Monday, November 21, 2011

Formal Language And Poetic Language


We all use language every single day. We can't get around it. We must speak to one another.

But how do we speak to one another? Do we do it along the normal lines, saying 'hello', 'goodbye', and 'I'm good, thanks.'

Or do we break that formula?

Do you say 'Oh, I'm doing well, but I'm having a very strange day because of such and such?'

In short, I'm asking you: do you use language in the formal, predetermined, scripted sense? Or do you venture beyond the scripts and use language to express yourself?

Do you use language formally, or do you use it poetically?

I think my professional work makes me very sensitive to this issue.

Because baristas, more often than not, experience language in formal ways. People say hi, you ask how they are, they might express interest, they might no5, and then they order something. Then you both move on, a few minutes closer to dying.

Customer service work exposes you to language at its most formal. Economic systems have the potential to make language so formal, so utilitarian.

But I refuse to give in.

I was watching Heidegger speak last night. Because lately I'm too tired to read, so I just watch philosophers speak instead.

Heidegger talks about the transformation of language going on in the 20th century. That in our normal life we use a type of technical language. We use normal understandings, scripts to speak with. We say 'hi how are you', 'oh I'm fine, thanks for asking'.

You don't give a fuck about how I am. We don't give a fuck about each other. Stop dicking around. We will never penetrate the economic definition of this moment. But thanks for sticking to the polite script. Now I'll explode. Thanks.

Adorno, too, discusses this. He says that all language is coming to resemble the formality of hello and goodbye.

In essence, that scripts are coming to dominate our speech. We struggle to use language as an instrument of expression. Instead, language dominates us. It traps us in its scripts, in its easy usages.

The truth is, however, that language can be used in ways that are far more exciting than this.

And Heidegger called those uses of language 'poetic'. As soon as we use language to talk about relationships, about emotions, about anything beyond formal or economically defined things, we enter the realm of the poetic.

This issue, the issue of language as both formal and poetic, is what I'm really after in all my reading and writing on aesthetics.

Because these politicians, the ones I see on TV, they seem to be using language in formal ways. They seem to cling to simplistic rhetoric.

Oh, the true aestheticization of politics awaits definition.

But, god dammit, can we please stop being so afraid of poetic/expressive language?

Fuck formality.

This is serious.

This is unique.

Our lives are novel and frightening.

We need a language worthy of our experiences.

That is, a language that is exciting and poetic.

We all have novel lives.

And we need novel language to communicate these lives.

Because I'm not 'fine'.

And I don't want you to tell me you are 'fine'.



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