level of spiritual maturity and ascend to a higher level of maturity. However, it is not easy. It takes enormous patients and time, and frankly I'm not sure most people are up to the task, as it is easier to slip into anger and resentment and perhaps even let your own maturity level sink to match that of your less mature lover, to create more compatibility and less conflict.

If you are going to attempt this, the first key is NOT to blame the other person for being less spiritually mature, for acting out as a playboy / playgirl. Again, you are not to judge the person as lesser than you, or imperfect due to their lower level of maturity. WE ARE ALL FREE TO CHOOSE OUR OWN LEVEL OF SPIRITUAL MATURITY.

The key is not to scold or guilt the person into achieving greater maturity. They key is to EDUCATE the person into achieving greater maturity. I believe (again, this is based on gut level feeling and personal optimism, not scientific studies) that deep down we can all appreciate maturity, and we all would welcome ascending to the stage of being a matriarch / patriarch because it has rewards that surpass the immediate gratification of the hedonistic playboy / playgirl. I think there is a fundamental sadness and loneliness in the playboy / playgirl because they sense a meaningless to their existence that they try to escape from with fleeting pleasures.

So what you need to do to get them to mature is to simply talk to them about deep issues, about death and god and spirituality and social causes. I think deep down in these people, you will find an idealistic soul that does desire to ascend, but is stuck or lost or ignorant about how to do it. Simply having non-combative conversation combined with leading by example can, over time, cause the stuck person to find a way to unstick himself/herself and begin the ascension.

The playboy / playgirl can mature into a patriarch / matriarch. This is a fact because every patriarch / matriarch was, at one time, for however brief a time, a playboy / playgirl who made this very same ascension.

The resistance to this ascension can be huge and, again, it can be such a burdensome task that it may simply not be something the more spiritually advanced person in the relationship is prepared to tackle. That's fine. Know your limits. You have no obligation to help the other person ascend (unless, perhaps, you are married with children, in which case there may be an obligation to the children to give them two spiritually mature parents, but let's set that aside for now).

Again, if you are a patriarch / matriarch in a relationship with a playboy / playgirl and you find yourself continually suffering anguish and/or anger at how the person seems selfish, inconsiderate, and immature, LET IT GO. If you do not or cannot take a PEACEFUL AND LOVING approach to helping that person see why maturity is better, and help them find their own path to getting unstuck and reaching a higher level of maturity, let them go WITHOUT ANGER OR JUDGMENT. Because, as I said before, it is wrong to label it bad or wrong or evil to be a playboy or playgirl. It is a choice people are free to make and you cannot condemn people for that anymore than you can condemn a person who chooses to wear silly hats. It may not be your cup of tea, but they are not hurting anyone.

The playboy / playgirl is not hurting you by their immature conduct. They are simply acting out their own nature. It is YOU, the patriarch / matriarch, who CHOSE to be in a relationship with a playboy / playgirl, who is to blame for the friction that results. Embrace your choice and live with it (and trying lovingly to encourage the person you are with to mature), or choose differently. But in neither case is anger or blame the correct response. And it will not do a damn bit of good. Frankly, the most likely outcome is that your own spiritual maturity will diminish.

Ken Myers