The Inadequacy Of The Words
I was sitting in bed one night, my back against the tall solid wood headboard when suddenly it occurred to me the complete inadequacy of the words I had just spoken.
My wife and I were discussing something trivial, I can’t remember what it was now, it doesn’t really matter anyway.
I was in no doubt that right there, the words we just uttered were pointless, even primitive.
Our means of communication is advanced compared to other animals, but it seemed to me that making noises with my throat and mouth wasn’t very advanced at all.
I blurted it out.
“You know there really is no need for words, they’re completely inadequate at conveying what it is I want to say. I think there will come a time when we’ll dump language”.
“What are you talking about”, she said dismissively. “Don’t be so stupid”.
She offered me a loud tut accompanied by an expulsion of breath, rolled over and went to sleep.
My wife has no time for these kinds of philosophical discussions.
I smiled to myself at her usual intolerance of my childish idle thoughts and went back to reading my book.
The Feeling Is Everything
Human language is nuanced and complex, even subtle at times. It includes verbal and nonverbal gestures many of which we are not even aware of.
Often a look from the corner of an eye or the position of someone’s body is all that is required to relay a message.
The rise, fall and duration of our tone says so much too. Sometimes when someone speaks a foreign language to us we can understand what they mean.
Sometimes no words or physical expression is exchanged, or even necessary.
We walk into a room and we can feel the mood of the people there.
What is it in us then, that can read these things?
How is it that you may say nothing to me but I can understand how you feel? Your anger and frustration with me is palpable and absolute without you saying a word.
You’ve been there, you know what I mean.
Remember that time when you didn’t do that thing you told your husband or wife you would do?
Shutters come down.
You don’t know what you possibly could have done wrong, but you know something is definitely up even before any words are exchanged.
There’s a feeling.
Words On Their Own Are Not Enough
I string these words together on the screen or page and you read them.
If you speak English and live in the western industrialised world you won’t have too much trouble understanding them, at least on a syntactic level.
When I write, I do so in an attempt to convey something that I’ve been considering, an experience or a sense of something non-physical.
However, culturally there are divides that the words I choose must bridge. You have different ideas and concepts, visual and psychological representations that arise in you when you read my words.
Although there may be cultural similarities, sometimes those words hold a different meaning for you than they do for me.
On the whole, I hope that the words I choose get across to you that which I wish to convey.
In this transfer, I attempt to bring my mind to you and your mind to me.
So in all of this, the words on their own, these symbols on the page representing noises I make and ideas that I have are insufficient at conveying true meaning.
What About The Deeper Level?
What about connecting at a deeper level?
Some people just don’t get it.
No matter how well I learn to write, no matter how large my vocabulary becomes, I will be unable to reach everyone with what I have to say.
I will be unable to convey the alternate possibility to the current conventional thinking that I hold.
So many of us are so buried in the righteousness of our own ideas and concepts about what’s good, bad, true and false about life that we just cannot see the other side.
Or rather, other sides.
Because there are many possibilities, never simply one or two.
This is why I despise most thought experiments. They rarely offer more than two choices. The reality is that true possibility is endless in all circumstances.
True understanding occurs at a deeper level of being. As I said last Sunday, the universe is not a series of 1’s and 0’s, it’s not binary.
Understanding and learning to live together without blowing each other up require that we get this principle.
I’ll Keep Writing
That deeper level of understanding usually comes about through less obvious means than language and words can adequately convey.
This is why music, art, poetry and stories mean so much to people.
Long before we were so reliant on facts, stories were used to convey meaning.
I think that will never go away although as beneficial and integrated as science has become, there is a danger to us humans that we will lose our ability to really see.
True communication and understanding come about by the meeting of minds. This occurs beyond the surface level reality, beyond the physical.
If we can’t reach each other at that level we’ll disappear.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to do my best.
You might not get me but I’ll keep doing it anyway.