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[ The Tower of Babel :: Babylonian Ziggurat :: Build something! ]
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[ Pieter Brueghel the Elder's painting of The Tower of Babel ]
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The Tower of Babel
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[ Explore The Information Superhighway! ][ Go to: The duty of communicators! ] "Building, dwelling, thinking" (Heidegger). The Tower of Babel was a mythical precursor of the Internet and global telecommunications, by means of which we project our name into the empyrean via radio and TV transmitters, rather than masonry. The point of the biblical story, for me, is that persons had the idea and elaborated an effective plan to enter into universal discourse with all sapient beings whom there might be. This is truly a great aspiration: to reach out beyond the closed circle of merely factical ethnic pre-judices, to construct and sustain ideal universal socially reflective discourse.

That the Babel-onians' Deity paranoically rejected this offer[fn.31[ Go to footnote! ]] in no way detracts from its nobility, but only indicates the fragility of (what Jacob Bronowski called:) "the ascent of man", in the face of irresponsive and irresponsible forces, i.e., agencies which either cannot or will not respond to the often inertially powerless but always eidetically unsurpassable demand that they give reasons why they deserve to be part of our experience ("Why are you doing this to me?"[fn.5b[ Go to footnote! ]] -- right vs might...).

[ Work with Robert Musil's 'Man Without Qualities' in an engineering office! ]Further, I would call attention to the mode of social organization of labor implied in the story: It does not say that the owners of the means of production got together and said to one another: "Let us direct wage laborers to build for us a city and a tower...". Rather, the story says that the same persons who came up with the idea of the city and tower agreed to roll up their own shirt sleeves and themselves cooperatively produce what they had designed. They proposed to enrich their shared social life by their own constructive(sic) efforts, rather than by taking from and putting down others.

Perhaps, through action guided by reflective thinking-discussion, we may prove ourselves worthy heirs of these earlier master builders, saving our own technological society from devolution into "dark (darker?) times", and establishing ourselves, for one another, and in the universe, as each an outpost and shining example of universal culture, for all sapient beings there may be: "Welcome, you are safe here". And, for those who are able: "Come, join our deliberations and join our work, as well as joining our table."

Below is an e-mail signature file I used for a long time. It expresses my feelings about the constructive potential of technology for persons: to foster self-accountable construction of a truly human(e) world.

*                    *                                          *
    x\                        *
   |"xx           *                               *
  |==xxx  *                    *           *
 *|""xx"|       ...[T]hey came upon a plain... and settled
  |"""xxx       there. And they said to one another...       *
 |=======|      "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and
 |"""""""|   *  a tower with its top in the heavens, and
 |"""""""|      let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise   /\
|=========|     we shall be scattered abroad upon the face   |""|
|"""""""""|     of the whole earth." (Genesis 11:2-4)        |""|
|"""""||""|                                                  ||||
Bradford McCormick, Ed.D.

C[ Learn about SGML! ]oncerning the potential for technology to contribute to humanity, beyond its obvious roles in the labor process (freeing persons from the need to labor, etc.), I have recently arrived at the hypothesis that SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language) may have direct potential as a prosthetic enhancement to the conversational process and as an admittedly "weak" (everything is weak compared to omnipotence...) prophylactic against our succumbing to a recurrence of semiotic plague: SGML enables us to insert semiotic "reinforcing rods" into text in the form of content- and structure-describing tags. (These thoughts are further elaborated in my sgmlnote page; you can find a very basic introduction to the "mechanics" of SGML at my WhatIsSGML page.)

Edmund Husserl's Vienna Lecture, delivered after the philosopher had been stripped of his academic position by the Nazis, is a magisterial statement of the eutopian vision [i.e., vision of a better place, not of no place...] I am here trying to evoke. There are also models in history and literature. One of these is Tycho Brahe's community devoted to scientific research: Uraniborg (picture below; see also: the inscription Tycho placed at the entrance). François Rabelais' abbey: Thélème, is roughly contemporary, although Thélème, unlike Uraniborg, is imaginary not real.

For the spirit alone lives; all else dies. (--Jean de Coras, 1561)

[ Learn about SGML! ]What does "Lorem ipsum dolor..." mean?
Learn about SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language).
Read  Edmund Husserl's lecture: Philosophy and the Crisis of European Humanity (1935).

Think  about The Decline of The West: Is the adventure of Univeralizing emancipatory Culture over?
"911":  See terrorist destruction of NYC World Trade Center towers (11Sep01).
Return to Civilization and Its Discontents.
[ For the 21st century: Slow food! Slow reflection on all the fast things running around! ]Leisure is the basis of culture.
Read Rabelais' description of Thélème.
Learn why a city can deserve to exist (Louis Kahn).
Learn about "The Transparent Factory" (VW, Germany).
[ Go into the new Millennium! + See Mt. Etna! ]
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 [ Have a leisured lunch at a French cafe! ][ Have a leisured lunch at a French cafe! ]
What I believe ("The net").  [[ Go to 'This I believe' page via intro.... ]View intro!]
[ Why did the chicken at The Tower of Babel cross the road? ]Learn how Oedipus's tragedy was preventable.
Think about a constructive role for myth in modern life.
"Shipwreck with Spectator" (Life as a journey...).

[ U.S. Capitol, with pro-Bush demonstrators! ]Visit another Tower of Babel: 2000 U.S. Presidential election.
Return to thoughts page.
Return to Essays page.
Go/Return  to Some Contemporary Communication Challenges.
Return to Virtual Reality.
Read my Aphorisms for a human[e] world.
See IBM poster: "How to Stuff a Wild Duck".
Go to website Table of Contents.
Return to Brad McCormick's home page.
Return to site map.
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Copyright © 1998-2002 Brad McCormick, Ed.D.
bradmcc@cloud9.net [ Email me! ]
19 April 2008CE (2008-04-19 ISO 8601)
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Each person needs to be a peer member of a world, a family and a community: cosmos, oikos and polis.
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