Language: Tongues of Ice


Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled…

Joachim of Floris turns out to have been right after all, except for what is probably nothing more than a trivial error in orthography. The Age of the Father gave way to the Age of the Son, which has by now succumbed entirely before the prancing parameters of the Age of the Wholly Gauche. And that creepy sound you hear, that whooping whoosh as of a rushing mighty windbag, signals the escaping gases of the new dispensation. Where once a few spoke a language that everyone could understand, whole multitudes now recite a lingo that no one can understand.

The Conference of Major Superiors of Men is made up of the abbots and provincials of various Roman Catholic religious orders. On February 10, 1981, a day that they might have spent in prayer, the members of its national board met in Milwaukee for an "evaluation of CMSM structures based on the self-studies." Sounds familiar? And that's not all. A certain Sr. Mary Littellhow did she get into the act?was "engaged as facilitator for the day."

Here's how she did it, as reported to the assembled worthies in August. (Yes, even there we have a mole):

To facilitate the process, Sr. Mary utilized the Hoover Grid which begins with the recognition of purpose and values, leading to goals, objectives and finally to implementation. The first and most important step is at the myth level where the renewal of ideals, hopes, dreams and traditions takes place. It is the level of identity and purpose for being.

The advantage of this process is that it puts all the elements of an organization not into a flow chart which is static but into the flow of the organization which is constantly changing and dynamic. In the course of the process the board defined the following elements for evaluation:

The tasks of the board membership and the religious communities through them (the major superiors) is one of (1) animating (through clear identification); (2) facilitating (through acting out the goals and objectives); and (3) impacting (through actions on various levels of CMSM).

So now abideth animating, facilitating, and impacting, these three; but the greatest of these is impacting.

You will probably want to practice these virtues. No problem. To animate, just come up with identifications. Be sure they're clear, of course. In no time at all, you'll be animating all over to beat the band and ready to facilitate through acting out goals and objectives. Cinchy. And thenon to impacting! Just remember the one, simple secret of impacting. Action! Action on levels. Various levels.

And if you run into any trouble, consult the nearest Hoover Grid. We don't exactly know what that is, of course, but we're willing to bet the renewal of ideals, hopes, dreams, and traditions at the myth level against a wrinkled old Values Perception/Assessment Inventory/Questionnaire that you can find one at your local teacher-training academy.

We know Educanto when we see it, and this report is full of it. It bristles with "linkage," "resourcing" (with "input" from "resource persons"), "networking," "sharing," "cross-cultural communications," and even offers its own bold, innovative thrust in "ad hocracy," which is defined as "creation of task forces for proper resourcing." So where is the Inquisition, now that we need it?

Even the punctuation is typical of a writer who just can't be bothered with the meaning of what he writes. There is a difference between "the Hoover Grid which begins with the recognition of purpose" and "the Hoover Grid, which begins with the recognition of purpose." The first, which is what the writer has given us, implies the horrifying existence of other Hoover Grids beginning with other recognitions. The same confused inattentiveness causes "the myth level where renewal takes place," to be distinguished from the other myth levels; "a flow chart which is static"; and "the flow of the organization which is constantly changing." In that one we don't know whether to be confused about the flow or the organization. Or both. Or neither.

But if we are confused, it is because we are paying attention. This kind of language, devised to give the tone of sophisticated substance to the obvious, the empty, and the banal, is always a dreary and disorderly exercise of robotlike inattentiveness. The report is exactly one of those "vain repetitions" of the heathen; it neither provides clear knowledge nor fosters finer understanding. Somewhere in the dark labyrinth of doctrinal elaboration, there must be a technical name for this nasty perversion of language and intellect. It's probably something like Impactio.

Well, we know in part, and we prophesy in part, and in part we babble, with the tongues neither of men nor of angels, reciting what we have often heard, as blind mouths speak to stopped ears, as no one speaks to no one.

Richard Mitchell is the author of Less Than Words Can Say and the publisher of the Underground Grammarian, from which this column is adapted.