Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy Quotes #20

“People who take seriously battles over philosophies of life or views of the world [Weltanschauung] are especially likely to be interested in pursuing the riddles of the soul.”

~from Practical Knowledge of the Soul, page 3

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12 Rules for Life (Book Review)

jordon-peterson-bookCanadian clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson has gained quite a bit of fame in recent years through his controversial (but not really controversial) stance on some social issues. Many people have been listening to what he has to say and are finding answers to the tough questions about life which they’ve been unable to find from, what should be, the normal sources for such conundrums. All of that has compelled him to write this book: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.

This book is kind of like a Christian book written by a non-Christian for Christians and non-Christians. There’s really two types of Christians: 1) The born-again and goes to church every Sunday type; 2) The merely product of western civilization type.

A brief story explaining what I mean by the second type (which I heard someone tell once, but can’t remember when or where)….

A reporter travelled to a middle eastern country for a story. Going through passport control, he noticed the border officer stamp his passport “Christian.” He then said to the officer, “Why did you stamp ‘Christian’? I’m an atheist, not a Christian.” The border officer ignored his complaint and waved him through.

Later, at his hotel, he observed some boys outside the building playing a somewhat gruesome game: They were hitting newly born puppies with a baseball bat, sending them flying against the hotel wall. That in itself is horrifying enough, but what really bothered the reporter is that the mothers of the boys were all sitting around watching and doing nothing, enjoying their day, laughing, and conversing together. The reporter then thought, “Ah, maybe I am a Christian after all.”

The point of the story is that if you are western, your morality is Christian. Whether you like it or not, you are heavily influenced by Christianity.

Jordan Peterson is a type two Christian. His book is full of Biblical quotes. Even though he might not even believe in the God of the Bible, he knows that the values of western Christianity are what shaped the best culture in known world history. He knows that if Christian values are forgotten and abandoned, it will lead to chaos. Indeed, this is already happening.

Peterson has dedicated much of his life to studying totalitarian cultures (the ones in which millions are murdered by their own governments), and he has had many patients in his practice whose lives are a “bloody mess,” as he would put it. Using his studies, his own experience as a psychologist, and his Christian influenced wisdom, he’s put together a fine book designed to help people get their own lives in order.

The 12 Rules are:

Rule 1 Stand up straight with your shoulders back.

Rule 2 Treat yourself like you would someone you are responsible for helping.

Rule 3 Make friends with people who want the best for you.

Rule 4 Compare yourself with who you were yesterday, not with who someone else is today.

Rule 5 Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.

Rule 6 Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world.

Rule 7 Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient).

Rule 8 Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie.

Rule 9 Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.

Rule 10 Be precise in your speech.

Rule 11 Do not bother children when they are skate-boarding.

Rule 12 Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.

This is a dense book with a lot of information. I imagine the number one complaint by readers is that it is too long, and overly explanatory. But, if I were to give a one or two sentence long explanation of each Rule (which is far from the thorough conclusions put forth by Peterson), it would go like this…

Rule 1: Don’t be passive. Stand up for what you believe in — literally. Stand up straight. It has more effects than you realize.
Rule 2: Take care of yourself as though you were someone you deeply love and care about. Of course! But, many of us are quite negligent in self care.
Rule 3: Don’t hang around with losers, or you will become one too.
Rule 4: We’re all on different paths — some are further along than you, some are behind. Comparing yourself to them will either discourage you, or make you proud.
Rule 5: Of course you love your child, but do you like your child? Do others like your child? Will your child grow to be a likeable adult?
Rule 6: If the world around you is in a chaotic mess, start with the small space directly around you, put that in order and move out from there.
Rule 7: Think long-term.
Rule 8: You might not be able to know the truth about everything, but at least you can know what’s not true. So, don’t lie.
Rule 9: You can learn something from anybody.
Rule 10: Words have power. Use them carefully.
Rule 11: Kids need to gain confidence when they’re young so they can grow to be strong adults. That means doing dangerous things. Leave them alone.
Rule 12: Life is suffering. Take time to enjoy all the small pleasures when you can.

I give the book 4/5 stars, and I recommend you pick it up.

Related articles:
Jordan Peterson on Channel Four News
What are the Most Valuable Things to Know?

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Three Old Books About Cambodia

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Phnom Penh – 1929 – Photo by Georges Portal

I enjoy finding old books about Cambodia online, especially history books.

Here are three public domain books I recently found. The first is about the ruins of Angkor written by P. Jeannerat De Beerski. The second is about how India was the main influence on early Cambodian culture, by Bijan Raj Chatterji. And the third is a short history of Cambodia, by Martin F. Herz. Enjoy….

