Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right.
My general theory since 1971 has been that the word is literally a virus, and that it has not been recognized as such because it has achieved a state of relatively stable symbiosis with its human host; that is to say, the word virus (the other Half) has established itself so firmly as an accepted part of the human organism that it can now sneer at gangster viruses like smallpox and turn them in to the Pasteur Institute.
Man knows that there are in the soul tints more bewildering, more numberless, and more nameless that the colors of an autumn forest....Yet he seriously believes that these things can every one of them , in all their tones and semi-tones, in all their blends and unions, be accurately represented by an arbitrary system of grunts and squeals. He believes that an ordinary civilized stockbroker can really produce out of his own inside noises which denote all the mysteries of memory and all the agonies of desire.
Words, as is well known, are the great foes of reality. I have been for many years a teacher of languages. It is an occupation which at length becomes fatal to whatever share of imagination, observation, and insight an ordinary person may be heir to. To a teacher of languages there comes a time when the world is but a place of many words and man appears a mere talking animal not much more wonderful than a parrot.
I want to write about people I love, and put them into a fictional world spun out of my own mind, not the world we actually have, because the world we actually have does not meet my standards. Okay, so I should revise my standards; I'm out of step. I should yield to reality. I have never yielded to reality. That's what SF is all about. If you wish to yield to reality, go read Philip Roth; read the New York literary establishment mainstream bestselling writers
I mean, after all; you have to consider we're only made out of dust. That's admittedly not much to go on and we shouldn't forget that. But even considering, I mean it's a sort of bad beginning, we're not doing too bad. So I personally have faith that even in this lousy situation we're faced with we can make it. You get me?
I am a fictionalizing philosopher, not a novelist; my novel & story-writing ability is employed as a means to formulate my perception. The core of my writing is not art but truth. Thus what I tell is the truth, yet I can do nothing to alleviate it, either by deed or explanation. Yet this seems somehow to help a certain kind of sensitive troubled person, for whom I speak. I think I understand the common ingredient in those whom my writing helps: they cannot or will not blunt their own intimations about the irrational, mysterious nature of reality, &, for them, my corpus is one long ratiocination regarding this inexplicable reality, an integration & presentation, analysis & response & personal history.
The vanishing of languages, like those of living species, is an event that has been repeated many times in history. Localized disasters such as a volcano eruptions, great floods or warfare have played a part, but in the modern era the spread of Europeans--and European diseases--has greatly accelerated the pace of destruction. Local or regional language communities may be overpowered by a dominant metropolitan language, which increases the pressure to neglect the ancestral tongue in favor of the new one and is seen as the key to prospering in the dominant culture. Children may be forbidden to use their mother tongue in the classroom, as has occurred to many groups, including the Welsh, Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians. Speakers of minority languages have been forcibly relocatedand combined with speakers of other languages, as happened when Africans were brought to the Americas as slaves. Practices such as these have made Native American languages the most imperiled of any on the earth.The death of a language is not only a tragedy for those directly involved but also an irretrievable cultural loss for the rest of the world. Through language, each culture expresses a unique worldview. Thus, any effort to preserve linguistic variety implies a deep respect for the positive values of other cultures.
We are in love with the word. We are proud of it. The word precedes the formation of the state. The word comes to us from every avatar of early human existence. As writers, we are obliged more than others to keep our lives attached to the primitive power of the word. From India, out of the Vedas, we still hear: On the spoken word, all the gods depend, all beasts and men; in the world live all creatures...The word is the name of the divine world.
The art of writing is mysterious; the opinions we hold are ephemeral , and I prefer the Platonic idea of the Muse to that of Poe, who reasoned, or feigned to reason, that the writing of a poem is an act of the intelligence. It never fails to amaze me that the classics hold a romantic theory of poetry, and a romantic poet a classical theory.
It skims in through the eye, and by means of the utterly delicate retina hurls shadows like insect legs inward for translation. Then an immense space opens up in silence and an endlessly fecund sub-universe the writer descends, and asks the reader to descend after him, not merely to gain instructions but also to experience delight, the delight of mind freed from matter and exultant in the strength it has stolen from matter.
But no language is perfect, no vocabulary is adequate to the wealth of the given universe, no pattern of words and sentences, however rich, however subtle, can do justice to the interconnected Gestalts with which experience presents us. Consequently the phenomenal forms of our name-conditioned universe are by nature delusory and fallacious. Wisdom comes only to those who have learned how to talk and read and write without taking language more seriously than it deserves. As the only begotten of civilization and even of our humanity, language must be taken very seriously. Seriously, too, as an instrument (when used with due caution) for thinking about the relationships between phenomena. But it must never be taken seriously when it is used, as in the old creedal religions and their modern political counterparts, as being in any way the equivalents of immediate experience or as being a source of true knowledge about the nature of things.
It is my belief that the writer, the free-lance author, should be and must be a critic of the society in which he lives. It is easy enough, and always profitable, to rail away at national enemies beyond the sea, at foreign powers beyond our borders who question the prevailing order.But the moral duty of the free writer is to begin his work at home; to be a critic of his own community, his own country, his own culture. If the writer is unwilling to fill this part, then the writer should abandon pretense and find another line of work: become a shoe repairman, a brain surgeon, a janitor, a cowboy, a nuclear physicist, a bus driver.
But of all other stupendous inventions, what sublimity of mind must have been his who conceived how to communicate his most secret thoughts to any other person, though very far distant either in time or place? And with no greater difficulty than the various arrangement of two dozen little signs upon paper? Let this be the seal of all the admirable inventions of man.
A peril of the night road is that flecks of dust and streaks of bug blood on the windshield look to me like old admirals in uniform, or crippled apple women, or the front edge of barges, and I whirl out of their way, thus going into ditches and fields and up on front lawns, endangering the life of authentic admirals and apple women who may be out on the roads for a breath of air before retiring.
The evidence of the emotions, save in cases where it has strong objective support, is really no evidence at all, for every recognizable emotion has its opposite, and if one points one way then another points the other way. Thus the familiar argument that there is an instinctive desire for immortality, and that this desire proves it to be a fact, becomes puerile when it is recalled that there is also a powerful and widespread fear of annihilation, and that this fear, on the same principle proves that there is nothing beyond the grave. Such childish proofs are typically theological, and they remain theological even when they are adduced by men who like to flatter themselves by believing that they are scientific gents...