The influence of language on the experience of form and being

Martin Heidegger was mentioned in the first Book Study video. It turns out, he was born today, September 26, 131 years ago, in 1889. I thought this deserves a post here.
“The sky skies the sky.” - not sure if this is something Heidegger said or if Andrew was referring to Nietzsche. Anyhow, he did supposedly say: “Die Sprache ist das Haus des Seins.”, ie. language is the house of being. I think it was Richard Bandler, one of the founders of NLP who said that language puts a grid over your thinking. With German as my native tongue and very good knowledge of the English language, I can confirm that. Depending on which language I use, I think differently. Who can relate to that and has some more specific examples of how language influences thinking and being?


Great topic with lots of perspective paths to follow. Given the times we live in I can’t help thinking of “1984” (Orwell) with all the implications of Newspeak and today’s social media battles over language and perceptions.

My first awareness of this topic was when I found out the US Department of War was renamed The Department of Defense after WW2. I’ve often been cognizant of how groups and institutions name and rename things to promote one idea or another, often with deep twists. Consider the irony of The Noble Peace Prize named for the man who invented dynamite, or the Japanese use of the term Comfort Women to refer to tens of thousands of Chinese and Korean women forced into prostitution during the 1930s until the end of WW2.

There was an interesting Science Fiction book a while back called The Languages of Pao (Vance) in which a subjugated planet had certain new terms and language introduced that led to the eventual overthrow of the ruling invaders.


I’m no linguist, but to pose an obvious example: I speak a reasonable amount of Spanish and have lived in Spain. An American says, “I am hungry” as if this is an immutable identity, like you’ve turned into a pillar of some tangible thing called “hunger.” A Spaniard says, “Yo tengo hambre,” or “I have hunger.” These are fantastically different psychologies, and it’s not hard to pick out the more materialist – or as AH would say, “reified.”


I was a newspaper and magazine writer for many years, along with various kinds of creative writing. And I see now that my whole life was about setting traps with language, mostly for myself. I got paid to overheat language to where it was burning everything it touched. Well, the karma of that didn’t wait until the next life to catch up with me!

For the past year I’ve been working with an excellent Buddhist therapist. She keeps opening the fire extinguisher on my language. Constant intensity of language is unhealthy. I mean, vivid prose is good, but I like to blast holes in consensus reality with extreme and frequently violent hyperbole. I find that the less I draw upon that wonderful old King James Bible fire and brimstone invective, the less I feel those flaming shards of karmic blowback burning my shirt sleeves.


Who are some of the authors or works of fiction/non-fiction that you favor? I find that sometimes the literature we read informs the way we write, as well.

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Oh, I was way on the tail end of the gonzo journalism thing – rock critic for the daily newspaper in Boulder, but Hunter Thompson was still around and I had connections to him a couple of different ways, so… fortunately, I managed to absorb some Buddhism while I was there and after a very long tug of war, it seems to have prevailed! But I don’t think the wildness in the air was the problem. The problem was that I fell for my own words because I thought words were reality. Or I went to the other string and I thought they were just completely meaningless.

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Sounds like you have reached a reasonable resting space (gap) between two extremes. What’s next?

One posses hunger, the other defines itself as hunger. Both bring it all back to “I”.

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