the silent language

is an excellent book by Edward T. Hall (isbn 0-385-05549-8). As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
Culture hides much more than it reveals, and strangely enough what it hides, it hides most effectively from its own participants.
Interaction has its basis in the underlying irritability of all living substance.
Culture is saturated with both emotion and intelligence.
Theodosius Dobzhansky, the great human geneticist, once observed that life was the result of neither design nor chance but the dynamic interaction of living substance with itself. He meant that life, in a changing environment, places such strains on the organism to adapt that, if this does not take place constantly, the organism as a species dies out.

Different cultures are analogous to different species in the sense that some of them survive whilst others perish. Some are more adaptive than others. The study of change, therefore, is the study of survival.
An often noted characteristic of culture change is that an idea or a practice will hold on very persistently, apparently resisting all efforts to move it, and then, suddenly, without notice, it will collapse.
The idea of looking at culture as communication has been profitable in that it has raised problems which had not been thought of before and provided solutions which might not otherwise have been possible.
We say, "I'll see you in an hour." The Arab says, "What do you mean, 'in an hour'? Is the hour like a room, that you can go in an out of it?" To him his own system makes sense: "I'll see you before one hour," or "I'll see you after one week." We go out in in the rain. The Arab goes under the rain.
...we all hold an illusion about talking, an illusion that talking is quite untrammeled and spontaneous and merely 'expresses' whatever we wish to have it express. This illusory appearance results from the fact that the obligatory phenomena within apparently free flow of talk are so completely autocratic that the speaker and the listener are bound unconsciously as though in the grip of a law of nature. [Benjamin Whorf, Linguistics as an Exact Science]
Complete lack of congruence occurs when everything is so out of phase that no member of a culture could possibly conceive of himself creating such a mess.
Many artists... are credited with "creating" new patterns. Yet most artists know that what greatness they have lies in being able to make meaningful statements about what is going on around them. They say what others have tried to say but say it more simply, more directly, and more accurately, more incisively and with greater insight.
Talking about them... changes our relation with them. We move into an active and understanding correspondence with those aspects of our existence which are all too frequently taken for granted or which sometimes weigh heavily on us. Talking about them frees us from their restraint.

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