Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wendell Berry on Language

From Wendell Berry's Community by Anne Husted Burleigh

How is understanding of the Incarnate Word essential to our understanding of the relationship of language and truth?
I believe that we have to try to make our words faithful to reality. Language has to maintain its power of reference to actual things, and everything depends on that power of reference and that community of knowledge, or else the word doesn’t get out.
In our age, people don’t have common understanding of the same words.
That makes for considerable difficulties, especially if they don’t talk carefully with one another. It is always good to talk with people who understand things differently from your way, but that requires careful talk. Any common effort obviously requires careful talk.
If we believe that words do refer to reality and our words have to be true, we still have to communicate with those who have accepted individualism and subjectivism. They operate on the premise that words really don’t mean anything except what the individual wants them to mean. Can we bridge that gap?
No. All one can do is speak as truly and clearly as one can. I think one’s abilities to correct anything are limited. It is important to know what the limits of your abilities are. A person can make a difference within a fairly small boundary. Not very many people can change very much.
They can’t change the world, but they can change their little corner of the world.
Well, I know that you can improve a few acres. You can take good care of a few acres. Your ability to take care of other humans is more limited than your ability to take care of an acreage simply because humans, in the main, would rather take care of themselves.


(there's a lot more, but I don't have books in front of me. More on this soon.)

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