Seeking Words

February 14, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Myth/Story, Society, Unconscious

Being human, it’s difficult to imagine what we don’t have words for.

Benjamin Whorf proposed that language powerfully determined the reality that a society can perceive.  For example, some indigenous Americans communicate largely in the present tense.  In Hopi mythology, the future and the past converge in a mythological alternative present as if at the other end of a giant wheel or hoop.  Such an experience of reality could influence individuals and societies at a number of levels.

Our unconscious, our personal representatives of the infinite other side, provide us information based upon the stories we have made up about the world.  What fits our stories we can absorb.  What does not fit our stories we ignore.  The words we use to create our stories are stored with a myriad of associations.  Associations left outside our experience, outside our words, do not end up in our stories and are not available to makes sense of the world.

A society emphasizing a single tense may be wiser than one deeply sensitive to the increments of time, wiser because the information received is far often high quality, real time information.  Nevertheless, that wiser society may be vulnerable to the machinations of a time-dissociated society.  The dissociated society is able to achieve long-term goals partly because they’re not spending time paying attention to the present.

Imagining or embracing what we don’t have words for is a particularly difficult issue in the sciences.  Over 150 years, many variations of evolution theories have emerged and languished as society keeps encouraging origin stories that support corporations battling for supremacy that then manage our financial/economic world and world view.  Demonizing socialism, as in socialized medicine, the elites seek to control disbursement of assets by controlling the meanings of words.  We don’t have a word that means both freedom and community.  “Epigenetic” is coming to mean both environment and heredity.  There is a concept binding together both “independent” and “cooperative” that when invented will go a long way toward making possible the placing of attention on the many-with-few-resources by the few-with-many-resources.

Isadora Duncan mentioned that if she had the words to say it, she wouldn’t have to dance it.  Perhaps the scientists and politicians should learn to dance.


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