We Go Forth to Wonder —-


Men go forth to wonder at the heights of mountains, 

the huge waves of the sea,

the broad flow of the river,

the vast compass of the ocean,

the courses of the stars;

and they pass by themselves without wondering. 


—  St. Augustine,  Confessions, Book X, ch. 8

Sketch, Dan Taibbi's blog, Faked Disco Threads

And yet, what on this planet is the most mysterious thing of all?

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This entry was posted in Etcetera, Nature, Quotes, Wisdom, Wonderings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to We Go Forth to Wonder —-

  1. I wonder all the time…

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  2. Rebekah says:

    I wonder too … and think of the Mencken-quotation…

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  3. tms says:

    Though I would not know about ‘most mysterious’, I always marvel at languages.

    I am told that one of the first questions I asked upon visiting Greece at age six was ‘why people talk so funny’. Later in life I did not only learn that ‘et verba et arma vulnerant’ (both words and arms can harm) but also that when I try to speak ‘as funny’ people actually understand and react accordingly. You enter a different world, speak as they speak … and even if it is only a few words of the other language there will be rapport.

    More often than not speaking ‘their’ language will earn you a smile.

    And that’s the basic reason for my lifelong fascination with language/s. Somehow, I always feel like saying: “It works! Isn’t that marvellous?”

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      This is a wonderful account and a MOST STIMULATING comment for me.
      I too LOVE languages, I think I always have — but have never understood why. As far as I got was their sounds — each language’s different from another. It seems to give different personalities to the people who speak it from those who speak mine!
      This is such a fine description of the “how” of language — you saw it in action from childhood. Yes, it works!!!!!!

      From a more adult perspective, I had (and have) this vague but strong sense of a “genius” of language, and each language has its own. You can say certain things differently and better in one than in another. French, Spanish, Italian — the languages of romance (although each with its own special genius). German, so strong, precise, clear and unyielding — science. (Although Cologne speech is actually soft —) English is rich in metaphor and colorful, but not the least beautiful to the ear.
      And then I became obsessed/enchanted with Japanese, which works so differently from other languages! So unclear, so purposefully vague, so uninflected to the ear — the woman fluting like blackbirds, the men growling like big cats — Its grammatical structure FORCES the listener to pay complete attention to the speaker or they will not get the meaning — which is withheld until the very end of a sentence —

      It IS an amazing world, a world of wonders, and human language not the least among them.

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  4. fb says:

    Language. That is the ultimate human gift or talent. No other living species can do it in that full and specific way. And this is what makes us what we are.

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  5. fb says:

    Yes. And that other matter I shall refer to as the T Word. One hundred and forty five characters! That’s it, and we claim to speak the language of Shakespeare, for heaven’s sake! Samuel Morse’s dot and dash wouldn’t have made my personal Hit Parade either!

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  6. Stef says:

    Hmm…. I was asked to comment, so here are my $.02. 😉

    I also adore languages, particularly the languages that sound wonderful to the ear (i.e., French, Italian…). However, I also believe in the power of nonverbal language as well; in fact, sometimes the most powerful language a person can speak is a well-placed touch, or a perfect look. I fancy myself well-versed in written and spoken word, and have been known to be able to make my way in second and third languages, too (French, Spanish, a wee bit of German) – and yet, sometimes, words simply cannot express the true meaning of a situation, relationship, or connection point. Sometimes, the only language that *really* works is the domain of the nonverbal. And in this space, *all* creatures can play (sometimes non-human animals do this infinitely better than us bipeds).

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  7. I’ve had some editing done recently to some of my writing. One by a friend (by request), one by a blog-commenter (who apparently knew better than I ever would about many things). Both made suggestions of words I should change, phrases to delete. But as much as I appreciate a good adjustment of grammar or a constructive critique, I gasp at the thought of changing words! “If you change that word, you don’t understand she is too smart to be with him in the first place!” I want to yell in defense of my heroine. “If I spell the word correctly, you miss the point that I don’t really speak French and am still surviving a two-week road trip!” I want to remind the blog-commenter. We forget sometimes that every word you read was put there with a purpose. Kind of makes you…wonder!

