Who are you?

Author: joe

Tuesday, 02 November, 2010 - 21:15

- on a mighty entreaty.

We are called into society by a mighty entreaty, "Who art thou, man, that I should care for thee?" And long before our intelligence can help us, the new-born individual survives this tremendous question by his naive faith in the love of his elders. We grow into society on faith, listening to all kinds of human imperatives. Later we stammer and stutter, nations and individuals alike, in the effort to justify our existence by responding to the call. We try to distinguish between the many tempting offers made to our senses and appetites by the world. We wish to follow the deepest question, the central call which goes straight to the heart, and promises our soul the lasting certainty of being inscribed in the book of life.
Modern man no longer believes in any certainty of existence on the strength of abstract reasoning. Yet he is dedicated, heart and soul, to man's great fight against the decay of creation. He knows that his whole life will have to be an answer to the call. The short formula which we have proposed ... may be of some use to condense our whole endeavour into a sort of quintessence: "respondeo etsi mutabor" - I respond although I will be changed ...
We are swimmers in a buoyant and everlasting medium. The dawn of creation is upon us, and we await our question, our specific mandate, in the silence of the beginnings of time. When we have learned to listen to the question and serve towards its solution, we have advanced to a new day.
I am an Impure Thinker by Eugene Rosenstock-Huessy

I love this writer's existential Christian mysticism, even though I shrink form quoting lines about God. Immediately preceding the paragraphs above, Rosenstock-Huessy writes, in refutation of Descartes' exaltation of pure thought in "cogito ergo sum", "We do not exist because we think. Man is the son of God and not brought into being by thinking." But we are called into existence through the calling, the hailing of the world. The words it uses are formed from senses and appetites, imperatives and offers: "who are you?"

With these entreaties the world inserts itself between the mother and child, the individual is formed, and the melancholic yearning begins - for the Other to care for me, a care that manifests itself in the specific question the world asks of us. Central to Rosenstock-Huessy's "metanomic" approach to understanding the world is that dialogic interplay between the self and the "superhuman power" that precedes and interrogates it. We do not discover the world, it addresses us. We do not know the world, we respond to it. We don't just be, we change.

I'm trying to start to form an outline of the gap - the "abyss of nothingness" which separates knowledge from the world, language from reality, consciousness from being. For Rosenstock-Huessy the gap is bridged by speech itself, co-constituting world and self. "Speech conquers all the disintegrations and fissions which abound in nature and of which death is the most drastic form." I don't know if I advance to the new day of speech conquering death, but I do like the thought that the gulf disappears in the dialogue of calling and responding, hailing and hearing, addressing and answering.

Categories: Eugene Rosenstock-Huessy, dialogue, speech,
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