I am deeply grateful for the writing and teaching of Ursula Le Guin, who I just learned has passed away on Monday. Here’s a favourite passage:
„They don’t have any representative arts. They decorate their pottery and whatever else they make only with their beautiful writing. The only way they imitate the world is by putting words together: that is, by letting words interrelate in a fertile, ever-changing complexity to form shapes and patterns that have never existed before, beautiful forms that exist briefly and create and give way to other forms. Their language is their own exuberant, endlessly proliferating ecology. All the jungle they have, all the wilderness, is their poetry.“
– “The Nna Mmoy Language”, Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018)
“The guitarist was absolutely killing it last night!”
What a chauvinistic, machistic way to express our amazement at a beautiful or skilled performance. Sure, we who have previously used that phrase (myself included) have done so unthinkingly, but words reflect a culture, and those there reflect one of male dominance and power. As if a great performance somehow was the last word to be said about something! On the contrary: Art is the infinite game. A superb performance enables new feelings, new thought, new possibilities. It raises expectations in the best way possible, and so sets new standards. It adds life to something that was somehow less alive before it – a whole tradition sometimes, or even just one listener’s experience. But words can also change a culture, so if we have to give words to our awe, let them reflect that joy. I don’t have a really good substitute yet but until then, can’t the next genius just absolutely reanimate it, revive it, birth it?
Subscribe to the blog and sign up for the newsletter where I share thoughts, essays and materials related to the blog once or twice per month.