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A Reply to Burl Hall's Nostalgic Article "Can a Verb Based Language Bring Peace to the Planet?"

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storycon.org Headlined to H2 4/5/15

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Originally Published on OpEdNews

Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) April 5, 2015: Burl Hall has published a deeply nostalgic article at OpEdNews.com that I find deeply problematic for several reasons: "Can a Verb Based Language Bring Peace to the Planet?" (dated April 4, 2015).

My reply to the question he poses in the title is, "No."

Burl Hall mentions David A. Cooper's book GOD IS A VERB: KABBALAH AND THE PRACTICE OF MYSTICAL JUDAISM (1997).

Fine. I have no problem with thinking of God as a verb.

However, in the English language, the verb in Cooper's title is "IS."

President Bill Clinton famously said something about the meaning of "is."

I discuss forms of the copulative verb "to be" in my book WALTER ONG'S CONTRIBUTIONS TO CULTURAL STUDIES: THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF THE WORD AND I-THOU COMMUNICATION (rev. ed., 2015, pages 14, 15). I discuss briefly the history of the verb "to be" and the efforts to replace forms of "to be" with action verbs -- the efforts to advance so-called E-Prime (short for English-Prime).

MY CENTRAL CONCERN

But my central concern with Burl Hall's deeply nostalgic article does not center on his title referring to verb-based language.

Nor do I have any problem with the idea of God's immanence in all of the cosmos or in individual persons.

Nor do I have any problem with acknowledging various mystical traditions.

Basically, my central concern with Burl Hall's nostalgic article centers on his use of examples from primary oral cultures and residual forms of primary oral cultures.

 

The American Jesuit cultural historian and theorist Walter J. Ong (1912-2003) describes people in primary oral cultures as having a world-as-event sense of life.

According to Ong, people in residual forms of primary oral cultures such as ancient and medieval cultures in Western culture continued to have a world-as-event sense of life.

In the book THE SPELL OF THE SENSUOUS: PERCEPTION AND LANGUAGE IN A MORE-THAN-HUMAN WORLD (1996), David Abram offers a phenomenological account of the world-as-event sense of life that Ong describes.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)
 

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