A grammar of being
Is it useful to speak in terms of a grammar of thinking, feeling and believing? And since these all determine behaviour, a grammar of being, a grammar of how we are in the world?
Wikipedia says about grammar :
Native speakers of a language have a set of internalized rules for using that form of speech. This rule set constitutes the grammar. The vast majority of the information in the grammar is — at least in the case of one’s native language — acquired not by conscious study or instruction but by hearing other speakers. Much of this work is done during early childhood; learning a language later in life usually involves a greater degree of explicit instruction. Thus, grammar is the cognitive information underlying language use.
In the same way, as children we acquire a set of internalised rules about what are and are not appropriate feelings, thoughts and beliefs — and how they are ordered.
Again, we learn this at a very early age, before we are conscious of the fact that we are learning it, mostly by seeing and hearing how others express or don’t order their feelings and what and how they think and believe, and how this becomes the way that they are being in the world. It is as if we absorb the order which we perceive in the world in which we find ourselves, we internalise it and this internal order seems ‘natural’ to us. We don’t really question it. It is as if it is part of our cognitive system.
So the work is like learning a different language, but it is also like learning a new grammar, and unlearning the old grammar. But it is more than this and this is why it is useful to think about the work as a form of deconstruction, in the sense that Jackie used the term. Because we have to closely examine and read the very fabric of the material out of which we have constructed our cognitive systems, our belief systems, the way we deal with our feelings, not only what we think and feel and believe but the way we order our thoughts, feelings and beliefs. We read not only for what is present, but for what is absent. We look for irregularities, we feel for bumps, for little holes, and tears in the fabric. Where it is necessary and appropriate we repair, but in other places we unravel and disentangle, and at times we rip it to shreds and we rage and scream and cry as the full magnitude of the realisation that all that exists at the very fundaments of our being has been put there, not by a malicious or malevolent other but by a process of osmosis. And we are not guilty. We are ashamed for no good reason. We did not make ourselves. And for the most part we were not made by others. Each one of us was formed in response and in relation to what was happening around us before we were conscious.
In this work of deconstruction, of examining and where necessary disentangling, unravelling, unfolding the fabric of our so called selves, each one of us has to come apart quite literally at the seams and perhaps in other places as well and here it is useful to have the assistance of an other. It is preferable if that other is at least a little further in the work of disentanglement of themselves but nevertheless it is a collaboration because in helping others disentangle we disentangle our selves.
And it is a work of love.
ah the work.
there is so much one could say about this work, but what is needed actually is to do it.
I call it ‘work’ although it’s not how I earn a living and I do not charge a fee for the work. My time is not for sale, but it is work: it takes time and energy, it is often difficult and I have to be available to do it, no matter what.
I work with people who want to work, collaboratively, individually and collectively on the de-centering of the self. The idea of the self as an entity which is at the centre is suffused in how we think of our selves, what we are, and how others are and what we do. It is in every nook and cranny of our culture, including and especially language, education, philosophy, politics — and in the way the world is organised.
but first you must clearly see the need to do this work
and sometimes you’ll see it and sometimes you don’t.
perhaps you see the need to do this work most clearly when you are desperate or in despair, when you are afraid and trembling, when you are full of doubt.
oh ok. some people like names : kierkegaard … there you go. happy now?
i could mention the name of a philosopher here but why? it is not important who said what and when. that is a distraction. what matters now is who is speaking and whether you’re listening.
and that here, now someone is listening to you, really listening.
here is a previous version of the page about this work, which links to other pages — or just have a look around my website and/or read my book to get an idea of the kinds of things i am thinking and talking and writing about and listening to or waiting for — and get in touch if you want to arrange to meet up for a talk.