Continuing the train of thought from last week’s post, I was having a conversation with a friend this week about language and its reduction to a utilitarian value…that Western culture, specifically in the U.S., views language only as a means to an end, valuing succinct bullet points and brevity as supreme qualities because of the manner in which they enhance production value. The conversation led us to a similar conclusion about our culture’s view of humanity, and perhaps the conclusion that the degradation of the English language is due (at least in part) to the humiliation and de-humanized perception of men and women as lacking inherent self-worth.
At the end of the day, social improvement and reformation accounted for, any industrialized culture will always fight a losing battle to maintain the view that a human being is inherently valuable. The reason is because progress and production are supreme, and thus the things that an individual can make and build take priority over that person’s well-being…are seen as being more important to the whole than the person is himself. Individuality is one of the first casualties of this war, and self-esteem quickly follows, because that is simply a luxury one cannot afford when one is trying to make a living.
Certainly, history shows us that we’ve made progress since the industrial revolution. However, materialism and morality remain mutually exclusive, and thus progress will always be the enemy of personhood, at least at some level.
Lewis spoke of the danger that accompanies the power of art. We are created as creators, and thus are engaging in our supreme life-giving capacity when we engage in creativity. There is danger in idolizing and worshipping what we’ve created, however, in permitting it to become something that its not. When our creation…be it a painting, a novel, a city, a new computer, whatever…assumes a perceived supremacy over the life of the person who is creating it (or facilitating its creation) then we’ve degraded that person. Creating is life-giving, unless we, in doing so, take life. I fear that’s what may have occurred as we’ve began to value the product over those involved in the process.
Perhaps to regain a recognition that each person we pass on the street and pay for our lunch and drive past in traffic is, in fact, a person and possessor of hopes and dreams and creativity just like our own, is to regain a passion and a love for our language. Sadly, as long as we continue to treat each other barbarously, then we will treat our words barbarously, as well.
The last paragraph reminds me of the movie “The Soloist.”
How so? I haven’t seen “The Soloist.”