Had enough of the saccharine, over-commercialized Mother’s Day fare?

Try going to and downloading Tom Wolfe’s National Endowment for the Humanities Jefferson Lecture delivered last Wednesday.

We have always thought that “From Bauhaus to Our House” was Wolfe’s best work. Think what he could do with McMansions (and on what they mean for mothers)!

In the meantime, Wolfe’s Jefferson Lecture on the impact of “modern” language is outstanding (nothing directly to do with mothers or Mothers Day).

Wolfe is off in his time-frame by a factor of 5. He is a novelist after all. The perfection of the voice box and brain organization which enabled the articulation of “modern” language occurred 50,000 thousand years ago +/-, not 11,000 years ago. These enablers evolved about the same time as a new generation of tools and artifacts in what Jared Diamond terms “The Great Leap Forward.” By 11,000 years ago the earliest urban places were already 2,000 years old +/- and they required language for sure.

Like most novelists Wolfe uses far too many words but his perspective on language and communication’s impact on religion, status and what it means to be human is worth wading through the verbiage. Actually the lecture is 34 paragraphs long and if you read the first five and the last three you will get the core message:

Language and what we call “Civilization” has terminated the process of evolution.

We will expand on a theme we addressed in The Shape of the Future in an upcoming column: Society is too complex for Homo sapiens (or Homo loquax as Wolfe calls us) to navigate with dysfunctional settlement patterns. The Forest Gumpp perspective.

Wolfe adds a new twist: If evolution is over why bother to create functional human settlement patterns since we are doomed anyway?


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2 responses to “TOM WOLFE ON MOTHERS DAY”

  1. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Mother’s Day, like Father’s day, is a racket perpetuated by the greeting card companies. In an ideal world, we should honor and respect our parents every day. Of course, it’s not an ideal world. Most families are scattered to the winds. Mother’s Day allows us to give lip service to our ideals. There are worse things in the world, I suppose.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Language and what we call “Civilization” has terminated the process of evolution.

    You think so?

    I highly recommend “Before the Dawn” by Nicholas Wade, who writes for the science section of the “New York Times”.

    D Flinchum

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