Tag Archives: language

Review: Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation


Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation
Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation by Michael H. Agar
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Michael Agar shows in his book “Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation” the interaction between language, culture and daily behaviour for insiders and outsiders. Insiders know implicit (and explicit) the meaning behind words and sentences that outsiders with only knowledge of a language may not be aware of. He shares his open mind for several environments/cultures wherein he has lived. He makes a strong plea for open mindedness to a foreign cultures otherwise unknown/uncommon behaviour may be regarded as a defect in another culture resulting in rejection or worse.

Michael uses a organic/lingering style with many personal examples. This style has its merits and its shortcomings.

Conclusion: recommended – a readable introduction to foreign combination of language/culture and way of living

View all my reviews

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Carla Drift – Study Humanities 2


In line with psychology and history, I studied the history of legislation and the limited role of language in the field of emotions, culture and character.

I studied the history of Law to receive a better understanding in the organisation of the society and the relations between individuals themselves. Long ago, everything was private and group law. In birds, the occupant of a territory has just a little better chance than an intruder – usually the intruder disappears unless the occupant is careless or is unable to defend his territory. The occupier needs the  territory to have sufficient food for the young birds.

[1]
A similar mechanism plays a role when people assert right on an area. In addition, people have developed customary law and hospitality for visitors. This hospitality is sometimes confined in guest law [2] – often exchanges of gifts as “objects in the middle” take place to achieve and consolidate confidence between inhabitants and visitors.

[3]
A long time ago, rulers already used law to show who had the say – was the boss [4] – in a given area. One of the oldest laws is the codex of Hamurabi [5]. With the dissemination of this Codex in cuneiform on pillars within his empire, Hamurabi showed who had control over the habits and the order within his reign. This codex of Hamurabi was a long list of penalties for infringements – most sentences had characteristics of “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. Almost all penalties could be bought off with an “object in the middle” to restore confidence – the penalty on accidentally wounding the neighbour at work could be bought off with transfer of cattle to restore mutual confidence.

[6]

In addition to the right between people, there was also law that was aimed at the general interest. A part of this public law was included in treaties between kings and rulers themselves. The difference between these kings and rulers and the contemporary warlords is in many cases only gradual. The difference shows in the degree of cruelty and tyranny; occasionally the rulers and kings are wise and moderate. These treaties usually start with a recital that included the order and the habits already established between the parents or ancestors of the rulers; after the recital followed the agreements built on the former order and finally the provisions for non-compliance were mentioned in the Treaty. These sentences ranged from war statements to full eradication of family and populations.

Another form of public law was the law of war in which the habits for war and sieges were determined. A few examples. A city may usually prevent siege and looting by handing over a ransom until the time came when the city was completely surrounded; then only a complete surrender was acceptable. The looting of the city after the surrender or sacking took a set time of usually a few days. After that time the booty was distributed among the conquerors; after the conquest the inhabitants of the city were usually without rights for a certain time – sometimes they fell into slavery.

In addition to these forms of public law, there was also Community law – for example the use of common pasturage. By the end of my studies I read a study about old Irish law [7]; It is surprising how common this legal form – with many forms of mutual duties of care – still is. Much attention was given to preserving the general interest. Recently in our world, the Community law also includes the right of education, development and deployment for betterment of society. In the interest of the community, punishments such as “eye for an eye” are often changed in, inter alia, education and social reintegration.

In the field of language I studied how language reflected the relationship between people and how the world view is reflected in language. Later on our Odyssey we will encounter many examples.

