A Language Older Than Words Quotes

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A Language Older Than Words A Language Older Than Words by Derrick Jensen
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A Language Older Than Words Quotes Showing 1-30 of 39
“What if the point of life has nothing to do with the creation of an ever-expanding region of control? What if the point is not to keep at bay all those people, beings, objects and emotions that we so needlessly fear? What if the point instead is to let go of that control? What if the point of life, the primary reason for existence, is to lie naked with your lover in a shady grove of trees? What if the point is to taste each other's sweat and feel the delicate pressure of finger on chest, thigh on thigh, lip on cheek? What if the point is to stop, then, in your slow movements together, and listen to the birdsong, to watch the dragonflies hover, to look at your lover's face, then up at the undersides of leaves moving together in the breeze? What if the point is to invite these others into your movement, to bring trees, wind, grass, dragonflies into your family and in so doing abandon any attempt to control them? What if the point all along has been to get along, to relate, to experience things on their own terms? What if the point is to feel joy when joyous, love when loving, anger when angry, thoughtful when full of thought? What if the point from the beginning has been to simply be?”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“Like the layers of an onion, under the first lie is another, and under that another, and they all make you cry.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“A culture that values production over life values the wrong things, because it will produce things at the expense of living beings, human or otherwise.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“I had broken the most basic commandment of our culture: Thou shalt pretend there is nothing wrong.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“I wondered what it does to each of us to spend the majority of our waking hours doings things we'd rather not do, wishing we were outside or simply elsewhere, wishing we were reading, thinking, making love, fishing, sleeping, or simply having time to figure out who the hell we are and what the hell we're doing.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“It’s unavoidable: so long as we value money more highly than living beings and more highly than relationships, we will continue to see living beings as resources, and convert them to cash; objectifying, killing, extirpating. This is true whether we’re talking about fish, fur-bearing mammals, Indians, day-laborers, and so on. If monetary value is attached to something it will be exploited until it’s gone.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“By deafening ourselves to the emotional consequences of violence we have become confused by its relationship to sex. We have come to believe that violence equals aggression, and we have come to base our model of sexuality on our model of violence... converting an act of aggression into an act of consensual sexuality.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“Last December I saw an advertisement outside an electronics store. There was a little boy, delirious with delight, surrounded by computers, stereos, and other gadgets. The text read: “We know what your child wants for Christmas.” I stared at the poster, then said to no one in particular, “What your child wants for Christmas is your love, but if he can’t get that, he’ll settle for a bunch of electronic crap.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“ISOLATION DOES STRANGE THINGS to a person’s mind. This is true for any social creature, human or otherwise. Monkeys taken from their mothers at birth, placed alone in stainless-steel chambers, and deprived of contact with other animals (“human and subhuman” alike, according to the researchers), develop irreversible mental illnesses. As one of the experts in this field, Harry Harlow, put it: “sufficiently severe and enduring social isolation reduces these animals to a social-emotional level in which the primary social responsiveness is fear.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“Does anyone really believe that a pattern of exploitation old as our civilization can be halted legislatively, judicially, or through any means other than an absolute rejection of the mindset that engineers the exploitation in the first place, followed by actions based on that rejection? This means if we want to stop the destruction, we have to root out the mindset.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“When dams were erected on the Columbia, salmon battered themselves against the concrete, trying to return home. I expect no less from us. We too must hurl ourselves against and through the literal and metaphorical concrete that contains and constrains us, that keeps us from talking about what is most important to us, that keeps us from living the way our bones know we can, that bars us from our home. It only takes one person to bring down a dam.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“I waited for him to come out. He didn't. I considered going in after him, but knew the fact that I had readied myself to kill him did not mean that he had readied himself to die.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“Death is, and must be, deeply emotional. To intentionally cause death is to engender a form of intimacy, one that we’re not used to thinking about. To kill without emotion and without respect, or to ignore the intimacy inherent in the act, is to rob it of its dignity, and to rob the life that you are ending of its significance. By robbing death and life of significance we reduce ourselves to the machines Descartes dreamed about. And we deny our own significance.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“Perception is of course intimately tied to preconception. I have, as is true for each of us, a pair of cultural eyeglasses that will determine to greater or lesser degree what will be in focus, what will be a blur, what gives me a headache, and what I cannot see. I was raised a Christian—the mythology resides deep in my bones—and I know the story of Jesus nearly as well as I know my own. Until my late teens I couldn’t see some of the darker acts perpetrated in the name of Christ. I still feel a twinge each time I say, “I am not a Christian,” a slight apprehension that I may have gone too far. Sometimes I look up, a small part of my upbringing still telling me that my blasphemy will call forth a bolt of lightning from the sky.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“Violence, and evil, doesn't always come dressed in black, and it doesn't always look like Charles Manson. Nor does it always come to us as obvious and arrogant[...]. Often it comes to us with the simple plea to be reasonable.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“Make no mistake, our economic system can do no other than destroy everything it encounters. That’s what happens when you convert living beings to cash. That conversion, from living trees to lumber, schools of cod to fish sticks, and onward to numbers on a ledger, is the central process of our economic system. Psychologically, it is the central process of our enculturation; we are most handsomely rewarded in direct relation to the manner in which we can help increase the Gross National Product.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“I said that I feel bad whenever I drive, because I’m adding to global warming. The Maori nodded agreement. So did Jeannette. Then she added fervently, “But you didn’t set up the system. Do what you can, but don’t identify with the problem. If you internalize what is not yours, you fight not only them but yourself as well. Take responsibility only for that which you’re responsible—your own thoughts and actions. You didn’t make the car culture, you didn’t set up factory farming. Do what you can to shut those things down.