meaning and spells
Here in a foreign tongue I can barely speak, but even in silence language is inescapable. Asleep or awake my mind fills itself with conversation, constructing models of reality to frame the thoughts that emerge from the wondering void. It's neither madness nor magic to imagine what we mean; rehearsing is the only way to make sense of things and put them right.
Communication is primitive, fundamental. Every being, in engaging with its world, communicates with others, however unconnected they might seem, and each responds whether understanding what they mean or not. In the primordial soup some wriggling thing unknowingly spoke and its environment replied. In the beginning was the word - just not a word that we would recognize.
Life needs awareness to make choices - to survive - an awareness striving for fulfillment. How else could it be. Each being is set apart through the essential singularity of this. Built from inherited codes, awareness is bootstrapped, converting whatever the being can recognize into a measure of significance for it, by matching current sensations to prior experiences; from biology a meta-biology emerges, a psychology of some sort. Psychological-frames correlate to biological-expressions, and biological-expressions correlate to psychological-frames; hormones no more create love than love creates hormones.
Opposing statements can both true: colour does not exist and yet obviously it does; the mind does not exist and yet obviously it does. As the physicist Niels Böhr said: "opposites are not contradictory but complementary." No choice then is required; abstract concepts and concrete descriptions coexist in different language-frames, parallels in metaphorical and literal expressions. No mutually understood communication can take place without establishing a common reference frame of perception and sense - no trivial thing. As well as the mind and the soul, other common and significant groups are often conflated through category error. These errors, like trojan horses, install deceptions and confusion into understanding and decisions.
Words have grown increasingly powerful now that literacy has pushed aside native, phrasal language. It's often hard to see their point and easy to get lost in them but words delight us. And the literate revere them. Increasingly, as we depend upon the maps that they represent, they are being accepted as the territory itself, and the illiterate, no longer having a voice, are left with nothing, other than to contemplate the divergence of wisdom from our scriptures.
Nuance is central. Words are just noise or marks on a page, the only meaning they have is given them by you and I. They map the things we find important. Personal, and ambiguous, they readily get entangled, and when they do questions and answers begin to revolve, trapping us in vicious circles; their connections suddenly unclear, we lose sight of where we are. It's meaning that makes stuff matter. But meaning has to be negotiated; reasoning can only support the search.
To serve the dream of power, priests and rulers cloaked the world in spiritual language, annexing dreams of a heaven on Earth in their literal interpretations of scripture and law. Countries were drawn around our feudal state, with terror not enlightenment, and on its ruin, with hope crippled by war, a new faith took root: scientism. Yet science has no need for faith - faith only corrupts it; science is simple and absolute, neither divine nor human.
Whatever chemistry life first stepped through, matters of meaning remain distinct from the temporal struggles of biology and extending beyond boundaries of conception and death. In all things interpretation is inescapable:- whoever speaks it, the word of Man is not the Word of God; the Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao. Whether in universities, temples, mosques, or churches, whenever an ineffable soul is imagined as being chained to the machinations of biology and its meta-constructs, the meditations on it are conflicted with lures of power.
Who can say if we have any greater ability to successfully direct the development of our species than others have to direct theirs. It seems clear we have less than we might believe, but whatever attempts we do make to do so are crippled when we do not recognize and value the different language-frames we use as we try, as it is these that guide our choices by framing our perception.
Niels Bohr, a Danish physicist who received the Nobel Prize for his foundational contributions to Quantum theory, conceived the Principle of Complementarity - that singular items could at the same time possess apparently mutually exclusive properties - after realizing that light behaved like both waves and particles. His motto was: "contraria non contradictoria sed complementa sunt" - contradictions are not contradictory but complimentary. Regarding meaning, he wrote: "We are suspended in language in such a way that we cannot say what is up and what is down."
Many groups of categories are commonly conflated, leading to errors in thought and reason that are hard to detect. They include:- the mind and the soul; health and wellbeing; culture and grace; science and religion; justice and law, freedom and licence; art and philosophy; reality and virtuality.
Category error, Wikipedia.