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      I KNEW you were passionate about words!
      Thanks for an illuminating comment, Jen.
      I wear a writer’s hat, and I wear an editor’s hat, and I wear a proofreader’s hat — and all three of my hats are jumping up and waving their little hands (as it were) wanting to get a word in —
      What all three would like is to settle in with a hot chocolate and a croissant and you and bounce this around for a couple of hours. (They often don’t agree with each other, and there’s no reason to think the four of us would agree any better, but I bet we’d have fun in the process.)
      How’s this for a thought, though: wonder… is where a writer begins —

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  8. jakesprinter says:

    Great writing and poem too !truly motivational thanks for sharing 🙂

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  9. Rebekah says:

    Coming back to this post, because I find the comments extremely interesting.

    After eight years of speaking my second language — and perhaps even more so after my recent trip back home — I sometimes wonder; do I come across as the same person speaking English, as I do speaking Swedish?! There are times when I doubt it.

    I’ve had my English corrected a few times online … sometimes openly, other times, in a more subtle manner. That’s only to be expected, I guess *shrug*, but I ask myself; ‘What’s more important: To communicate or to be grammatically correct?!

    All questions with no answer, only my own reflections.

    What I wanted to say is that the English language is a great gift to the world, that we use as best as we can every day in our communications. I’m thankful that my own country gave me a good English-education.

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      Rebekah, there’s NOTHING that makes me quite so happy as having a conversation develop like this — so thank you for returning and joining in.

      There can be a kind of charm when a foreign speaker speaks English. There can be a freshness, unusual turns of phrase, even of grammar, a different way of saying something that — even though it’s perfectly understandable, you still feel like you’re hearing it for the first time. So correcting someone’s English is tricky — something can be lost. But, of course, something can also be gained, as the ultimate goal (I’m assuming) is not charm but clarity, to communicate clearly.

      Interesting that in my lifetime (which admittedly, and gratefully, is long), English has become the first language of the world. It wasn’t when I was born. French still held that position, certainly diplomatically. German was on top in science and scholarship, especially art history and criticism. Now the joke is that English is the lingua franca of the world — itself a harking back to the time when LATIN was the only universally understood language, and France was in the ascendency.

      But I still love French, and since it’s my blog I’m gonna indulge myself with a French proverb that’s useful to remember:
      tout passe, tout lasse, tout casse. Which means, in the current top dog language, everything ends, everything wears out, everything breaks. Even us. But meanwhile, let’s rejoice in EVERY language!

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      • Rebekah says:

        «tout passe, tout lasse, tout casse»
        oh, I’ll agree to that! Nothing as sad as when the last speaker of a language dies or an animal species…

        bonne journée 🙂

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        • Touch2Touch says:

          Until this very moment reading your comment I didn’t understand the sadness when an animal species — even a tiny insect one — dies out. But when you set it in this context, I do understand. Thank you.

          BTW, for what it’s worth, I think that you probably are a somewhat different person, or at rate, come across as a somewhat different person, when you speak English rather than Swedish. (I don’t mean the personal you, I mean anyone speaking a second language who is anything less than TOTALLY fluent in both. Differences in sophistication, ease of expression, maturity of thought, complexity and nuance: for openers.)

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      • Stef says:

        J’adore ce proverbe! Tres bien, Madame Judith! 🙂

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  10. tms says:

    In face of the above comments, two incidents come to mind.

    I am well aware that many TV productions made the phrase “Jawohl, Herr Hauptmann” quite popular, and I am also aware that this is to be spoken with a harsh German accent. So I was totally knocked off my feet when an American friend told me that my English was fine but my German accent was, actually, quite charming. I’d never had thought of a German accent in combination with “charming”.

