SPLIT THAT INFINITIVE
As noted in the Broadway play “My Fair Lady,” language usage
and speech reveal a lot about a person.
For the Absolutist, rules govern the Right way to write and speak. To
violate these rules is simply wrong and a sign of ignorance.
For the Mixed, there is only one rule governing language use: Do not say
anything that would offend anyone. If everyone would speak and write in
a politically correct manner then we can all be happy. Being happy—isn’t
that what everyone really wants?
Here comes the Relativist! “When I use a word,” Humpty-Dumpty
said, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more
nor less” (“Humpty-Dumpty” in Through the Looking
Glass by Lewis Carroll). According to Walt Whitman, “…the
forms of grammar are never persistently obeyed, and cannot be…The
English Language is grandly lawless like the race who use it—or,
rather, breaks out of the little laws to enter truly the higher ones”
(“An American Primer” in Leaves of Grass). And as Mark Twain
reportedly put it, "Anyone who can only think of one way to spell
a word obviously lacks imagination."
As for me, I was happy to see that the relative perspective is influencing
English language usage. At least that is how I understood an article in
last year’s Wall Street Journal (“To Fully Annoy
Language Purists…,” 8/14/98). As reported, it is okay
to split an infinitive, says the authoritative Oxford University Press
in its recently published, first all-new English dictionary in 70 years.
Split infinitives in English are “both normal and useful”
and scorn for the split infinitive stems from an ill-founded analogy with
Latin. Also as reported, the Oxford Dictionary seems to recommend as preferable
the use of the pronoun “they” for a singular person of unknown
gender, such as: “Ask a friend if they could help.” The use
of “he” in such a context is “old-fashioned and sexist,”
the compilers argue, while “he or she” is condemned as “tiresomely
long-winded.” Jean Aitchison, a language professor at Oxford, says:
“It helps enormously that a learned dictionary has stood up against
elderly pedants.” [“Bravo,” say I.]
LANGUAGE AND INTEGRITY
Being a person of one’s word is the prerequisite foundation for
establishing and maintaining a relationship—whether with a friend,
oneself, or a Force. This is an ongoing task.
As we mature and attempt to accommodate new experiences by changing the
way we think, effort is required to make a parallel change in our words.
For example, if we are changing from an absolute perspective to a relative
perspective, the absolute phrase “You are Right” may be modified
to the relative phrase “I agree with you.” And the absolute
phrase “It was a Good movie” could be changed to the relative
phrase “I liked the movie.” And again, the absolute phrase
“What I need you to do is…” could be changed to the
relative phrase “What I want you to do is….”
Friends will notice the difference. One of our readers shared with me
her experience of being told by her family members that if she did not
“stop talking that way,” they would no longer talk with her
or interact with her as a family member. As the reader saw it, her family
members were committed to an absolute perspective and terminology while
she saw herself as trying to practice a relative perspective and terminology.
She had a decision to make. She could either alienate her family or be
true to herself. As I saw it, whatever she chose, she could always be
thankful to her family members for giving her that self-defining moment
where she could enhance her own personal identity. In a similar way, some
parents unwittingly sever lines of communication with their children by
making demands upon them to choose between being true to themselves or
being true to the “family.”
Whatever we choose, our brain will seek integrity between our philosophy
and our words. This is a critical process. For example, if we choose to
embrace a relative perspective, we will experience a mental double-take
when hearing ourselves use words like “Truth” and “Good.”
If we immediately replace such terms with “I agree” and “I
like it,” the absolute words will eventually drop from usage. If,
on the other hand, we continue to use absolute terms, the result may be
our giving up the relative perspective and embracing the absolute perspective.
When the absolute perspective is in place, the absolute terms will no
longer be noticed. One way or the other, absolute or relative, the brain
will seek integrity — absolute terms with an absolute perspective
and relative terms with a relative perspective. Acting as a system of
checks-and-balances, one’s personal perspective alerts one to contrary
terms; and one’s words can be used to establish or enhance one’s
perspective. Said another way, word usage can change how we see things
and how we see things can change our word usage. ***
We could choose to be Mixed. By ignoring our own sense of intellectual
integrity, we could shift back and forth between absolute and relative
perspectives in order to make everyone happy.. However, there is a cost.
