Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Devolution of Human Language and Literature

The common teaching in our universities and schools is that primitive mankind was virtually wordless and thoughtless. Over time, mankind moved from mindless grunts and groans (i.e. "ug" or "gug") to higher forms of language and literature, from monosyllabic illiteracy to polysyllabic fluency.

Au contraire. There has been no significant development of language and literature since classical antiquity

Language and literature, following the common thread of nature itself, is devolving, not evolving. The more complex and beautiful the language and literature, the older it is. The common objection to this theory of literature devolution goes like this: "Cave drawings are signs of primitive pre-speech and pre-writing cultures prior to man's linguistic evolution."

Not so fast. 

Some cave drawings are magnificent, colorful, and so filled with pictorial narrative, they elicit envy from many modern artists. If it is pointed out that there are also primitive line drawings and stick-figures on cave walls, it should be remembered that similar drawings are found on the inside of most toilet doors in our day. Stick drawings themselves are never proof of a monosyllabic language.
Languages and literature are devolving, not evolving. Why is this true? Because mankind is also devolving. C.S. Lewis gives the best explanation for this devolution of mankind.
"God invented mankind as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended - civilisations are built up - excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a few yards, and then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to us humans." (Excerpt from C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity).
Only those with a connection to God make progress in this life, including writing beautiful literature. My friend, Dr. George Ella, puts it like this: "You are never far from heaven when reading the best of Christian literature. However many blessings you have received in this way, there are still many to come."

C.S. Lewis would agree. William Cowper would nod his assent. George McDonald would have voiced his vocal affirmative. The only hope for the devolution of literature to end, and for literature and language to begin moving from lesser to greater is for an entire host of writers to come in contact with the Author of life.  The dumbing down of human language and literature is a direct result of mankind living life without the 'right juice.'

So though Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook all seem to point to a bright age of communication, the reality is much darker. Mankind is devolving and carrying the beautiful complexity of human communication into the proverbial toilet.


Christiane said...

In my Church we listen to the words of sacred Scripture being read aloud, or prayed, sometimes chanted, sometimes sung
. . . the effect of this can range from stirring up the earth of our hearts all the way to our reception of the gift of sacred peace.

Is possible to read the Scriptures and to set them aside,
but when you hear them read aloud, it is not unusual for them to echo in your mind in the day that follows

The sacred Scriptures are known to change the direction of peoples' lives in ways unforeseen with a grace we had not imagined.
So read and hear them with a deep respect for what may come from such an unpredictable encounter:

in the words of the prophet Hosea:

". . . break up your fallow ground:
for it is time to seek the LORD. . "

Wade Burleson said...

I think culture (not just church culture, but culture in general) will swing back around and the public reading of the sacred Scriptures will not only bring grace in unforeseen ways - as you rightly point out - but it will be deemed by others, for lack of a better word, as 'cool.'

ScottShaver said...

I hope you're right Wade, I'd much rather stand for a half hour in honor of the reading of Scripture as opposed to the honor of a lively set from the praise band.

Rex Ray said...


I see at rock concerts, people standing, waving, yelling, and in general making idiots of themselves…all in the honor of the band.

I’m afraid that standing a half hour for praise songs…

I believe church songs should reflect the ‘great commission’, and to do otherwise is second best.

It could be argued I believe that because I’m 82, but I’ve said the same thing when I was 30.

I have changed in some ways; like last week I returned to a restaurant to get my glasses. People at the table said they hadn’t seen them. The waiter assured me it was the right table. One guy asked if they were sun glasses.

I said they were like the ones he was wearing and asked if he was wearing mine. Of course I was smiling. They kept looking under the table and seats. Finally I said I’d discovered them on my face.

Christiane said...

Your stories always make my day! Hope you are doing well.

Rex Ray said...


Your replies always make my day. :)
I don’t know who wrote this, but it will ‘preach’.


You know ... time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years. It seems just yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my mate. Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years went. I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams.

But, here it is... the back nine of my life and it catches me by surprise...How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my youth go?

I remember well seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that I was only on the first hole and the back nine was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like.

But, here it friends are retired and getting gray...they move slower and I see an older person now. Some are in better and some worse shape than me...but, I see the great change...Not like the ones that I remember who were young and vibrant...but, like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we'd become.

Each day now, I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day! And taking a nap is not a treat anymore... it's mandatory! Cause if I don't on my own free will... I just fall asleep where I sit!

Rex Ray said...

And I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I had done but never did! But, at least I know that though late on the back nine, and I'm not sure how long it will last...this I know, that when it's over on this's over. A new adventure will begin! Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn't done...things I should have done, but indeed, there are many things I'm happy to have done. It's all in a lifetime.

So, if you're not on the back nine yet...let me remind you, that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life please do it quickly! Don't put things off too long! Life goes by quickly. So, do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether you are on the back nine or not!

You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life. So live for today and say all the things that you want your loved ones to remember...and hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past!!

"Life" is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after. Make it a fantastic one. LIVE IT WELL! ENJOY TODAY! DO SOMETHING FUN! BE HAPPY! HAVE A GREAT DAY! Remember "It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver. LIVE HAPPY IN 2015!

~Your kids are becoming you...but your grandchildren are perfect!
~Going out is good…Coming home is better!
~You forget names...But it's OK because some people forgot they even knew you!
~You realize you're never going to be really good at anything like golf.
~The things you used to care to do, you aren't as interested in anymore, but you really do care that you aren't as interested.
~You sleep better on a lounge chair with the TV 'ON' than in bed. It's called "pre-sleep".
~You miss the days when everything worked with just an "ON" and OFF" switch.
~You tend to use more 4 letter words ... "what?"..."when?"... ???
~You notice everything they sell in stores is "sleeveless"?
~What used to be freckles are now liver spots.
~Everybody whispers.
~You have 3 sizes of clothes in your closet…2 of which you will never wear.
~But Old is good in some things: Old Songs, Old movies, and best of all, OLD FRIENDS!
Stay well, "OLD FRIEND!" Send this on to other "Old Friends!" and let them laugh in AGREEMENT! It's Not What You Gather, But What You Scatter that tells what kind of Life you have.

Victorious said...

Each day now, I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day! And taking a nap is not a treat anymore... it's mandatory! Cause if I don't on my own free will... I just fall asleep where I sit!

Boy, can I relate! I tell my friends I can fall asleep on command...and I mean it!

Love the "glasses on your face" incident. I can also relate to that and because of that I've developed the skill of laughing at myself. Lots and lots of laughs....

Christiane said...


I can identify with the clothing sizes . . . I have jeans in four sizes, and I keep them out of hope for the time when the smaller ones will fit again. :)

There is something of 'joy' in your stories that is contagious. Love them so much! Keep well.

Amy Rodgers said...

Reminded me of this article that scientifically asserts that human artistic expression didn't evolve but was present at creation.