Erich Fromm [8] has stated in one of his studies that we have lost the language for intensity and association. During my studies I noticed that our language is also very limited for expressing emotions, culture and character. In our contemporary society we cannot express ourselves adequately on emotions, love and culture. We do not discus much about these topics – language was not an adequate means for communication about deeper emotions between my great love and I. We always could communicate our emotions much better by using behaviour, movements and body language. The important decisions between my great love and I were always made intuitively – our underbelly was far more important than our thoughts and words. I once read that when French ask “Comment ça va?”, this “ça” relates to the lower abdomen – a beautiful thought. Probably we communicate in the field of emotions, culture and character more by behaviour such as body language and hospitality, openness and acceptance on the one hand, and ignoring, excluding and aggression on the other hand. In Holland until about 30 years through the pillarisation, the inhabitants were absolute masters in living next to each other with complete different religions. Nowadays ignoring between children is seen as a form of bullying – maybe this modus vivendi in Holland prevented far worse actions.

In my job I kept myself busy with statistics and correlations between results of investigations; staff and students in the Humanities could use some help in this area. As a limited intellectual challenge, I followed the developments of population mathematics; later I used this knowledge in different studies about crimes against humanity. This intellectual challenge I kept for myself – it seemed to me a good idea to play hide and seek at this point, because this form of mathematics was not included in the curriculum for humanities.

The next post is more about my daily life in Amsterdam – also a kind of hide-and-seek.
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[1] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogels
[2] See also: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gastrecht
[3] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gastfreundschaft
[4] Man Leben would have remarked that “bhâsh” has the meaning “to speak, to name” in Sanskrit.
[5] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Hammurabi
[6] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi
[7] See also: Kelly, Fergus, A Guide to Early Irish Law. Dublin: Duldalgan Press, 2005 (first edition in 1988)

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Meditation rooms


In previous posts, you and I have visited several houses of God. With churches as “object in the middle” the faithful express a mutual trust between people and God. This confidence is continuously and periodically confirmed through rituals. Besides, the churches often create a bond between people mutual, but sometimes churches cause rejections. Churches are trying to be a timeless reference point from which the environment – air/heaven and earth separately and in combination – is experienced. The churches also provide hope for a transcendence of human life through a resurrection in an afterlife. We will visit all the churches that we encounter on our Odyssey.

We also encounter “objects in the middle” which give room for meditation. These special areas create the possibility for transcending the human scale and/or experiencing a complete oneness. Specific parts of the natural landscape have been used for this purpose for centuries. During our Odyssey we have seen stone circles, caves and stones in the landscape.

Probably with the occupation of homesteads people have created rooms for meditation that resemble their homesteads. Initially, the rooms for meditation are mainly located in or near their residences. Over time these rooms become major sacred places for worship and/or houses of God. Some of these places have been transferred in worldly contemplation places that we now encounter as museums and art galleries. During our Odyssey we visit almost all museums, but we cannot report on these visits.

Let us visit two special rooms for meditation. This first room – the Mark Rothko [1] chapel in Houston from 1967 – is building for religion and for art. The exterior is a monolithic octagon with a small entrance. At first glance it looks like a mausoleum.

 [2]

We enter the chapel. The interior radiates serenity – as monolithic as the exterior. The light comes from above. Internally I sing the first chorus of Cantata 131 by Johann Sebastian Bach:

”Aus der Tiefe rufe ich, Herr[3], zu dir.
Herr, höre meine Stimme, lass deine Ohren merken auf die Stimme meines Flehens!“
[4]

[9]

The windows to the outside consist of paintings by Mark Rothko from 1964 – 1967, shortly before his death.

[5]

The paintings render all impressions of the World. It seems that he tries to imprint on the panels – in translucent blue/black ink – every word ever written and spoken.” You say.

“That’s right. All glass beads of “Indra’s Net” [6] are included in the paint of the panels, the colours are so dense.” I say.

The sun breaks through. The blood of the earth lights in a purple red glow on the triptych.

[7]

We sit next to a meditating – Zen? – Buddhist. When the Buddhist stands up, we go outside.

Outside you say: “I once read: “A man asks a female Buddhist hermit in contemporary China to calligraphy the essence of Buddhist practise on paper. She puts the paper aside. A few months later, he receives four words by post: goodwill, compassion, joy and detachment. Her calligraphy is strong and clear as her mind.[8] Are these four words applicable to the chapel?”

