The high school I attended required each student to take two years of Latin. Years later the requirement was dropped. When a fundraiser contacted me for a donation, I said, "You eliminated Latin, why should I give you a donation?" He replied that the removal of Latin made room for Chinese.
What I should have said at that point was something like the following. "While the study of Asian languages and cultures and worldviews is wonderfully enriching, it must not come at the expense of the appropriation and transmission of our own culture which is Judeo-Christian and Graeco-Roman."
And then I could have clinched my point by quoting a couple of famous lines from Goethe's Faust, Part I, Night, lines 684-685:
Was du ererbt von deinen Vätern hast, erwirb es, um es zu besitzen!
What from your fathers you received as heir,
Acquire if you would possess it. (tr. W. Kaufmann)
The idea is that what one has been lucky enough to inherit, one must actively appropriate, i.e., make one's own by hard work, if one is really to possess it. The German infinitive erwerben has not merely the meaning of 'earn' or 'acquire' but also the meaning of aneignen, appropriate, make one's own.
Unfortunately the schools and universities of today have become leftist seminaries more devoted to the eradication of the high culture of the West than its transmission and dissemination. These leftist seed beds have become hot houses of political correctness.
What can you do? You might think of pulling your children out of the public schools and home-schooling them or else sending them to places like Great Hearts Academies.
Today is The International Day of Translators and in my blog I dared to use one of your thougts from your blog, to show how difficult it can get to translate some thoughful ideas into another language.
Your statement I have borrowed was, "Silence is a grating clangor to the unwhole man."
I also suggested a translation and encouraged the readers to provide their critical analysis and possible (better) translation variants.
The blog post has received a very good following so far, people especially speculated about the poetic figure of "grating clangor" and the philosophical aspect of the "unwhole man."
Somebody also suggested a reversed translation of one of the Slovak versions into English: "Silence is a scratch and clangor in the ear of a man lacking inner integrity."
If your time allows, can you please let us know, whether this is close to your original idea, or is it absolutely ridiculous?
Thank you very much,
Dear Mr. Šebo,
I am glad you enjoyed my aphorism and found it stimulating. I wrote it on 3 January 1972 while a young man living in a garret in Salzburg, Austria. When I opened the skylight in the bathroom I got a view of the Salzburg Festung, 'fastness' being a nice old poetic English word for Festung.
As for your reverse translation, I would say that it conveys the idea that I was trying to express, but does so in a way that violates one of the rules for a good aphorism. The good aphorist aims at economy of expression. A good aphorism is terse. "Scratch and" is superfluous, as is "to the ear." Clangor is a loud ringing sound; sounds are perceived through the ears; so there is no need to add "to the ear." 'Clangor' has the added virtue of sounding like what it means. The 'resonance' of the word is diminished by the addition of "scratch and." "Unwhole man" is a more poetic and economical way of saying "man lacking inner integrity." But that is what I meant.
At the time I wrote the aphorism I may have been reading Max Picard who wrote a book entitled The World of Silence. Here is something about Picard.
Robert Reininger, Philosophie des Erlebens, p. 227:
Gegen Buddhismus: Trishna nicht ertoeten (ausloeschen), sondern durch Ueberhoehung in den Dienst des Vernunftwillens stellen -- sonst fehlt diesem die lebendige Kraft, die nur der Daseinsbejahung eignet (A 751, 1932).
Against Buddhism: Trishna is not to be killed or extinguished, but elevated and placed in the service of the rational will. Without this sublimation, the rational will lacks the vital force appropriate to the affirmation of existence. (tr. BV)
Trishna is Sanskrit for desire, thirst. Central to Buddhism is the notion that the suffering and general unsatisfactoriness of life is rooted in desire, and that salvation is to be had by the extirpation of desire. Reininger's point is one with which I wholly agree. The goal ought not be the extinction of desire, but its sublimation. Desire as such is not the problem; the problem is misdirected desire. Properly channeled and sublimated, desire provides the motive force for the rational will.
See my "No Self? A Look at a Buddhist Argument," International Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 42, no. 4 (December 2002), pp. 453-466.)
Theodor Haecker, Tag- und Nachtbuecher 1939-1945 (Haymon Verlag, 1989), p. 115, entry of 4 October 1940:
Ich habe einmal einem Verzweifelnden den Rat gegeben, zu tun, was ich selber in aehnlichen Zustaenden getan habe, in kurzen Fristen zu leben. Komm, sagte ich mir damals, eine Viertelstunde wirst du es ja noch aushalten koennen!
I once advised a person in despair to do what I myself have done in similar circumstances, namely, to live in short periods. I told myself at the time: surely you can hold out for another quarter of an hour! (tr. BV)
Long before I read this Haecker passage, I had a similar thought which I expressed in the following aphorism:
Can you get through the next hour? The present can always be borne – if sliced thinly enough – and it is only the present that must be borne.