A good friend of mine (Christopher Campbell) and myself decided to exchange thoughts via e-mail and speculate about any topic that would come to our minds. As this was not intended to be made public we wrote the weirdest things and imagined beyond reason. Our exchange, although it is very funny and speculative, enhances our horizons and ideas. The exchange is made in English and there will be no translation. As I am not that good in English my contributions might be full of errors. Please keep that in mind for I am going to produce every essay as it was written down and will not correct a single word.
First topic: The English Language as usurper of other languages:
Hey Florian, Sir, I am very excited about this endeavour. We can speculate about anything that comes across our rotten minds. We can speculate about topics we have thoroughly discussed with other people. We can speculate about issues in the media. We can speculate about subjects that may appear trivial but spark our curiosity. We can speculate about books, about movies, about songs. We can speculate about things we deem ourselves specialists (where I exclude myself). In fact, we can speculate about themes we have not the slightest clue of, and ponder about them in the most ignorant manner. The more I think of your idea, the correspondence, the more I find my mind ready to burst into the orgasm of inspiration-isn't that bloody great? Well, I must not exaggerate. With this first letter I will attempt to carve a rough outline, not however commandments, and then try to advance to the subject we have scraped yesterday evening. When I carried my intoxicated corpus home from Timo's party I thought about Socrates who, himself, had very little knowledge about anything but managed to emerge as an authority in any given subject by asking the right questions. Indeed, it is often not what you know, but what you can inquire. However, the isolated individual can only question his own mind and, eventually, will find himself in a poor state of sheer despair when his questions are limited to his own observations and judgement. But, as soon as the individual shares his questions with another person they may kindle the fire of enlightenment and help him to understand his own thoughts better. What should our primary goal be when we correspond, exchange, think, wonder, philosophise, etc.: I have no fucking clue. However, it should be fun. It should be interesting (because to be boring is the most hideous attitude). It should be our innermost convictions. It should seek truth and insight. Sometimes we will write in great length; sometimes our contributions will be shorter than a DNA string-micrometric, so to speak. Sometimes we will write daily possibly hourly; sometimes we will answer once a week or biweekly. A few days ago I read an essay by Sartre where he genially spoke about the purpose of Literature. Literature, like art and music, is a very personal thing. The writer, the artist, the composer or whatever should not focus his product (the poem, the prose, the portrait, the music) towards any audience but towards himself. Literature is an egocentric act. When you produce literature (or art, or music) for someone else it is unoriginal. The same applies to our correspondence: it will be original because it is between you and me and must not fit the conventions of any other person (editors, etc.). In fact, we are absolute free to write whatever we want, from any point of view, with the most abominable conclusion or ignorant argumentation. We will write with flaws, we will make mistakes; we will stagger in the darkness of ignorance and still have fun. Yes, if a correspondence has a goal then our goal will be to explore thought in the most creative, the most alternative way. Epicurus once noted: "If you want to be a writer, write." (But Epicurus was a drunken crack head.) If you want I can contribute to the correspondence in German-it is not a problem, and I want you to write in whatever language we feel comfortable (I often use a mixture of both). The first topic, as I understand it, will explore the development of language with special focus to contamination of vocabulary. I begin: Since the first thought illuminated the hollow skull of the homo sapiens this thought had the inexorable consequence of demanding articulation. Today, I think, language is not simply a vehicle of communication, but fulfils other purposes as well. The most important purpose language fulfils besides communication is social unity. Das Land der Dichter und Denker, Germany, found its unity in language; in fact, language was the only thing Germans had in common for the longest time. I think language is reflection of a culture's convictions, behaviours, ideas, or in the best sense: language articulates the culture's consciousness. From my standpoint, I insist that language is the psychology of a culture-it's soul. For instance, the German word "teilen" would be in translation the English equivalent of sharing. Although the effect may seem synonym the concept is very different. Let me explain: teilen suggests that two people divide a whole among them; sharing implies that a person gives something that he owns to someone else. Please note the very different concept of teilen and sharing. Where teilen is dividing a whole, sharing is giving something to someone. The notion of social responsibility and community deeply rooted in the German consciousness is reflected in our language. The notion of ultra-individualism and extreme egocentrism are symptoms of the English consciousness. However, teilen and sharing are only one case. There are examples ad infinitum. Please think of Geist the English vocabulary is incapable of justifying this idea; In fact, the English borrow this concept, i.e., Zeistgeist, Weltgeist, or Geisteswissenschaften. These words are commonly used within English writing. But, again, note that Geist is a word not suitable and completely alien to the English consciousness. Florian, am I making any sense? Now I will speak of vocabulary contamination-or should I say consciousness contamination? When the Luther Bible defined a standard of the German Schriftbild, radio and television increasingly enforces the standard of pronunciation (Lautsprache) and destroys dialects. At the dawn of the 21st century we find ourselves in an epoch of instant communication and globalisation. Like everything else, we believe our vocabulary must be ultra-flexible and open, but that is dangerous! The Americanisation of the globe, which is noxious, adds a flood of new words to languages across the planet. These words are imposed; their meaning is not, like traditional words, fully realized, thus, their representation of thought is weakened. Therefore, the incorporation of new words at a rapid paste does not only weaken the vocabulary but alienates the native speakers from their own language. I think this would be traumatic. If we loose OUR language through alienation (Entfremdung) and hence the means of communication what is left of us? I am not too afraid of Germany or the rest of Europe, but I am worried about cultures that may not be very resistant to Americanisation. They will be powerless when their language is suddenly replaced by a vocabulary of words that is completely unfamiliar. What can we do? Possibly, the impact of cross-cultural exchange must be analysed in more detail, and we must preserve languages in their original form therefore we can record all changes and trace their roots.
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