“Yes.” I say.

“I have hesitated on joy, until the sun broke through.” You say.

In the next post we will watch the last part of the movie “Offret” – or “The Sacrifice” by Andrei Tarkovsky from 1986.


[1] For further information on Mark Rothko: Hughes, Robert, The Shock of the New – Art and the Century of Change; and Arnason, H.H., A History of Modern Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1979, pages 533 – 534

[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Rothko_chapel.jpg

[3] Maybe the German word “Herr” is linked to the verb root “hṛ” meaning “offer, present” and “seize, take away” in Sanskrit. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta. Both meanings of the verb root “hr” express the two roles of the warrior caste within the cattle-cycle: they rob the cattle and give a part of the cattle to the priests for offers to the Gods. A lord has also two roles: offering protection and taking a part of the harvest. Probably the role of Lord coincides with the role of God. In the experiences of many nationals the king and God are closely interwoven.

[4] Translation: “From the deep, Lord [3], I cry to you. Lord, hear my voice, let your ears hear the voice of my doubt!” In German the word “Flehens” means supplication. Here this word is translated with doubt, because doubt is the origin of nearly all supplication to God. See also the book Job from the Old testament.

[5] Source image: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703445904576118063020357484.html

[6] For further information on “Indra’s net”: the post “Introduction: one – Pantheïsm – Indra’s net” of 8th of April 2011.

[7] Source image: http://hayleygilchrist.wordpress.com/2008/04/09/contextual-studies/

[8] Source: Porter, Bill, Road to Heaven – Encounters with Chinese Hermits. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 1993. page 109

[9] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:In_the_Tower_-_Mark_Rothko.JPG

Introduction: Two – You and I separated; a narrator continues


We have endured the separation of earth and sky and then we encountered innumerable splits and cracks. I look sideways to see you. I wonder how you have survived these events. But where I look, I do not see you. I call you: no answer. Are you and I separated during one of these innumerable divisions?

[1]

For the first time on our Odyssey, we are not together. Strange. But the divisions have not stopped: I too fall apart. My consciousness reduces, my eyes are cloudy and sounds disappear. Everything fades.

[2]

Your narrator continues: “In their quest to “Who are you” – after the separation of earth and sky – the two main characters have disappeared in the course of the countless divisions. Temporarily, they may not report their experiences. Your narrator continues the story of the Odyssey. My name – Narrator – I have received a long time ago. My name originates from the word “nara” [3] meaning “people”, and “tr” [4] meaning “cross or pass”. As a narrator I will tell you the events until the two main characters will be able to tell their story again.”

“After the primal separation and the following endless splits, everything is broken into infinite small particles. Of course there is still some order between these particles – or at least a start of order. But these connections are beyond our comprehension. And if we can apprehend it, we can not express it in words. According to our notion of time in Western society, it takes several billions of years from the separation of earth and sky until we again have a beginning of life. Or was this period much shorter? Several thousand years according to the Bible, or a flash of the eyes? Narrator does not know. Your narrator – in her/his contemporary appearance – was not present at the beginning of the universe and also not at the beginning of the Bible. However, your narrator is constantly amazed that after a flash of the eyes, the world still exists. The two main characters will recount their experiences with the perception of time on a next stage during their Odyssey. ”

“After the complete collapse of “One” in infinitely many pieces, order is recreated. Mankind [5] is still investigating how this order is established and how long it took before the subsequences organisations of life emerged. The stories of discovery and development of life can occupy the rest of my life. Your narrator will – like my designation implies – transfer you to the point that “You and I” reappear when conditions permit human life again.”

“The following post includes the outcome of the first organisation.”


[1] Source image: http://iwan.web-log.nl/iwan/2010/07/index.html

[2] Source image: http://beagle.vpro.nl/#/blog/item/3203/australische-stofmachine/

[3] In Sanskrit this word consists of “na” meaning “not”, and the root “ra” meaning “rejoice”; “nara” means ordinary man or woman. In the name “narrator” the plural for “men” is used: “narâ”.

