This page, as I contemplate what to write here, offers a vast white space of freedom, but it’s not totally free. I am limited to one language, English. It’s rather predictable that I will speak English for the rest of my life. Even if I learn another language, the structure of my brain has been shaped by language at least from my birth, if not from hearing my mother’s voice while still in the womb.
Encoded in every language we find the values of the culture it’s situated within. English doesn’t gender inanimate objects. Our bridges are neither boy bridges nor girl bridges, but in Spanish, bridges are masculine. In German, they’re feminine.
“German speakers described bridges as beautiful, elegant, fragile, pretty, and slender, while Spanish speakers said they were big, dangerous, strong, sturdy, and towering.” – Psychology Today
We create language, sure – but language also creates us. It is the very furniture in our minds which substantially creates the reality of life as we understand it. Understanding is made up of stories and stories are made of words. Those words are the construction of our collective cultural past.
Through this lens it’s not hard to see how we’ve come to this moment where truth itself has broken under its own weight, so tied are we in a Gordian knot of misunderstanding. Perhaps the problem itself is that our stories and perceptions of reality themselves can’t keep up with the pace at which the world changes. The mudslide of change has swept up language itself like a pile of broken matchsticks. Is that the real definition of an information singularity, the one where meaning itself collapses?
We keep using words as if we mean the same thing to different people, or worse, we hit them over the head with words so new we haven’t figured out what they mean yet. What is “privilege?” How much do I have? Can I get rid of it if I don’t want it anymore? Is there a privilege Goodwill so I can share the extra it if I have too much?
Words are, by definition (see what I did there) artifacts of the past, tools forged from the meaning-making of our lineage. Words drag forward our past notions of the collective consensual hallucination of reality into this present moment. If we lack the tools to solve seemingly intractable problems, perhaps we should consider that words themselves may be a limiting factor in our toolkit.
So beware not only of the stories you make up about the past, present and future, but the words themselves that they are composed of. I appreciate the irony that you’re reading this in words. I’m not saying abandon words entirely, simply to cultivate a healthy skepticism about the limitations of them. No assemblage of words could ever sufficiently describe the taste of an orange if you’ve never eaten one, much less the delicacy of an orgasm, or the profound release of death. Words pale in comparison to what our senses tell us.
I invite you to come (in)to your senses. Notice the temperature of the air on your skin, the quality of the light in the room, the smells and sounds around you.
What’s the truth that lies beyond words? There is one, and it is utterly unpredictable. To contemplate that is to move into the tender mystery itself.
Read more about reversing the shadow at > FREE