Saturday, January 27, 2007

What ARE Words For?

So what are words for?

Perhaps better phrased as ‘what are the purposes that words fulfill?’ What arises before the night’s fire, which gives cause for words?

How is it that someone can articulate an idea in words, to which someone else might then say “that’s ‘xactly what I’ve always thought!” without your ever having had those words within their own head?

When we open our eyes, when we move and have the sensation of touching something out there in the world, when we smell a scent in the air, when we taste a morsel… when we interact with the world, impressions of it are written to disc in our heads. Some basic, rudimentary integrations are made by the default actions of our hardware. ‘Water good’, ‘sound of snarling bear behind me – bad’, these things we register and know.

Some integrations of basic observations are made – at this level principles aren’t proper to use, they haven’t even been grasped yet - merely observations of things which are regularly seen to happen together.

When the trousered ape observes a thug more powerful than himself breaking into their apartment and stealing the TV from their living room, they experience fear and anger. When they then see a politician saying on TV (someone elses) “What we need are the Rights of our Citizens to be defended. We need laws in place to allow the police to act against criminals who would steal from our citizens that which is rightly theirs.”, the trousered ape may nod and exclaim ‘tat’s ‘xactly what I’ve always t’ought!” but rest assured, it never was anything that he had ever thought. For when the more powerful policemen bursts in his door to arrest him on assault charges stemming from his arguing with a liquor store owner attempting to stop him from walking out the door without paying for the fifth of gin in his pocket, you can be assured that he never ever had within his head the words – (beyond their mere auditory impressions), let alone the concepts, of ‘Citizen’, ‘Law’, ‘Rights’, ‘Police’.

What did he have? Why the feeling that what someone else is saying is on the tip of his tongue, when it clearly never was?

What he had on the tip of his tongue was vaguely associated generalities, which when evoked through someone elses use of words, he recognizes that his basic “t’oughts” have been strummed by this other person using a bunch of other words. Those same basic “t’oughts” could also just as easily have been strummed by someone saying “What we need to ensure is that those who think that just because they are Rich, that they can keep us from fairly distributing to us our fair share of this countries wealth!” – rest assured that the trousered ape will nod and exclaim ‘tat’s ‘xactly what I’ve always t’ought!”

So what are the purposes which words are suited to fulfilling?

The answer is two fold. One, is they enable us to grasp vast general observations, and communicate them to someone else. The second thing they enable us to do is to finely distinguish minute shades of meaning. Just as the Eskimo supposedly has a multitude of different words to describe distinctions between different types of snow, so language enables to use words to enable us to build a structure of meaning upon which we can ascend to a multitude of variations in describing what is Moral behavior, Individual Rights and Virtue.

Communication vs conveying impressions.

Our fellow who always t’ought what you might have said, doesn’t have a sufficient grasp of language, concepts or civilized distinctions of thought, to communicate in a manner that the Founding Fathers sought to communicate the idea of a constitutional republic to posterity. He is not able to communicate in any meaningful way at all, what he is able to do is to convey vague impressions of commonly felt observations in order to satisfy his needs, urges and whims. But he does not communicate.

Communication is not something that comes naturally to human beings, at most we are only equipped with the natural ability to convey impressions – those that are of a sensory nature, and some rudimentary abstractions arising from them. The types of things that grunting, motioning and facial expressions and gesticulating would be able to convey equally well.

Communication, however, is a vastly different thing. Communication enables a nearly magical transmission of developed thoughts from your consciousness – from your internal grasp of reality – to travel into the mind & soul of another in such a way that assuming an equivalent grasp of language, they will be able to share, think and feel just what you do mean. That life which you are living is able to be shared and experienced and even improved upon through its communication with the mind and spirit of others.

That is something remarkable and magical and rare, and it is not natural, it is not something that one acquires through being taught names and words, it is not something anyone attains to by being exposed to cultural sensitivities or other such nonsense.

Becoming a Human Being, in a non animal sense, is the work and effort of years of attentive parenting, of storytelling, of play, of education (NOT schooling, but education – which may or may not[more likely not] occur in a modern day school) in the fruits of your culture, it’s normative distinctions, history and literature.

For words to attain to their fullest potential, they must be learned in a fashion which integrates them, their meaning, in an hierarchical way. They must make use of our particular ability of conceptual formation, of being able to associate related words into ever more and more complex conceptual structures. They must be built upon wider conceptual platforms, integrating with all others, in an ever expanding pyramidal, or cone shaped fashion.

When someone is heard to express those thoughts which seem to strum your deepest convictions, it is up to you to grasp at those words, to explore and understand them, to make them fully understood to yourself and truly yours. Then you can say you have partaken in communication, and have benefited from that most wondrous of things – grasping Truth which another has exposed, and then internalizing and integrating it within you – making it yours, and you one with it.

That is what you can do with Words.