    And about who we are — I think you are right, Judith: When it came to write a master’s thesis in the US, my Professer told me that he wanted me “at my intellectual best”, and that I should thus write the thesis in German (it was about Thomas Bernhard, so using my native language was quite appropriate, I think).

    Just my EUR 0,02 — for whatever they’re worth today…

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      Well, your EUR 0,02 are worth more than the US equivalent — *laugh*
      but in any event to me your comments are priceless. They give me another angle from which to view life, what could be better than that!
      Dankeschoen! Thank You — Gracias — Obrigado — Arigato — Merci. (Look at the differences in sight, sound, nuance of even that string of synonyms.)

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  11. John Weeren says:

    Asked to join the discussion, here are my three cents. I’m feeling generous. 😉

    Language is only a means to communicate meaning. Without meaning, language is meaningless. People can use a lot of words, leaving us asking: “What are they really saying?” Meaning in itself is wordless. What we try to do is use a code of expressions and symbols to convey that meaning. In putting meaning into message a lot of meaning can be lost in translation. Sometimes to truly understand someone, we have to look past meaning, for example when someone who loves us teasingly says: “Oh, I hate you!” We know they are just kidding. So, for me, meaning is the candy bar and words are just the wrapper.

    I do love language a lot but only if there is meaning behind it. If I had to choose between language or meaning, I’d prefer a meaningful life without words, not a meaningless one with a lot of words.

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      (One of my very favorite bloggers, John Weeren is a Zen master in Utrecht.)
      If anyone notes any similarities between John’s outlook and Stef’s (yoga teacher) — I spotted them too. Great meditative minds and all that —

      It occurs to me that in these kinds of conversations, where we are strictly limited to the internet — we are more dependent on language than might be optimum, without the possibilities offered in personal space for a smile, a touch, a wink.
      So in situations like this, precision and clarity of language is all we have, really, to convey our true meaning. A big responsibility? My penny —

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    • Stef says:

      Somewhat related (kind of)…

      This conversation has been mulling around in my brain for much of the day, and somewhere this morning I remembered that Eskimos have many different words in their native language that English speakers all translate as “snow”. SImilarly, there are a whole host of words in Pali that are all translated into English as “thinking” or “thought”. And yet, “snow1” and “snow2” and “snow3” are all *very* different to the Eskimo (same “thinking1”, “thinking2”, “thinking3” etc.) – and yet, because we simply don’t have the equivalents in English to express the nuances, we don’t get to experience the nuances. (At least, not in conversation.)

      No wonder misunderstandings are so common in the world…

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      • Touch2Touch says:

        Not so fast getting by that VERY important observation: “because we simply don’t have the equivalents in English to express the nuances, we don’t get to experience the nuances.”
        It is very true that if you can’t name something (i.e. a word for it doesn’t exist in the language), you can’t truly experience it.
        I will never forget a couple of Japanese women speaking — in halting English — with me about matters of marriage and the heart — and telling me they could only speak about this in English. The words, and therefore the possibility of expression, don’t exist in Japanese.

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  12. 2e0mca says:

    I passed by your excellent post first thing this morning Judith as I prepared myself for the working day. It gave me a moment of pause as I admired the beautiful mountains in the photograph (fantastic light) and felt a sense of peace from the accompanying words.

    I see a debate has formed regarding language. I can speak adequate French to get by when on holiday. The same is true of Italian. My wife usually handles the Spanish and I do my best with my limited German. I can speak Shona to the level necessary to greet family and friends with the correct idiom. But, and here’s the rub, if I switch into my strong London accent and talk quickly my cousin from Aberdeen can’t understand a word I’m saying yet I can understand everything she says to me! So conveyance of true meaning in the chosen language is not just a factor of choosing the right words and showing the correct supporting facial expressions – it also needs careful elocution;-) On the web, we may not have the visual clues but at least we won’t be left confused by the accent and local idioms employed in speech!