Angkor – Ruins in Cambodia ~ 1924

Indian Cultural Influence in Cambodia ~ 1928

A Short History of Cambodia ~ 1958

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Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy Quotes #19

“Jesus … would have been nothing but a fanatic dreamer had He not carried within His own soul the full time span from Adam and Moses to Himself. Only because He did was He later accorded a corresponding power to shape the future. That power reaches from Him — through the Church and Christendom — to the end of the world, and is undeniably still being revealed to us every day since we are still fighting about Him as much as ever before.”

~from Practical Knowledge of the Soul, page 13

The Origin of Speech (Book Review)

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Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy wrote some amazing books, and this might be my favourite so far. In The Origin of Speech, ERH illustrates that speech, and its creation, is the power which holds a civilization together.

For this book review, I’ll start by copying the Editor’s Postscript found on page 128…

Speech begins with vocatives and imperatives. It begins with formal speech which moves men to action and is embodied in ritual. Our grammar books on the other hand begin with the nominative and the pronoun I. The nominative is only usable when an experience is over. I can only respond as an I after I have been addressed as thou. I is the last pronoun a child learns to use.

We discovered that our systems of formal logic are skewed by accepting this distortion of our grammarians. The beginning vocative and lyric stages of all experience are thus called illogical even though they are essential before the narrative and nominative (abstract) modes can be applied. Common sense or daily talk is a derivative of formal speech.

Gender identifies the required participants in living interaction and is not synonymous with sex. Neuter is not a third sex but refers to all dead things. Thus grammar is a mirror of the stages of human experience. Inspiration through a vocative or imperative addresses us as thou, then forces us to respond as an I, makes us report as we, and at the end a story speaks of us as they. Thus we are conjugated through the stages of experience.

Instead of mental health, we propose grammatical health. Grammatical health requires the ability of command, the ability to listen, the ability to act, and finally the ability to free ourselves from the command by telling our story. Only then are we ready to respond again. We demonstrated that grammatical ill health can lead to war, dictatorship, revolution and crisis — and showed how formal speech can overcome these four.

We used the image of a time cup created to be fulfilled and to be discarded in time. All social order depends on the power of invoked names to create never-ending series of such time cups.

The grammatical method does not supply a rule book for our behaviour but a method to help us understand our history, to differentiate between valid and invalid names, and to determine the response appropriate to the stage of a particular experience or event. It should create a whole series of new social sciences unhampered by our skewed logic which has been dominated by nominatives and I’s.

Grammatical experience changes us. In the world of today, there are people at many different stages of grammatical development, and our method offers them the hope of more successful cooperation and understanding. It gives us all a common history, a history aware of timing, and a foundation for a possible peace among men.

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Rosenstock-Huessy describes the difference between “pre-formal” speech, “formal” speech, and “informal” (or post-formal) speech. Pre-formal speech is akin to animal speech: grunting and growling, pointing and nodding. Formal speech is man’s high speech: the naming of things, ceremonies, political structures. Informal speech is somewhat of a combination of pre-formal and formal, in which we relax things a bit to make it more “low brow”. In formal speech I call my parents Mother and Father; in informal speech I can call them mama and papa. Pronouns are then considered informal speech as well. The informal is founded on the formal.

ERH lists four diseases of speech: war, revolution, decay, and crisis. These diseases arise when speech is no longer possible, or is being suppressed. War occurs when two sides are no longer willing to speak to each other and the tension between them grows to violence. Revolution occurs when a young generation, wanting change, is not yet able to articulate through speech the change it wishes, and so turns to shouting, protests, and violence. Where the young create revolutions, the old create counter-revolutions. The values of the past are held up against the revolution, but they have grown hollow and meaningless. Those praising the old values do not themselves live them out, and haven’t for some time. This leads to decadence and decay. A crisis in society occurs when those with knowledge do not speak to those who have no knowledge — they do not tell them what to do.

Of course all four of these diseases are interrelated. The unwillingness of the revolutionary to respect the “old ways” is countered by the old genaration’s unwillingness to embrace the new. The unwillingness of two parties to speak in war, but yet still willing to speak within their own communities, is met with the unwillingness of the “haves” (re: knowledge) to speak with the “have-nots” within their own communities.

ERH offers remedies to these diseases: to the deafness of war, a willingness to listen; to the incoherent shouting of revolution, the ability to articulate; to the crisis of muteness, a willingness to entrust; and to the decadence of hollow lip service, the rejuvenation of values through new representatives. “If this is true,” ERH writes, “the original character of all language should be connected with man’s victory over these evils.” (Page 17) New speech is generated when one or more of these diseases occurs. In fact, it must if a solution to the disease is to be found.

ERH covers many other topics related to speech in this book. All of it is quite illuminating, and I highly recommend giving it a read. I give the book 5/5 stars.

For a set of notes covering the whole book, click here: ERH Fund, Notes on The Origin of Speech

Related reading…

Past & Future ~ Connected by Speech

The Relevance of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy

One Miracle of Speech