And wisdom is had through those who realize it, who never allow the Poetic to be completely separated from the prose. No matter the detail, there is always a general truth and vision of which it is a part – to forget that is to risk disintegration. Those who know this thoroughly, who are wise, are wise not only in their words, but in their every action, for the word is then made flesh, and you can see it in their level heads and steady gaze.

Must minds be built this way? Sadly, no. We are creatures of Free Will, and that means that we can do things correctly, incorrectly or even not at all – by choice, or by avoidance of choice. Our souls are ours to build – as attentively and with as much craftsmanship as we care to, or care not to, engage ourselves in.

A properly constructed mind will have at root a single platform firmly affixed to reality, and upon and through that connection, it will always build upon and seek to develop in a truthful and proper fashion – but that is not necessary.

A person can easily allow several seemingly separate structures to be scattered around their mind, randomly globbing this observation on to that one (‘fair’ with ‘I get as much as they do!”), beliefs can easily be asserted without cohesion, integration or any thorough correspondence to reality.

A person does not need to seek to understand the ideas of what are Good and True and Beautiful, and in not seeking to, banishes himself from experiencing them; having instead to make do with their horizontal perceptions in physical pleasure, getting away with what they can, and fleeting visual skin deep appeal.

A person doesn’t need to seek to understand Individual Rights, a Constitutional Republic, or the Pursuit of Happiness, they can instead settle for the brute risks of might makes right, getting all the goods their pressure group is able to secure from others, and grabbing all the toys and pleasures they can - before dying from them – at least until a Master arises who will tell them what they can and cannot do or acquire and keeps the trains running on time. For awhile. For some.

A Good life is the rarest of things, because the effort required in constructing it from within and without, is so rarely expended, and becoming rarer all the time. What causes that effort to become more or less rare? Words. That is what Words are for, that is the purpose which words serve to fulfill through careful application, construction and integration. Through that most intricate weaving of observation, conceptualization, emotion and Truth – through Poetry, we are able to connect with and establish what is Good and True and Beautiful – to affix our single platform to reality, and upon which an orderly progression of thought and deed can be constructed into a life worth living.

Poetry provides the structural image to be attained to, Reason (not logic chopping, but whole-souled Reason) the method for transmitting it into reality, and Philosophy the means to ensure that you are indeed proceeding according to plan. To be successful, to successfully pursue Happiness, requires that you keep all in tune and harmoniously resonating through not only yourself, but the Reality you are secured to – and that ineffable something which encompasses both.

The attempt to deny hierarchy in Values, to deny the single encompassing unity of Truth, to seek to promote the perceptually easy and thrilling, over the effort of conceptualy grasping and integrating of that which is True; that is what is balkanizing our minds and our souls even as it is balkanizing our political and civic experiences.

That misuse of Words, of Language and of Culture and Meaning has delivered us to the state where a Supreme Court Justice can blithely say that he is considering the necessity of ensuring ‘free and fair’ elections in mandating equal amounts of ‘free speech’, as being behind his interpretation of constitutional law. Cast away are both the concept of a single guiding Truth, and of the finer distinctions necessary for its proper applicaiton in principled law.

We have allowed the philosophers, the progressives, the Politically Correct strident purveyors of license masquerading as liberty, to gain control over the education of our young and of ourselves. We have allowed them to demand that our understanding of Truth and Mythic Poetry compare in quantified measurement with the flattest of factual depictions, making it easy to dispense with such ideas as Truth and Virtue, and soon after that of Duty, Honor and Country and even of any conception of God as well.

And we have allowed them to make those comparisons, the idea that the Vertical dimensions can be stretched out and tacked onto the Horizontal surfaces of their sophistry – and that we allow ourselves to be embarrassed at the inconsistencies they point out - chortling at us – triumphantly pointing out ridges, wrinkles and gaps in the horizontal image inevitably conveyed from an object of spherical depth when it is attempted to be represented and squashed upon the table.

That has been our gravest error, to allow that most uncommon thing, common sense, the seemingly simple conceptions which resulted only from the fruits of three thousand plus years of development of Western Civilization; that process which is the product of our poetry, myths, stories – religion, literature, customs and history being reverently and laboriously communicated from one generation to the next; we have allowed ourselves to risk severing that holy transmission – through the verbal tricks of sophists, charlatans and fools to make us feel embarrassed at seeking to be good and true.

Over not daring to uphold the greater value of a child’s effort and strain in learning what is valuable, over their easy play of smiling and frolicking – as do the imbeciles who tell us the later is more desirable and superior to the former.

Math is difficult? Here’s a NEW math, History is difficult? Here’s social studies, Rhetoric is difficult? Here’s See and Say! Liberty is difficult? Here’s what we’ll call liberty – enjoy it.“What, do mean you really believe that a bearded God in the sky created the universe in SEVEN Days?! You don’t REALLY believe in Truth that is always True, do you? You think this nation is Good?! Don’t you realize that people are starving in Africa, and this country ALLOWS IT! Is that Good?! You really think that All Men are created EQUAL! – some are born RICH and some POOR, WE must MAKE them EQUAL!!!”

