Friday, August 13, 2010

Tools or Words?

I tend to pay attention to synchronicity, which is to say that when recurring images or thoughts, phrases, songs, personages, situations, nouns, verbs, physical traits or other ephemera repeat themselves within range of my seven senses, I take note. Lately, there seems to be a debate, indeed a reengagement of a conversation about what makes homo sapien the dominant species on planet earth.

The two sides are quite simply: language or tools. Now obviously the answer is -- both! But that does not settle the argument, at least not in the academic circles of this circular universe. Today I encountered the following logic: when archeologists search for meaning in ancient human settlements besides human remains (bones) we typically look at cultural artifacts. Artifacts being the stuff we made. We made this stuff with tools, which are considered a higher order of artifact because they are created in order to create other things. With the exception of some primates and a few birds, we have no observable evidence of other species using tools and obsoletely none of any other animal creating a Sears catalog to desseminate their tools.

Now the language folks would point out that an even higher order of artifact is the written word in the form of books, scrolls, tablets, cave paintings and even remnants in oral traditions. I would add that when one of our historic or pre-historic ancestors innovated and build a better hammer or mousetrap; the culture was more likely to be transformed or paradigm shifted when the caveguy next door could come over and say: "How'd ya do dat?"

I brought this up because in a skype conversation last night, one of my younger but wiser friends offered that language itself is an artifact but whether it is higher or lower order is really irrelevant particularly because the discussion is taking place in language, which makes words both mundane and sacred to us and perhaps the debate ---- well . . . academic?

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