[4] In Sanskrit the root “tṛ” means “to cross over” according to Egenes, Thomas, Introduction to Sanskrit – Part two. 2005 p. 387

[5] “Man” means “think, conscience” in Sanskrit. People try to become aware of our past and to get hold of former experiences. Vanity, vanity, everything is vanity? Your narrator does not know.

Introduction: One – Solipsism


On our Odyssey you and I will encounter three obvious classics. Classics are views and ideas that do not suit anybody (completely), but are still worth studying to progress further. We make in this introduction a short detour along the three classics, “Solipsism”, “The universe is but a dream” and “Pantheism”.

Solipsism[1]

Solipsism knows and recognizes only one single consciousness that completely coincides with the awereness of the observer. In the original form of solipsism, there is no existence outside the consciousness of the observer. On our Odyssey, you and I will encounter many elements and forms of Solipsism.

[2]

At the first stage – described in chapter one – the oneness includes at first sight several features of Solipsism, but the oneness can easily avoid Solipsism, because oneness at this stage will be soon divided in two or more parts, and it may not be excluded that all these parts have a separate consciousness. In addition, one is the recurring initial divider of every prime.

At the second and third stage we will not easily encounter solipsism.

At the fifth stage, each of the five basic realities may easily degenerate into Solipsism, because every reality may regard itself as the only true consciousness within which everything is fully and completely enclosed, e.g.:

  • Only natural science based on facts and logic is true: everything else is a delusion or worse. In this extreme form natural science migrates to religion, and currently religion is not included within the competence of natural science.
  • Only feeling matters. Everything else is a reality from where we should keep ourselves.
  • “Only in the void I can live, elsewhere I never found shelter[3]”. This is a pitfall for zealous practitioners of meditation. As lured by the Sirens [4] these practitioners are attracted into the void putting aside the other realities.
  • Everything changes and only change counts[5].
  • All is fully interconnected: outside this interconnectedness nothing exists. At the last stage on our Odyssey named “Zero – not one, not two” we will see how this manner of Solipsism is surpassed.

At our seventh stage we will encounter elements of Solipsism in all seven entities, e.g.:

  • In the reality of Ishvara[6] – where you and I will meet god, gods and religion – only the reality of the own god, gods or religion is recognised as the existing reality. Other gods and religions are often contested with all possible means. Only the own god/gods and religion is regarded as the sole true reality outside which nothing exists (or is allowed to exist).
  • Only the reality of “here and now” exists. Everything else is unimportant or does not exist.

At the end of our Odyssey on our homecoming at “Zero – not one, not two” we will look back if every manner of solipsism in the seven realities is surpassed.

The next post will cover the second classic “The universe is but a dream”.


[1] See also: http://www.iep.utm.edu/solipsis/

[2] Source of image: http://www.huubmous.nl/2010/02/01/het-solipsisme-van-een-kind/

[3] Free rendering of a verse written by Jan Jacob Slauerhoff  “Only in my poems I may live, elsewhere I never found shelter”.

[4] See also Homerus’ Odyssey.

[5] See also Heraklitus:  “πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει”” meaning “everything changes and nothing remains untouched”. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heraclitus

[6] A philosophical concept of God in Hinduism, see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishvara. In  Sanskrit the word “Ishvara” consists of the noun “ish” meaning “god, ruler” – Wherein the German word “ich” may be recognised –, the noun “va” meaning “wind, ocean, water, stream, going” and the root “ra” meaning “give, influence”. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.

Introduction: One


Introduction of Chapter one

You and I begin our search for “Who are you” at the beginning of everything. In the beginning there is no distinction – and thus no separation – between you, me and everything around us. Everything is completely connected. Has there been any change? We do not know. Maybe everything is constantly flowing in itself. Or everything is constantly changing size by periodic expansion and contraction.