    With that Judith I’ll wish you Manheru! a Mangwana 🙂

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      I didn’t think of the pitfall of different accents. Yet it’s very true, an American in the Deep South speaking “normal” English may well be unintelligible to a Northerner speaking the same English. A Venetian can be unintelligible to anybody except a fellow Venetian.

      Your story of your cousin reminds me of years ago when we were visiting England, and our rental car broke down in Gloucester. The repairman who came I’m sure was using perfectly ordinary English words — He could understand us, but we couldn’t understand ANYTHING he said. Talk about feeling stupid — in theory we were speaking the same language. Just not in practice —-
      Thank you for the greetings in Shona(?). Not only do I not know what it means, but I can’t imagine how the words are pronounced, that is, the sound of Shona. It’s a mighty big world, innit;-)

      Maybe the Zen guys here are right — smiles can be a lot more useful!!!!!!!!
      😀

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      • Rebekah says:

        …like George Bernard Shaw once said .. «England and America are two countries separated by a common language» 🙂

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        • Touch2Touch says:

          So often very true!
          Does Sweden have big accent and regional divides?

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          • Rebekah says:

            Yes, big. The ones living in the southernmost parts are very difficult to understand for all the others, because it sounds more like Danish. I think it’s easier to understand Norwegian.

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          • Touch2Touch says:

            My Danish friend can speak to her Norwegian aunt in Danish; evidently her aunt understands enough, or maybe they’re similar? But I don’t think she can communicate in Swedish!
            The North-South divide is true in the US; big differences in France also and in Germany, and to some extent, Italy.
            You know what, I think maybe the Tower of Babel in the Bible is not a metaphor, but represents reality! (And to this day —)

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  13. 2e0mca says:

    Hi Judith, It was Shona – I wished you Good Evening! ‘Til Tomorrow and now I can say Mangwanani! to you – which is Good Morning 🙂 Mangwana is pronounced very much as it is spelt and sounds similar to the Spanish word Mañana, only you do pronounce the ‘g’. Perhaps ‘African Time’ and the ‘tomorrow is soon enough’ life style of the southern European cultures are linked by a common language heritage? In Spain there certainly is Moorish influence. The ‘e’ is the difficult one in Shona as it is usually given emphasis within the word. It’s pronounced like a full sounding ‘a’ – perhaps the ‘e’ in the French word Chez is a good way to visualise it.

    So there you go, now you can say Good Evening and Good Morning in Shona 🙂

    Here’s another thought – language at work varies. In the company I work for there are probably three tiers of language – Linesmans Room, Techincal and Manager Speak. The level at which each is the dominant language varies in different areas of the business. The ability to switch between all three is an important asset in my current role as an application support person 😉

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      Martin! Thank you for the greetings and the quick pronunciation lesson. One never knows when that will come in handy. I like very much the idea of African time as being similar, say, to the south of Spain or Italy or France. And your “translation” of Mañana as “tomorrow is soon enough” is BRILLIANT. I plan to use it from now on.

      What you say about language levels is very true. In Japanese there are also three levels, among close friends, “ordinary”, and formal; plus two additional, men’s language and women’s language, which extends to sound effects. Skillfulness at different “languages” in this sense certainly does make a difference in one’s success!

      Mangwanani!

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  14. Madman says:

    I love St.Augustine’s confession. Reminds me of the forest hiding the tree…
    Greetings from Switzerland,
    – Pierre

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  15. munchow says:

    I really like the quote. And a lot of interesting comments on language. Which only shows you have found a way to get to people’s heart, Touch2Touch. I think the picture following the words of the post is a great example of non-verbal communication and how wonderful that can be, too. I would want to be there with the beautiful mountains in beautiful light and wonder.

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      One of the great joys of blogging as a medium is being able to use both modes of communication together, the verbal and the images. I’m happy you enjoyed both modes, Otto, and very much appreciate your comment. I do hope to touch people — I guess my blog’s name amounts to my mission statement. 🙂

      Like

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