language as labyrinth

This topic comes with a theme song:

I’ve talked a lot throughout this server/blog about my thoughts on language, on words, on communication.

 

But most of it is pretty buried, and that old stuff- anything written before now… Well, it’s here for context, anyway.

 

Nothing more, nothing less.

Language is really fucking weird, man. Like, everything about it.
There are words we seem to have a general consensus on as being ‘subjective’.
There are others- good, evil, right, wrong….science, to name a few – that seem to be pretty frequently perceived as having ‘objective’ definitions.
Which words, and where they fall along these lines, all seems to be one o’ them spectrumy things.
Based, perhaps, on a hodgepodge of cultural, environmental, personal factors- and many more, I’m sure.
What does it mean, for a thing to be subjective? To be objective?
In my head, objective implies some kind of externally accepted definition- one that is, more or less, collectively agreed-upon. The only thing is- I don’t think there is such a thing.
Science as a concept was one of the toughest, for me. But there was one day in particular – I don’t remember where that day falls in my personal timeline, but I remember how I felt very clearly – when my perception of science shifted, fundamentally.
I’d met this guy, he was really cool! Really spiritual, really forward- thinking. I looked up to him, quite a bit. Until I saw on his Facebook page that he didn’t believe in global warming.
It took me a while to process this, but nothing about this guy had changed. Only my knowledge of his beliefs.
I started thinking about what had happened, internally- my response to reading that was an emotional one.
Not very scientific, at all.
And what is science, really, if not a belief system? Don’t get me wrong, I am all about the scientific method. I believe global warming is a thing, and I think science is the most effective way we have of understanding our world, and growing with it.
But science has told us some pretty strange things, over time.
Told with a veneer of Authority, of ‘you can’t understand this, so don’t you dare question it.’
Things like the earth being flat, like the earth being at the center of the solar system.
The nasty racial sciences of a the past centuries.
The science behind homosexuality, not too many decades ago.
Fucking Pluto!
The great thing about the scientific method is that it leaves room for doubt, for uncertainty, for the evolution of our understanding- as our knowledge evolves.
What we know now is simply our best guesses, based on evidence and current knowledge.
But when science becomes a thing by which we value other humans, that is a belief system.
Words are not things, words are not people.
Words are one of the tools we have at our command to try to better understand the world around us- but every day we are exposed to a little bit more of the range of the human experience.
When we do not update our conceptions of language in response, we are artificially limiting our own potential for growth.
At the same time, I do believe that having hard mental concepts is part of how our brains process information, on a fundamental level.
This is not something I believe can just be ignored, or overcome.
I mean, maybe it’s possible. I tried that for quite a few years, and it never worked. Just changed where the lines of my perception lay.
I’m not sure we can ever escape the labyrinth of language, of our own minds.
But we can make it a glass one.
The walls are still there, but once we start looking for them, actively, they become something like glass.
Shattering one gives us a little more room to breathe, to move. But there are always more.
I’m a big fan of the ‘beat the player, not the game’ concept.
But the player is always my own brain, and I have to beat my brain by finding ways to work with it.

 

By understanding my own prejudices better, I can then start looking for evidence that will shatter each of those walls.
Those prejudices, they are tricksy. Don’t like being uncovered.
I view emotions like anger, disgust, contempt – as tools.
We’ve evolved these responses for reasons that are no longer useful for the world in which we live, I believe.
But that does not mean they are now useless.
If I’m having a negative emotional response to a thing, I use that as a flag to help me identify where the current walls of my labyrinth lay.
The universe is not for us.
The universe cares not for our individual places in it.
The universe – is.
Things do not happen with intent towards us.
People might, yeah. But even then- responding with negativity is just not as effective in resolving those kinds of things.
Anger inspires defensiveness.
I could never make my anger go away, by just deciding I wanted it to.
But I have, over time, reduced the frequency with which I feel things like anger- by thinking about why I was angry, after I’ve cooled off, until I find even just potential evidence of how I might have been wrong. How I might have misinterpreted whatever it was I was feeling negativity towards.
Even when that possibility turns out to have been incorrect, my anger generally remains reduced, if not absent.
I don’t believe there’s a magic answer for everyone to escape the labyrinth of language, of our minds.
But I do believe that, with work- it’s possible for each of us, as individuals, to find ways to be more comfortable in our labyrinths.
Make them the kinds of places in which we can run, play, connect, and thrive-
instead of places in which there is little air to breathe, let alone to soar.

 

brooke

I spent three years living on the street in Los Angeles. I came out of that, changed. This is my story.

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