The E-primitive Thought Experiment


Uh, yeah, you were right: it was supposed to be tyranically. Some more typos might lurk in there, but I haven’t noticed them (I also haven’t looked for them very closely).


Thank you for your clarification on that sentence, Jason.


this thread has opened my eyes on so many different levels. i’ve been making my own adjustments to my languaging over the past several months, but i never traced the fucked-up-ness of the english language so deep. it does explain a great deal of how the dominant culture so forcefully and imperceptibly eviscerates the living world and transforms it into a commodity exhibit of “things” and “objects” to be used, used up, and thrown aside when nothing of value remains. and all the while, no one can even argue that “things” and “objects” don’t exist because the very speaking and thinking of the english language demand an unspoken acquiescence to the underlying premise that they do.

wow, thank you especially to Willem for elaborating e-primitive and explaining the verbiness of indigenous languages. i have learned a great deal.


It doesn’t just happen in the English language. I have found these civilized mindsets prevalent in Russian, Kazakh, Greek, Hebrew, French, Spanish, and Mandarin. I think you would find them in any non-indigenous language.


Willem, very interesting topic this E-primitive, I like it. I find, in my way of thinking, that society does,and must, pidgeon-hole everything TO BE able function ;). That is, break down every object or experience into its ‘separate not connect to each other self’…thus the structure of this society’s language.
A thought to ponder for those who seek to break out of this language, is to watch and listen to very young children describing something. As an example my daughter when she was 3 or so came up to me and said she saw a bug and it was so neat, and she wanted me to tell her what type it was. So I said describe it with words. Her reply: it’s tiny, moves really slow, with some legs, oh ya dad is red with black dots on it’s back…I said sounds like a Ladybug…we checked it out and it was.
So the difference here was I’m conditioned by society so I’ve already pideon-holed my response in one word as ‘ladybug’…my daughter, with an as yet not too structured mind, just described it as she saw it…
Not sure if this is what we’re talking about with E- primitive, but just something o chew on.


Hey Willem,

I noticed back in the first run of things you said this:

Yay! I like it. Have you tried the experiment of seeing "objects" as active subjects yet?

Can you tell me more about this? Can you give me a few examples?


D’accord, mon ami. As I first put it:

For example, a glass cup not only contains liquid, or air, but the glass that forms the cup oozes downward at an imperceptible rate (those who've studied chemistry will know that glass behaves as a liquid). Also, the glass may have fingerprints on it, or scratches, that slowly age. Also, it refracts light in diverse ways. Old glasses will have more character than young, freshly crafted ones. Etc. Remember, if you hold the glass, it pushes back with an equal and opposite reaction. The glass literally vibrates at an atomic level. Everything enacts patterns of movement.

But why stop there? Why not also ask how the glass feels? For some of you this may totally click, but others not so much. If you think about it, in the science paradigm emotions all come down to chemical reactions anyway, chemicals made of molecular arrays, just like that glass. That glass has a unique way of emoting too, if you sensitize yourself to it. I once heard of an art show title that really expressed this well “The Emotional Life of Objects”. Artists understand this way of relating instinctively, of course. Put on your artist hat!

We know facts don’t exist anyway, just webs of probablistic perceptions, so whether “factual” or not, I want to play with ways of observing and relating that allow me to observe and relate more, more richly, more expansively. For survival!

When I objectify my cat, “Mr. Sweetie”, I tend to handle him roughly. But when I feel curious and sensitize myself to how he feels about my touch, suddenly my behavior totally changes, and HE changes. Suddenly he relaxes more, seeks me out more, trusts me more. Weird stuff! (or kinda ‘duh’ stuff, depending).

Look at a tree. What does it do? It breathes, it makes wood, the action of the wind against its branches pumps its circulation, it holds soil. How does it feel? Does it feel sick? Thirsty? Hungry (for light? for nutrients?). Lonely? Overwhelmed? Energized? Safe?