[1]

For a full description of oneness, words and concepts have significant limitations, because they aim to distinguish between things or events. Words and concepts are also used to denote individual things. Oneness precedes separate things and events, so words and concepts will give a poor reflection.

In describing the oneness we strive for a complete connection between content and form. We decide to use verse without significant developments to describe oneness . As a result, some poems change into a “retrograde”: these poems can also be read from the end to the beginning without substantially compromising its meaning. Below is one verse from a poem: the full poem can be read on the page “ONE” in the menu.

The wind takes you along                           With the air over the sea
Volatile and familiar                                    Volatile and familiar
With the air over the sea                            The wind takes you along

The complete oneness is described according to a human scale, familiar to people in a western civilization in a temperate maritime climate. A Bedouin in the Sahara will give a different description.

[2]

An Eskimo will also give another description. This difference of rendering is caused by the different manifestations of the perfect oneness to the separate life forms. In later chapters we come back to this phenomenon.

Obviously, a full representation may be appropriate, but this is beyond comprehension for people and we lack the possibilities to do so. You remark that in chapter One the word “thus” – or “evam” [3] in Sanskrit “- is a correct rendering of the complete oneness, but a rendering remains a vague reflection.

In the next posts we continue with the creation of the poem “Blossom”. Afterwards we look at the classics solipsism, “the universe is a dream” and pantheism


[1] Source of immage: http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/pr2009032c

[2] Source of image: http://www.ondernemen.in/INFO_Woestijn

[3] In Sanskrit the word “evam” consists of the root “e” meaning “approach, reach, enter” and the noun “va” meaning “wind, ocean, water, stream, going”. Source: electronic version of the dictionairy Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

Introduction – Myths


The book “Who are you” is a contemporary myth telling a quest in which you and I are seeking who you are. This quest takes us along endless perspectives and realities. In the book we describe several crucial realities that we have encountered during our Odyssey.

In the ancient, myths were passed on from generation to generation to convey wisdom and experience of life. These myths do not tend to cover facts and logic, but they recount stories about the origin of our existence, about the meaning of life, the relationship of our ancestors with each other, with the gods and with their environment, about motives of our ancestors and about trust and distrust.

[1]

Probably our ancestors did not take the facts and logic told in the myths literally. But for our ancestors, the intensity and associations in the myths appear very recognizable. They derive much wisdom from the myths to provide clarification in elusive conditions, under psychological conditions and during tragic events[2]. We have partly lost the active use of the language of intensities and associations in the myths and dreams[3]. In the chapters five and seven, you and I will describe our experiences with this lost language.

During our quest we will derive meaning and give meaning to the life of you, me, everyone and everything around us in the past, present and the future. Several of these points of view are difficult to express in our contemporary language. Due to this fact, we will occasionally use poetry, imagery and mythic narratives. The report of the quest has the character of an essay and of a contemporary myth.

Myths now have a connotation of stories that are not true. But today we also create contemporary myths. Money is a metaphor for trust.

[4]

According to a common contemporary myth, money provides a carefree happy eternal life; bank officials and stockbrokers guard as demigods over this heaven, and as gate keepers they provide access to this dream world. The banking crisis is not only a crisis of confidence, but it caused an existential crisis questioning the role of the contemporary demigods and gatekeepers of dream worlds.

Sport is also a contemporary myth as a metaphor for real life. The athletes are role models who are revered as demigods and/or tragic heroes based on the outcome of the match. Sports coaches and reporters show some resemblance with high priests.

Another contemporary myth covers property, legal bodies and the National State that have a life of its own in our mundane and universal reality. During our Odyssey we will encounter the origin and consequences of this myth.

[5]

In the next post we will cover the roles of rituals.


[1] Cover of book

[2] Amstrong, Karen, The Case for God – What Religion really means. London: Vintage Book, 2010 – page 2 – 4

[3] Zie ook: Fromm, Erich, The Forgotten Language. New York: Rinehart & Co, 1951

[4] Source of image unknown

[5] Source of image: www.freefoto.com