Recently, I have become more and more aware of the limitations of our language. Not English specifically, but language in general; the labeling of thoughts, concepts, and ideas with designated and agreed upon sounds. I do not mean to belittle language as a whole, as it is undeniably useful and convenient for human interaction and advancement. However, I am beginning to see it as that and that only; a solution to the coordination problem of human relation. There is a level of understanding far beyond language, something more basic and more intuitive. Think about it, how does one learn a new word? By hearing it put in terms of words one already knows. You can look up a word’s definition, then look up the definition of the words in the definition, and eventually you will end up back at the original word. This cycle of terminology never directly connects to the external world or internal mental activity, it only slaps a title on it.
Again, I am not trying to insult the utility of language or the beauty many people have achieved using it. I am simply exploring it relative to what I have come to realize as a more fundamental level of understanding. What do you guys think?
@dkanowsky, With language, we are able to construct our thoughts in a concrete, coherent manner. I agree with you though, that there exists levels of ‘understanding’ unspeakable or untranslatable. I’d say body language takes over in such scenarios, sometimes. I’ve recently meditated upon the power of the smile, noticing the revelations intrinsic to them. It is a revealing expression, and is overlooked by many.
@dkanowsky, this is very true, in my case at least. I find that often I know exactly what I want to say but can’t express it without either making up a word that only makes sense to me or through some odd series of gestures. that said, this “tongue-tiedness” can be really disheartening at times, due to the pauses that it can create, in trying to communication thoughts, feelings and emotion <—even there, many people would lump the words feeling and emotion together, because they've got similar meaning, yet are fundamentally different from each other. language is a very strange construct.
@dkanowsky, You’re post reminds me of this amazing quote from the movie “Waking Life”.
…but when we use that same system of symbols to communicate all the abstract and intangible things that we’re experiencing. When I say love the sound comes out of my mouth and it hits the other person’s ear, travel through this Byzantine conduit in their brain, through their memories of love, or lack of love, and they register what I’m saying and they say, Yes they understand, but how do I know they understand? Because words are inert, they’re just symbols, they’re dead. And so much of our experience is intangible. So much of what we perceive cannot be expressed, it’s unspeakable. And yet, when we communicate with one another, and we feel that we have connected, and we think we are understood, I think we have a feeling of almost spiritual communion. And that feeling might be transient, but I think that’s what we live for.”
I LOVE the above quote from Waking Life :) Probably my favorite of the whole movie, honestly.My first and maybe only thread here, on HE, was a vow to never post again in words, but only in drawings.
I wanted to do this because I too had the same revelation that words shortchange the message we want to share. People too often get caught up in what a word means to them and their personal experience with it; they take the original message completely out of context. I felt with a picture being worth a thousand words, I could both get my point across while leaving it too open for judgement. But I never continued on that even once… I guess words are just too important to me(that and I have 0 artistic talent) so my drawing communication never took off.
I think you’re on to something though, certainly a thought, emotion, or physical feeling can communicate so much more than any language ever could.
@iambrian, awesome quote. Certainly something to wrap my head around. I watched Waking Life sometime last year but don’t remember it much, maybe it’s time to rewatch it.
“Because words are inert, they’re just symbols, they’re dead. And so much of our experience is intangible. So much of what we perceive cannot be expressed, it’s unspeakable.”
Essentially a more eloquent way of saying what I was attempting to. Thanks for your post!
I run into this problem a lot. I’ve figured out, the words can be correct, but the understanding of the definition is what gets off wrong. Growing up we all have different experiences and different ties to different things. The same word or idea can trigger a multitude of different “tags” in your head alone, and also that of the person you’re talking to. To defeat this, when I feel what i said wasn’t received the way I intended to give it, I break down the inconsistency, the part, usually an opinion or emotional expression, and put it into different words even for myself. You’ve got to slow down when you do this, and really think about what you are trying to convey, then blend it with your knowledge of the person, so that you “speak their language” so to speak.
@dkanowsky, I most certainly agree. I’ve been dancing around this idea a lot lately, especially since I have been so wrapped up trying to write poetry that describe my new perspectives and feelings towards the world.
Man, they’ll never really get it because of the personal value they’ve placed on the words I’ve decided to use. It’ll mean something entirely different to everybody, and oh what bittersweet feelings I have towards that, when the whole point is me, trying to be understood.
Imagine we had some kind of device that would connect to our neurons and would interpret what we were feeling or seeing in our minds artistically, through an animation or what have you, without necessarily having to physically draw it. That’d be interesting to say the least.
There are some things that are just meant to be understood without the use of words, I think…
End of random ramble :)
Very good question. The universal language of knowledge is called Gnosis. It is exactly like the matrix; you make an inquiry to the source and it answers… no bullshit. One time, i was told through gnosis that reading books is useless, all knowledge can be attained from the source field, one way is through meditation. This is also the reasons for pyramids all over this word; to amplify cosmic energy to attain information from this field.
@dkanowsky, It’s not language alone that does not permit us to say much about our unique form of understanding. Language alone tends to be dualistic, evaluative, and discriminatory. We as people take away some of the experience of our senses in order to compartmentalize them into language and thoughts in which we and others may understand. When I saw your post, two quotes came directly to mind.
Thich Nhat Hanh wrote:
“We tacitly agree among ourselves to call a certain object a “tree”. Then we forget that “tree” is an arbitrary concept which in no way reveals the true identity of this object. A philosopher might call it ultimate truth; a botanist, a living organism; a physicist, a mass of protons and neutrons swirling around a nucleus”
Also from Thay
“Language is our creation. It reflects our values, ideals and goals, and the way we see and relate to the world….Our relative mind of Ego, aided by language, deceives us in other ways. It constantly tempts us into distinctions and judgements that take us farther and farther from the concrete and the real into the realm of the speculative and the abstract.”