grist

 

Wednesday, July 31, 2002
He would tell me how exciting it was to put your ear against the belly of a sleeping she-goat. You could hear the milk coursing down to the udders, a secret sound no one but that poet of goats has been able to listen to.

I had thought this was from Roberto Calasso's The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, a tremendous book, and full of amazing writing and thinking about the gradual transition through myth of the early greeks through their process of civilizing and into the Roman age. I could not find it again (help! attentive reader! stop me before I kill again!).

What I like about this line is that it celebrates the persistence of uniqueness--in our age of endlessly replicating age of binaries, I think we crave the unique--we need to be reminded that a cast of light and a certain sense, or the variety in a moments smile is not all translatable--that it might be lost, or held only as memory. I ahve done some reading in the area of disappearing languages (Vanishing Voices—The Extinction of the World's Languages is very good), and I have been preoccupied by the untranslatable gaps, and the unique insights that lanugage can contain, and the implications of a world moving toward bad English as the standard. Despite the apocalyptic tone of some the language loss books, however, I think language is consistently and constantly re-inventing itself in fluid sub-populations (international businessmen, bloggers, SportsCenter watchers), and though I am likely to be dismissive of the insubstantiality of the unique insights getting generated, the processes are fascinating.



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