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“For instance, have you heard of Rupert Sheldrake’s work with dogs? He puts a time-recording camera on both the dog at home and the human companion at work. He has discovered that even if people come home from work at a different time each day, at the moment the person leaves work, the dog at home heads for the door. “Even mainstream scientists are stumbling all over this biocommunication phenomenon. It seems impossible, given the sophistication of modern instrumentation, for us to keep missing this fundamental attunement of living things. Only for so long are we going to be able to pretend it’s the result of ‘loose wires.’ We cannot forever deny that which is so clearly there.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“So often, environmentalists and others working to slow the destruction are capable of plainly describing the problems (Who wouldn’t be? The problems are neither subtle nor cognitively challenging), yet when faced with the emotionally daunting task of fashioning a response to these clear and clearly insoluble problems, we generally suffer a failure of nerve and imagination. Gandhi wrote a letter to Hitler asking him to stop committing atrocities, and was mystified that it didn’t work. I continue to write letters to the editor pointing out untruths, and continue to be surprised each time the newspaper publishes its next absurdity. At least I’ve stopped writing to politicians.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one’s mind, is the condition of the normal man. Society highly values its normal man. It educates children to lose themselves and to become absurd, and thus to be normal. Normal men have killed perhaps 100,000,000 of their fellow normal men in the last fifty years.” The question still hangs heavy in the air: If our behavior is not making us happy, why do we act this way?”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“Blasphemy is more complicated than the simple act of cursing God. It is an attempt to remove our cultural eyeglasses, or at least grind the lenses to make our focus broader, clearer. There are deep strictures against removing these eyeglasses, for without them our culture would fall apart. Question Christianity, damned heathen. Question capitalism, pinko liberal. Question democracy, ungrateful wretch. Question science, just plain stupid. These epithets—blasphemer, commie, ingrate, stupid—need not be spoken aloud. Their invocation actually implies an incomplete enculturation of the subject. Proper enculturation causes the eyeglasses to be undetectable. People believe they are perceiving the world as it is, without the distorting lens of culture: God (with a capital G) does sit upon a heavenly throne; heaven is located beyond the stars that make up Orion’s belt (and, so I was told, you can just see heavens brilliance if you look closely enough); a collection of humans, each acting selfishly, will bring peace, justice, and affluence to all; the United States is the world’s greatest democracy; humans are the apex of creation.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“No anesthetic was necessary for the people who ordered the killings; they had the misleading language of technocratic bureaucracy to distance them from the killings. Thus “mass murder” becomes “the final solution,” “world domination” becomes “defending the free world,” the War Department becomes the Department of Defense, and “ecocide” becomes “developing natural resources.” No one needs to get drunk to do any of this. A good strong ideology and heavy doses of rationalization are all it takes. But it may require little more than a simple unwillingness to step outside the flow of society, to think and act and most importantly experience for ourselves—and to make our own decisions.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“A friend asked, "If increased awareness means less happiness, why bother?" No answer.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“I'm frightened of the intellectualism that can insulate us from action and turn the problems and solutions into puzzles or fantasies.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“It’s never possible to know for certain the “true” source of any given interpretation, the dividing line between our association (i.e., projection) and reality. The question quickly becomes, What is real? It is always possible to consciously or unconsciously “see” almost anything we want. I can look at the ceiling and see an image of the Virgin Mary, or I can look at the ceiling and see that the spackler did a damn good job.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“A primary purpose of Judeo-Christianity has not been to move us toward a community where the teachings of someone like Jesus - simple and necessary suggestions for how to get along with eachother - are made manifest in all aspects of life, but instead provide a theological framework for a system of exploitation.[...] It is more convenient for exploiter and exploited alike to pretend their parasitic relationship is Natural, ordained by God. It is easier to believe in a logic that leads directly from original sin to totalitarianism.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“A primary purpose of school - and this is true for our culture's science and religion as well - is to lead us away from our own experience. The process of schooling does not give birth to human beings - as education should but never will so long as it springs from the collective consciousness of our culture - but instead it teaches us to value abstract rewards at the expense of our autonomy, curiosity, interior lives, and time. This lesson is crucial to individual economic success ("I love art," my students would say, "but I've got to make a living"), to the perpetuation of our economic system (What if all those who hated their jobs quit?), and it is crucial, as should be clear now, to the rationale that causes all mass atrocities.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“Schooling as it presently exists, like science before and religion before that, is necessary to the continuation of our culture and to the spawning of a new species of human, ever more submissive to authority, ever more pliant, prepared, by thirteen years of sitting and receiving, sitting and regurgitating, sitting and waiting for the end, prepared for the rest of their lives to toil, to propagate, to never make waves, and to live each day with never an original thought nor even a shred of hope.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“Isolation leads to psychopathology. Isolated from the rest of nature, isolated from each other by walls of fear, isolated from our own bodies, and isolated most of all from our own horrifying experience, is it any wonder that we are all crazy?”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
“As Lewis Mumford observed, our choices have been grossly limited: “On the terms imposed by technocratic society, there is no hope for mankind except by ‘going with’ its plans for accelerated technological progress, even though man’s vital organs will all be cannibalized in order to prolong the megamachine’s meaningless existence.” All is not lost, though, as he also remarked: “But for those of us who have thrown off the myth of the machine, the next move is ours: for the gates of the technocratic prison will open automatically, despite their rusty hinges, as soon as we choose to walk out.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words

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