Tarnished scratches across white metal

The wonderful precision of language

It may be nothing new, but isn’t it amazing how we have words for every conceivable concept, mood, situation, gesture or action? Shades of meaning to capture all the nuance of human behaviour, experience or perception. The concerns of each group expressed through the vocabulary they’ve developed to convey how they see life and feel about what they find there.

As if “all human experience” is matched by language to encapsulate it – our lives surrounded by the words we select from to create the thoughts and speech accompanying it. Choices we make becoming the narratives we’re living with, the meaning we’ve assigned and must work through. Aren’t we “always” bringing meaning to life through how we choose to label, interpret and respond? (Notes One)

Yet the idea of applying the right words – precise estimations of honesty, weight or respect – to whatever situation we’re in doesn’t seem easy. Aren’t we often “misusing” language for effect? Adding drama to serve our psyche, needs or agenda in ways that almost seem to bend reality to what we’d like to make of it. As if, with our words, we either reflect or distort the world. (Notes Two)

Given we have terms ideally suited to any situation, it’s interesting we might choose not to use them. All the ways we might be imprecise, less than honest, or fall back on generalities. As if, despite having this rich repertoire of options to convey life’s complexity, we’re not able or willing to apply them.

Of course, language being about common understanding, it makes sense we’d use terms those around are familiar with: communication hardly works when messages aren’t received. But, if we’re trying to have “one conversation” about all the realities we’re involved in and concerned about, aren’t we limiting ourselves if we snip out much of what language offers? (Notes Three)

Sometimes it just seems we’re not making the most of opportunities to communicate – that, instead, life’s full of language used for other purposes. Isn’t it tiring to be surrounded by meaningless content? Constantly using our faculties of hearing and cognition to filter through the unnecessary in case there’s anything valuable within. All this performance or argument that frequently takes the place of dialogue.

As humans, experiencing life and coating it with words, how often do we really get to say what we think and have others take the time to hear what we truly mean? That kind of detailed, subtle conversation where the inner life of one becomes the shared reality of another as “life” gets cast in the light of individuals and whatever’s burning brightest in their soul. (Notes Four)

If language helps transform reality into something we can talk about, isn’t it perhaps one of our most valuable tools? This ability to reach beyond the confines of the self to pool our humanity within one big ongoing conversation. To hear what life is like for all those experiencing it, grasp the meaning of all we’re engaged in, and form decisions on that basis.

Notes and References:

Note 1: With our words, do we cast spells?
Note 1: The battlegrounds of our minds
Note 1: All that we carry around with us
Note 2: The stories that we hear
Note 2: Reading between the lines
Note 2: How much do intentions matter?
Note 3: Things we give voice to
Note 3: Diplomacy and knowing where we stand
Note 3: Connecting truthfully with life
Note 4: Can there be beauty in communication?
Note 4: Voices within cultural life
Note 4: Words & relating as paths to change

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