Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It was been hot this past weekend, almost as bad as that one week in April. When we got some rain in March, the hills to the east of Milpitas were rather green. Greener than I had ever seen for a long time. Now they are browning rapidly. We don't have a problem with hillside fires here in the South Bay, but over in Oakland and Berkeley there will probably be regular fire alerts, as usual. What can be done about California? Not much, I would guess.

California's broken system for water delivery

The statewide special election is this coming Tuesday today. Don't forget to vote! I almost did. I should drop by Trader Joe's afterwards. I think I'll be following Michael Shedlock's recommendations.

Today the priest's homily mentioned friendship, and the etymological link of friend to the old English word for "love," just as there is a link in Greek between philos and philia. I didn't write the word down, but according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it is freogan. I think it is safe to say that we have lost the awareness of this connection. Most of us associate friend with the first two kinds of friendship listed by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics. We have a more self-centered view of friendship; often it's about my emotional needs, if not the shared good that the friends seek. How many of us have show the virtue of loyalty by making an effort to maintain friendship? While we may have some affection for our friends, we do not make the friendship a priority.

This sort of linguistic associations between words can provide a community with a deposit of wisdom, even if it is not fully realized in philosophical or theological reflection and the mastery of definitions. They would continually invite the intellectually curious to think about these connections. (I believe this underscores the importance of language to culture and philosophy -- and how one does not begin philosophy in a vacuum, but by first reflecting upon what one already knows, as it is mediated through language.)

Is it possible that some worldviews are more limited than others because of the languages upon which they depend are different, and as means of conveying reality differ in their "effectiveness" or "fullness"? (What does the example of Brazil's Pirahă Tribe reveal to us about human language and knowledge?)


Last week, I was observing how check-out clerks at supermarkets behave. I couldn't help but think that young people these days receive more training in manners from supervisors and those who are training them than from their parents. It is as if large segments of the population did not receive their How to Parent books. Politeness "never goes out of style." For how much longer will the South be able to retain this valuable part of their culture?

If very few members of a society behave in accordance with certain norms, wouldn't we say that those norms are not a part of their culture? If [moral] culture does not exist except in individuals (and their behavior), and a society does not observe certain norms of etiquette (or anything comparable), isn't that society less civilized than one that does? And if these norms are followed by certain minority within that society, but not by the majority, do they share the same culture? Not really. They may have the same heritage, the same stories and artefacts, but with respect to what really counts -- moral (or humane?) culture -- the answer seems to be no.

And so: What impact does a divergence in culture within the same community have on identity?

Begun on May 17.

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