Red Shoulder Hawk

Red Shoulder Hawk

Monday, March 20, 2006

New Language

"Daddy, you've been talking about the class for an hour and you still haven't told me anything!"

"Of course I have."

"No, you told me about how they model each part of the class on natural cycles like the harvest cycle, but you haven't given me anything concrete that you've learned."

Language creates reality. If you've ever seen instructions for an electronic device in other languages, you've noticed that German instructions are short, like English, while other langauges' instructions are lengthy. It's not a translation issue. A French poem translated into English is lengthy and boring. Why has our consumptive culture gotten into a runaway feedback loop? Because English is the language of Things. We name a thing, and talk about it. Nouns are hugely important in English.

Permaculture borrows the Algonkian language structure: Verbs rule. It's the relationships that get discussed. I realized that I had already adopted this language structure as I told Caitlan about how the principles of permaculture were being used to teach the class: everything gardens, and so all the students are teachers, too, for example. Each segment of the class is modeled in the breath, an expansion and contraction that results in a net positive gain of some sort. We are using our bodies, our minds, and our relationships with the other classmates and teachers, as well as our relationship to food and the natural world and also our connection with the larger community, to discover the principles of permaculture design.

That's why Caitlan felt like I hadn't told her anything: She's waiting for the reductionist, Western, block-by-block language so she can put the information into her brain. However, permaculture needs a brand new set of neuron connections, based on relationships, not things, in order to be accurately expressed.

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