Observe your coat. What does it do? The fibers work against each other, twisted, held in eternal dynamism of almost releasing. The weave webs these twisted souls into a coherent shape. How does it feel, this netted network of colors and fibers, so far from home, riding you, its horse (ever heard the expression ‘clothes-horse’?)? Does it mind missing a button? Maybe it likes how it feels to have less buttons.

Which brings me to my next point: who needs shrooms when you’ve got E-primitive? ;D :smiley:



But why stop there? Why not also ask how the glass feels?

If we start asking how these things feel we will never get anything done.

Just throwing my two cents in from the perspective of calvinist rewilder… ;D

Take care,



I remember when I first thought about what cars do and how they relate to the world…and I don’t mean what we do with them, I mean what they do themselves. Thinking about that started shifting my whole perception to seeing though “things”.

Since then the world keeps feeling more alive, more companionable, more personal and sacred (which often hurts and heartbreaks as much as feeling “nice”).

We need e-primitive poets greasing our language to sound like singing. Now e-primitive might sound a bit awkward, but that can change (in no time).

I personally have trouble because I never understood grammar back in school…I’m still confused about that and write mostly intuitively. Words “sound right” or not, but rules confuse me. I look forward to getting more of a feeling for e-primitive.


Just had a thought about the surival value (and peacemaking) value of e-prime / e-primitive.

I’m thinking of a story I heard awhile back about a guy who observed a bear walk through a field full of buffalo…wandering right between the resting cows without disturbing them at all. The buffalo knew the bear wasn’t hungry and hunting and so his presence didn’t disturb their rest. The relaxation abiltities of wild creatures and indigenous peoples are often legendary…deer might go through a dozen alarm experiences in a day, yet be relaxed and calm inbetween them. Wheras we might be freaked out the whole day over one little incident.

Maybe a mind who sees the world of action is able to relax more, relate more. The buffalo see the bear and what do they see? Sure, they see bear, but they see relaxed walking not hungry hunting. They relax. But if these buffalo were civilized people what would they see? Not “walking” not “hunting” they would see “a bear” which “IS a dangerous animal” and maybe freak out no matter what the bear was doing.

On the other hand, better to be cautious if you don’t know bear I guess.

Hmm…I’m now thinking of racism…also thinking of Timothy Treadwell. I wonder about all the ramifications?


awesome. they live e-primitive. i would guess they not only see chill bear, but feel it too, hear it. how much energy do we waste, b/c of perceiving only limited information about our surroundings?

i love this thread!


I second the awesome!


A thought:

I watched a youtube video on an old chinese qigong master, wherein the narrator spoke the line:

'He has spent most of his 90 years doing…"

Which I thought said eir age in a nice e-primitive fashion. Problematically, I knew that someone else had mentioned how in 1994 e claimed the age of 93 years. Which would make em 106 at the time of the recent video. Which meant e could still have claimed to have lived more years than e actually had.

I’ve heard folks critique e-prime (and therefore e-primitive) for eir claim to clear up thinking and expression, because “you can still lie and speak unclearly”.

I value e-primitive because e endeavors to not block honesty and clear thinking, if you chose them. Not because e straight-jackets you into obsessive truth-telling and mr. spock-syle logical mastery.

E-primitive, at eir best, gets out of your way, like a well-designed musical instrument. E makes it easier to express yourself sincerely.

At least where I want to go with e. Perhaps e has a while before e arrives there, but I think we’ll make e.

p.s. i enjoyed my e, em and eir, yes i did. check out this cool link on gender-neutral pronouns (which also addresses the ‘it’ problem):
I picked the third-person-plural minus the ‘th’ strategy. :slight_smile:


I found this interesting: The first time I’ve seen ‘to be’ mentioned outside of this site.

"We all feed the spirits. Your lease agreement on this earth is your death, You agree to die. Nobody is going to escape. The Mayan have no verb 'to be,' so we don't have any 'to be or not to be' questions, because 'to be or not to be' is out of the question! So half of what the modern world spends its time philosophizing about is completely irrelevant to the Maya/ Since there is no 'to be' there is no 'not to be.' Ceasing doesn't come into it. The word 'death' in Mayan is the same word as 'now'--so nowness is death. Worrying about death only applies to people that have not got home yet"


Is that from the Derrick Interview or The Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun?

