There is an old Yiddish saying that I quite like, and which is also quite wise: “Did your ears even hear what your mouth just said?”. It fits the circumstances of the New Normal, and it attests to a problem that Lewis Yablonsky described as “robopathy”.

Robopathy has been described as “the disease of our time”, and I suspect that the dozens and dozens of zombie movies (it has become a rather trite and tedious theme for filmmakers) is simply a commentary on robopathy and on what Marty Glass similarly called “our mutation into machinery” in his fine book Yuga: An Anatomy of Our Fate.

“Did you ears even hear what your mouth just said?” bears witness to a kind of automatism — of not being consciously present to ourselves or personally invested in the words we speak. That is certainly the case with what is described as “symbolic belief”, which is also a kind of automatism. So, in that phenomenon you can see why teachers of presence or “presentiation” emphasise “be here now”.

This is also true of Rosenstock-Huessy’s social philosophy and method where the emphasis shifts to the act of listening, as highlighted by his new formula “audi, ne moriamur” or conversely “respondeo etsi mutabor“: “Listen lest we die!” or “I give answer, although I will be changed”. The shift here is from the act of thinking (cogito, ergo sum) to the primacy of listening, for we must first have learned to listen effectively before we can learn to think effectively. This approach, too, is consistent and compatible with the new emphasis on the primacy of the field, for it is the ear, rather than the eye, that takes in the field.

The new emphasis on the primacy of listening and speaking over thinking is reflected, also, in works like J. Samuel Bois’ The Art of Awareness, or Borisoff and Purdy’s Listening in Everyday Life. The former is influenced by Alfred Korzybski’s General Semantics and the latter largey by Jean Gebser’s cultural philosophy. We should also point out physicist David Bohm’s interest in and promotion of Bohmian dialogue as the implementation of his rheomode of thinking to social practice. This is not without significance for the kinds of developments that are arising in the midst of the chaos of the “new normal”.

After all, looking for the signal in the noise begins with effective listening.

Rosenstock-Huessy’s grammatical method is, as much as anything, a philosophy of listening as much as speech and speaking, and opening the “doors of perception”, as Blake called it, as much involves the ear as it does the eye. “Those with ears to hear let them hear…” attests to the fact that real listening is more than simply hearing and that the imparting of vital truth comes first via the ear rather than the eye. Effective listening accomplishes more for our sense of being than even thinking. But we often rush our children into reading, thinking, and literacy even before we have understood the necessity of instructing them in effective listening.

The same may be said of Jung’s archetypal psychology. Jung had first to become an effective listener before he could become an effective psychotherapist. And if so many are suckers for propaganda in these dreadful times, it’s largely because they are not effective listeners.

If, today, there is a major problem of the inauthentic, the insincere, and the ungenuine — a problem also of mere lip-service and merely “mouthing the words” — it is largely because our ears do not hear what our mouth is saying. We are not present and not personally invested in our own speech acts. Learning to listen effectively is the cure for robopathy, and for learning presence and how to be truly present. Rosenstock-Huessy describes the art of listening as also the art of “self-forgetting”. This is quite true of any authentic listening and so is also the corrective to today’s excess of self-interest and narcissism, let alone the cognitive dissonance of the New Normal.

Maybe, for a change, we should be emphasising “free listening” over our obsession with free speech, and recognising the rights of the ear as much, or moreso, than the rights of the mouth and the big mouth.

In any event, this new emphasis on listening, and the primacy of effective listening over thinking is also part of the post-Cartesian paradigm shift, and it is also just natural and common sense. We are listeners to the world as infants ever before we are its observers or thinkers.

This is also, by the way, implicit in Nietzsche’s idea of “joyful wisdom” or “gay science” — that thinking should be like dance. It presupposes that one can hear the music — like Rumi did.


4 responses to “Robopaths”

  1. Yeffen Ray says :

    Concatenation is an action on entrainment for turnings and settings; the wide quantum field as it transcends the quantum field is always turning and setting as constraining corporeal process for existence in a macrocosm. The sun baths the earth in radiance by half while the other half is in darkness: this succession is corporeal constraint by the composition in the macrocosm.

    Why the succession of turnings and settings for constructing biological constraint in living cellular structures or organic composition in contrast with inanimate articulations from quanta articulations of symbiotic, rhythmic energy?

    The plant kingdom mines the mineral kingdom so the animal kingdom receives propagation with all of the elements in the periodic table which utilize the contrast between animate/inanimate concatenation, conforming creation as imminent, conveying the words just said to you by your own mouth… your brain has no choice about whether it should think today – it’s automatic behind the turnings and settings or how is every pathway elliptical?

    (This is how you are deriving the term “robopath”.)

  2. Yeffen Ray says :

    Pre-imminent, imminent, post-imminence
    What is it made from~so then, a line or specific line
    such as an ellipse, what is it made from? What is the derivitive of an elipse?
    derivative of an ellipse
    epistemological system of discourse

    As far as we know, humankind can invent all objects; what is every object made from?

    We need to deal with the fact our physical senses (human) are void of the physical sense to directly detect a quanta of energy at the smallest range of open space… This question surmounts the one above!

  3. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Has Listening Become a Lost Art? [via Keenan Malik]

    There are a couple of other tasty morsels there as well.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Especially regarding tone, which dovetails nicely with Murphy’s piece on the art of listening. We speak often of “the Voice,” but rarely is tone of voice even mentioned.

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