Friday, January 30, 2009

γνῶθι σεαυτόν

Who knows you better, you or your friends?

I've been thinking about this a good bit lately. Not too long ago, I had a conversation with two friends who seem to have a much higher view of me than I have of myself. Another friend has constantly been telling me I appraise myself wrongly (not just in one respect - pretty much every time I describe myself, he tells me that no, I'm another way).

The question was first: do my friends know me better than I know myself? But this question is too self-absorbed, too narrow, and hardly inspires genuine thought. So I widened it. For people in general (including you, dear reader) who knows someone better, the person himself, or his friends? I'd like to believe I know myself better, but acknowledge there are at least some ways in which I know virtually nothing about myself that others seem to understand quite well.

The question then becomes: if someone else knows you better than yourself, how do you come to understand yourself as well as they do?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I Have Been Wrong

This semester, I am taking Author Studies: Lewis and Tolkien, and am as a result re-reading The Magician's Nephew. This has led me to... discuss... rather thoroughly, how the correct order in which to read the books is in the order they were published, both because that was the order in which they were written and for various other reasons. However, I could not remember the correct order except that it began with The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and ended with The Last Battle, so I decided to search online. I received quite a shock when I read a letter Tolkien wrote to a young fan named Laurence (From C.S. Lewis's Letters to Children here, page 68). In it, he explains that he personally prefers the chronological order over the publishing order, and had no plan for revealing in any particular order. Thus, while I still prefer the original order and the effect it has on the reader, the chronological order is clearly the correct order. I was wrong. As such, I must make an effort now to argue just as heartily for the correct correct order just as fervently as I previously argued for what I had presumed was the correct order before, or admit myself to be a hypocrite. The only temperance I will put on this is that I must admit I still prefer the publishing order.

On another note altogether, I had forgotten how beautiful Lewis's writing is. I was moved nearly to tears by his account of the creation of Narnia.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Linguistics is Changing Me Already

This semester, I am taking a linguistics course. We had our class session today, and it is largely what I expected. What I did not expect was the effect that the class would so soon have on me.

We spent a reasonable amount of time in class talking about "teenage English," "Black English," and a couple of other dialects of the English language. Our professor was putting forth the idea (as did our readings) that these variants are in no way deficient or lesser than "good English," but simply operate under a different set of rules than the dialects we more commonly speak. I, being the troublesome student that I am, immediately set about trying to think of why this was wrong. Thankfully, I did not express this view in class, both because I would likely be accused of some degree of bigotry and small-mindedness, and because of where my thoughts led me.

I tried to explain (in my head) why it was that "Good English" (GE) was better than Ebonics. I could not claim that Ebonics does not have rules, because our professor clearly established that, written or not, every dialect has some form of rules. So I sought to find in what way Ebonics was derivative of GE, and then show how the derivation caused a sort of decay (a claim expressly denied in our reading for next class). I decided I would show this by pointing out that Ebonics has fewer rules. That is, one could insert GE language rules into any small phrase in Ebonics and it would be acceptable. Thus, Ebonics does not have different rules, but only allows for more deviation from the default. I became excited about being able to demonstrate this to a close friend, if not even in class, so great was my proof! I could show this clearly by expressing how, with the possible exception of vocabulary not used, an Ebonics speaker could understand a GE speaker clearly, even if he were unable to conform to the rules himself, while the GE speaker would not be able to understand Ebonics, nor to speak it. That's when it hit me:

Ebonics speakers are therefore more bilingual (or should I say bi-dialectical) than GE speakers, because they understand more speech. Even if I do not understand the speech, or resent its variation from GE, Ebonics speakers have a superior grasp of language because of this variation, even if only because they are forced to learn basic GE.

As one friend of mine might put it, my world just got a little bit bigger.