All of this damage they have caused, forcing us to turn away from our own marvelous tool of common sense – and with what weapon? What nefarious tool? While they’ve used Philosophy to supply theirs stances with ‘plausible’ reasons and excuses, that hasn’t been their chief tool. What has?

The idea has been culturally sold, that if someone drops a wallet, you’re a sucker for turning it in. If the cashier gives you too much change back, and you discover it as you’re getting in your car – who would not feel at least a moment’s hesitation to tell your friends that you’re going back in to return the extra cash? Not so much whether you would or not, only that we all know that it would be the right thing to do, and we all know that you would be snickered at for doing so, accepting that it is socially geeky to do what is Right.

Note however what I am talking about here, and what I’m not. I’m not talking about the worthiness of the action, only that all present would have thought that it WAS the right thing to do… and accepted that you shouldn’t admit to it.

Think about that.

When President Bush says “Thank you, and may God Bless America” who hasn’t noted the smirk on the faces of the Peter Jennings MSM types? That they do is not nearly so troubling, as that we don’t react in outrage over it. That their power lies in our willingness to feel embarrassment over saying what is good and true in the face of what is accepted as being sophisticated and cool.

That also is what words are for. To spin cultural norms into culturally-legal custom -restraints on social behavior – think of what is behind such customary ‘law’ to prevent people from doing what is Right. There is the existence of true, pure Evil in our midst, words turned against truth, and sold as desirable.

We’ve allowed that the smarter, wiser, cooler thing to posture, believe and say, is the cynical over the Proper. And rather than ignore such ‘cooler’ people, we say nothing, or go along with them – for fear of Embarrassment. Believe it or not, the big fearsome tool wielded against us has been our own fear of Embarrassment.

Truly Pride doth goeth before a fall.

Some of the most important purposes which Words are for, are for grasping a comprehensive vision of what to believe and value – and for those talented, even inspired few, to weave that vision and value into Poetry in order to fire the minds of the culture. Words are also for communicating your grasp of that shared quest with each other. And Words are for enabling you, within yourself, to clearly define what you know, so that you can understand your values, and pursue them. Words are for doing all three, and more, for creating a mind and soul that is known to yourself, and for communicating that soul, for mingling some portion of your values and ideals with those whom you love.

Words are for you to grasp and inspect what you believe to be true – for communicating Truth, or conveying Evil, and it requires you to choose between the two – avoidance of either is just a default and only slightly more roundabout way, of delivering us back to that time 40,000+ years ago before we had Words at all.

Or Humanity.

And that truly is what Words are for, for furthering, or dismantling, the Humanity that they had such a Promethean hand in instilling into us all those millennia ago.

In the beginning there was the Word… and then there was light… as above, so below.


Anonymous said...

This entire series has been a fascinating, and valuable teaching of the true purposes of words.

You have clearly outlined some of the major obstacles to the value of principles, communication, the highest of standards (which come from absolute truth), a healthy culture, and wisdom itself.

As a result, public schools, looniversities, politicians, the modern day artists, and parents are teaching their children to be fools, just as they were 'taught'.

There is a spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of our own children and grandchildren.

I appreciate the time and effort you spent to teach the purpose and importance of words and language.

Van Harvey said...

USS Ben said "There is a spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of our own children and grandchildren."

Yes there is, but of course, there always was and there always will be. The biggest new wrinkle in history, is that this time We know it, and are able to communicate with eachother without relying on a few elite mouthpieces to do, or ignore, it all.

I think we've got a shot at redirecting the tide of history this time through the cycle. The trick will be to get all the normal people to realize that what it takes is for us to stop letting the PC comment at the local gathering go unchallenged & unmocked. Stop looking for the big battle and fight the little ones at hand.

Thanks for the comments Ben, I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Van said:

Yes there is, but of course, there always was and there always will be. The biggest new wrinkle in history, is that this time We know it, and are able to communicate with eachother without relying on a few elite mouthpieces to do, or ignore, it all.

I concur. I believe the left would be all but extinct, if it wasn't for the concerted efforts of the MSM, politicians, etc. to ply the propaganda of the left's agenda, disguised as a free lunch.

Of course we know there is no such thing as a free lunch, and as Bob and Thomas Sowell (and others) have said, whenever the government 'gives' us something, they do something to us.
Primarily erode our liberties, by bogging us down with more bloated government, and causing a chain reaction of damaging, sometimes devastating, unintended consequences, and rewriting history, reforming the Constitution in their image.

Basically, taking the place of God in our lives,but enslaving us instead of giving us liberty.

But, with the advent of the internet and conservative talk radio, people are waking up, and beginning to see through the BS, and realize the true cost of the free lunches that are being peddled by the power hungry.

The MSM is now watched closely and challenged, as are politicians and the wackadamiacs.

As you say, the big battle is fought on millions of tiny battlefields, with words.

Those who use words most effectively 'win' the battles.
Words matter and how we use them makes a difference in more ways than we might imagine.