Photo by Alexandra on Unsplash

Often, we don’t say what we think; more often, we don’t write what we believe. The medium is the message.

Sometimes, however, we take the time to think about things, only to find ourselves ensnared by semantics. In the same vein, the minds of many people appear to be possessed, or otherwise entangled, by ideas and thoughts which appear meaningless when we think about them.

We, as a species, are in the habit of inventing artificial constructs, realizations of concepts, to name things, thereby divorcing them from their natural nameless forms. To name something is to guillotine that thing. Our minds have limited capacity, so we must make do with names and labels. We must abstract, which is the principal problem with language.

We use language as a means to convey what we believe to be meaning. Language is made up of words, of lines or strokes, of orthography. To differentiate between conveying meaning and having meaning: words, in and of themselves, as specks of inks or bits of pixels, do not have meaning; they have uses. Words are tools. They have no meaning the same way a sledgehammer has no meaning. Like sledgehammers, words are tools for specific purposes. Our words are tools for communicative and descriptive purposes.

Function-wise, words are agents of separation. If you approach any given thing and call it a particular thing, then, by inversion, you are saying that it cannot be another thing. The savior a prophet or a son … Sometimes the smallest gradations of our words can make for the biggest differences in our world. Language frames our realities. If that is so, and political campaigns work and seize people’s hearts and minds like so, this may effect more peril and more evil just as much — if not more often than — as it may serve as a force for good. Worse, if a concept, evil or good, cannot be described in our language, then, as far as we‘re concerned, it might as well not exist.

It is not so much a problem with words themselves as with how our minds operate. Our minds are locked in a constant struggle between one concept and another. Any thesis written down spells out its antithesis. Left points out right; liberalism draws the shadow of conservatism. We palliate this disease of the mind by imposing patterns, borders, and categories on all things and ideas, including morality. We end up weaponizing our words and dodging them like bullets.

If words can be deadly like this, then we ought to be wary of the danger of cramming concepts of people into words when, in war, denominations become deathtraps.

Words desynchronize with their original meaning because they are static. They are prone to deprecate, lose their use, once removed from their immediate, appropriate context. Like old war-time bombs and mines, they grow more dangerous, more unstable, with time. Words are not children, but prisoners of their time and, at the same time, inhibitors of the times. Meaning, on the other hand, is the times; it is fluid, adaptive, and evolving. It is forever the inexpressible everything.

Language, as a system in and of itself, is a true marvel of human achievement, something to be relished. Words can, and ought to be, beautiful. But words can only ever be sincere for their own sake, in relationship to themselves, not in relationship to the whole. If life is a relationship to the whole, and we sometimes happen to desire to express ourselves, our momentary whole, with a degree of sincerity our words don’t allow for, we feel frustration or even violence. In those situations we grasp for words or signs that are not there to communicate something sincere. We end up substituting with words we did not mean to say to people we did not intend to hurt. It is how conversation breaks down, how relationships fall apart, how we get ourselves in trouble. It is the insurmountable divide between words said and meaning intended.

It can‘t be coincidence that couples, for example, fight with words but make up with touch. Society at large seems to acknowledge that, ultimately, words are an inferior way of expressing emotion or sincerity. That is not to say, however, that meaning cannot be discussed at all. Humans are capable of empathy, which allows us to trace another person’s meaning behind their words. Like beacons signaling ships into harbor, we manage to arrange the artificiality of words in such a way as to reveal, not obstruct, our meanings to one another.

Can you put love for a person into words and still be sincere? I think not, although the thought itself is not absurd. At some point, billions of years ago, the universe gave birth to itself from the nothing. Then, at some further point in time, the animate must have sprung from the inanimate. It is not inconceivable, then, that love can live in lifeless objects such as words. But should love depend on words, being what they are? No, I don’t believe so.

Sincerity should not be mistaken for truth. Truth is a construct of the mind, whereas sincerity is an expression of the heart. As possessors of hearts and writers of words, it is always more seductive for us to be sincere liars rather than propagators of insincere truths. And yet, a single act of goodness can furl the flapping banner sewn with our every hurtful lie and words of hatred.

writer of fiction and miscellany

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