When intellectual integrity is lost, so is our sense of personality identity.
We are limited to the single objective of seeking emotional satisfaction
for the moment. In the absence of a personal identity, lost is the possibility
of having a human relationship with others, oneself, or a Force. In contrast,
the Relativist would seek both emotional and intellectual integrity.
ON RELIGION AND WORLD-WIDE EVENTS
For two reasons, I am particularly enjoying the recent newsletter focus
on relative religion. First, a relative view of religion is the only linchpin,
as I see it, for establishing integrity within human experience. I anticipate
that the topic of “religion as linchpin” will be a continuing
focus in future newsletters. The second reason I am particularly enjoying
the current focus on relative religion is that views on religion appear
to be particularly relevant to world-wide current events. Here are my
Throughout the world, we can see that absolute religious beliefs divide
people and seem to contribute to long-standing violence. In Bosnia, we
saw evidence of horrific atrocities as Christian Serbs revived the ancient
conflict with the Muslim Albanians; In Ireland, peace efforts are faltering
as the Protestant North and the Catholic South continue their brutal 35-year
confrontation; In the Middle East, killing continues as Israeli Jews and
Arab Muslims seek common ground for building a peaceful co-existence;
and, in Asia, the 55-year-old, atheistic Chinese government banned the
7-year-old popular meditation group Falun Dafa for engaging in “evil
thinking” and “sabotaging social stability.” There are
many more examples, but the point is already made: there is a connection
between violence and embracing absolute religious beliefs.
As I see it, looking back over the last 50 years in economics, we can
see the relatively-oriented capitalism prevailing by public consensus
over the absolutely-oriented socialism. Again, as I see it, looking forward
to the next 50 years, we will see relatively-oriented views on religion
prevailing by public consensus over the current absolutely-oriented views
on religion. We will still have Christians, Jews, Muslims and atheists.
However, the relative orientation will make it a matter of individual
choice. We will see that the absolute inspiration to brutalize your neighbor
expires in the mere presence of the relative perspective.
*** *** *** *** *** *** ***
From Dan in Redmond, WA
Since there is a *96 on my envelope I thought it would be a good
time to tell you I would really enjoy receiving future newsletters.
So much has happened in my life since I took your class. All for the
better…When is your book going to be published? I would enjoy
reading it…Hope you are doing well…
From Penny in Long Beach, CA
…[written to my spouse] …Tell your significant other
I need my name put back on his mailing list! Love his newsletter….
From Kyoko in Los Angeles, CA
Happy Holidays! I hope your health is well. Please continue to
send me your newsletter. I enjoy it so much.
From Michel in Los Angeles, CA
Here is a book I enjoyed reading. [Mad Cowboy by Howard F. Lyman]
From Freida in Littleriver, CA
Joe [my husband] died on November… One of his last adventures
in reading and philosophizing was the result of your last newsletter.
He and his physiotherapist went around and around on different points
of view about “Relativism.” Joe had developed a minor reputation
in this small community as a “relativist.”
[You may remember Joe as an occasional participant in the Talk-Back
From Katie in Buena Park, CA
Hi Gordon…First and foremost, I want you to know that it
STINKS and pains me to know of your trials with prostate cancer! I would
use stronger language but I promised myself that my vocabulary WAS going
to improve instead of letting it deteriorate to the level of my present
students..Delighted to receive your latest newsletter ...Your latest
“letter”—which I’ve read over and over again—makes
me stop and think about being raised in an absolutist environment all
these years, FINALLY “slamming on the brakes,” doing some
“wheelies” and [only then] comprehending what a relativist
sees. Planning on rereading prior issues again. Know I will see something
I didn’t see in earlier readings. Thanks.
From Diana in Pasadena, CA
I read this [“Is Truth Relative or Absolute?”—excerpt
from Life Ahead by Krishnamurti] and, of course, thought
of you… Best wishes.
From: Kwanmo in Los Angeles, CA; Bill in San Marino, CA; Michael in Downey,
Marilyn in Temple City, CA; Gustavo in Los Angeles, CA; Raquel in Pasadena,
Lisa in Altadena, CA; and Anna in Long Beach, CA
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