He’s got some great shit in the Daughter of the sun about Metaphor and To Be.


By the way, Willem, could you put a few paragraphs in your original animist language post about Gender Neutral pronouns?


actually just an excerpt from a world book, but his stuff was pretty good I’d love to check out more.


Here’s the excerpt from the interview Derrick Jensen did with him called “saving the indigenous soul”:

Jensen: You’ve said that one problem with Western culture is its use of the verb to be.

Prechtel: When I was a child, I spoke a Pueblo language called Keres, which doesn’t have the verb to be. It was basically a language of adjectives. One of the secrets of my ability to survive and thrive in Santiago Atitlán was that the Tzutujil language, too, has no verb to be. Tzutujil is a language of carrying and belonging, not a language of being. Without to be, there’s no sense that something is absolutely this or that. If two people argue, they’re said to be “split,” like firewood, but both sides are still of the same substance. Some of the rights and wrongs that nations have fought and died to defend or obtain are not even relevant concepts to traditional Tzutujil. This isn’t because the Tzutujil are somehow too “primitive” to understand right and wrong, but because their lives aren’t based on absolute states or permanence. Mayans believe nothing will last on its own. That’s why their lives are oriented toward maintenance rather than creation.

“Belonging to” is as close to “being” as the Tzutujil language gets. One cannot say, “She is a mother,” for instance. In Tzutujil, you can only call someone a mother by saying whose mother she is, whom she belongs to. Likewise, one cannot say, “He is a shaman.” One says instead, “The way of tracking belongs to him.”

In order for modern Western culture to really take hold in Santiago Atitlán, the frustrated religious, business, and political leaders first had to undermine the language. Language is the glue that holds the layers of the Mayan universe together: the eloquence of the speech, the ancestral lifeline of the mythologies. The speech of the gods was in our very bones. But once the Westerners forced the verb to be upon our young, the whole archaic Mayan world disappeared into the jaws of the modern age.

In a culture with the verb to be, one is always concerned with identity. To determine who you are, you must also determine who you are not. In a culture based on belonging, however, you must bond with others. You are defined by where you stand and whom you stand with. The verb to be also reduces a language, taking away its adornment and beauty. But the language becomes more efficient. The verb to be is very efficient. It allows you to build things.

Rather than build things, Mayans cultivate a climate that allows for the possibility of their appearance, as for a fruit or a vine. They take care of things. In the past, when they built big monuments, it wasn’t, as in modern culture, to force the world to be a certain way, but rather to repay the world with a currency proportionate to the immense gifts the gods had given the people. Mayans don’t force the world to be what they want it to be: they make friends with it; they belong to life.


Careful, theres a Buddhist who shows interest in rewilding. :wink:

I absolutely love the idea of changing speech to represent here and now, words as we use them, tend to miss the mark when it comes to explaining…well anything. I use the argument of trying to describe how a flower smells, we list a set of descriptive facts, that have nothing to do with how the flower actually smells.
Languages have a lot to do with the way the culture sees themselves and the world they interact with. Thank you for sharing, and I will try some of the exercises you described.

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Awesome! :slight_smile: Thanks for adding your inspiration to the pool.

You know, I have two sides to me. The side that that wants all my ducks lined up in a row, wants things to make intellectual sense, to put that puzzle together, and the side that just wants to run whooping and hollering across meadows and diving into muddy swamps with a pack of fellow adventurers, making friends left and right.

I feel kinda schizophrenic sometimes.

In the end, the whooping and hollering me gets final veto power. :slight_smile:

Some of these threads mark points in time when the intellectual me wanted a voice for a little bit, to talk about things ‘correctly’, to get all insightful, and take ‘anti-this-or-that’ positions. Most of it I still stand behind, and heck, the intellectual me has pushed for the exploration of language in the first place.

I still get more excited when I hear about folks wanting to jump in the mud with me. :slight_smile: