Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's Greener

I will declare that it is elemental to human nature to strive to possess something other than what you already have or to exist in a state other than your present situation.  Of course there are exceptions to this rule, individuals who are ‘being’ just for the precise moment and uninhibited by social constructs.  However, for the sake of argument, most people are indefinitely seeking a greener grass, a lawn where upon their arrival seems rather brown and not nearly as luscious as that yard several houses further down.  I for one am guilty of this dogged nature, living forever an hour or two down the line, planning how to make the next moment absolutely perfect and inevitably elevating my expectations to an unattainable height. 
I’ve found though, that language can in fact offer an implicit hope—though language does not promise to rain upon a desert land, it can in its own right shed a different kind of light so that at least the barren ground beneath your feet is cool enough to traverse.  I’m thinking of two linguistic examples in particular when I suggest that language provides hope.  Both examples are grounded in the verb avoir (“to have”).  Think for a minute, that which you “have” in the English language: you’ll “have” a coffee; you “have to” go.  It expresses a need or a possession.  In French its usage is much the same but in certain cases, instead of ‘being’ you will use ‘having’.  “J’ai tres faim” means directly translated, “I have hunger.”  Similarly, “J’ai peur” means directly translated, “I have fear.”  Obviously in English these statements make no sense because in English hunger and fear are states of being not items to be possessed.  Why does this grammatical structure shed a shade of hope on a condition?  Because if something is had it can also be lost; it is much more difficult to misplace an abstract concept like what it is ‘to be’.  Hasn’t the question of ‘not being’ been contemplated yet left unanswered since the 1500s (come on Shakespeare fans)?  Loss on the other hand, is associated with tangible objects.  Of course one can ‘experience’ loss—i.e. the loss of a family member—but the experience of the act of losing (the act of losing being the death; the experience being the emotions afterward) is yet separate from the moment of loss.  The loss of a person precipitates certain emotional states which have become defined as loss in the course of linguistic developments.  In fact, subsequent emotions are separate from the moment of loss, at which point a thing or person is passing from our realm of possession, be it through the grates in the sewage drain (as with keys) or the golden gates in the sky (the cat). 
“To be hungry” and “to be afraid” suggests certain durability—that is how you are.  To have these things is not pleasant but at least there is an implication that one day they may be discarded.  The language suggests one has control over his or her own poverty and anxiety, much more so than in the English language.  Of course, I’m not by any stretch of the imagination trying to suggest that an abstract concept like language (the arbitrary construction of symbols that create sound which provoke meaning to be melded into ideas) be the remedy for hunger and fear.  However, I will suggest that language can allow for a certain positive outlook which may encourage one to cultivate his/her own garden instead of running immediately to the neighbor’s only to find the tomatoes have been eaten by the squirrels.

On another note, another thing the French [youth, at least] have a lot of is affinity for the idea that 9/11 was a conspiracy by the US government.  Feel free to deliberate in my comments section.
Feel free also to leave me messages of love.



  2. I think that had a tinge of scholarly rhetoric. I really like where your headed with this idea.

    The fact that french youth feel this way does not shock me. it is probably a common feeling among most youthful populations across the world. The view of the US from the eyes of foreigners, is indeed, much different than ours.

  3. And I suppose "to be" or "to have", it is what it is (except for those squirrels). And I love you.

  4. ahem missy, if you're going to give up facebook, i insist on some blogging.