16 December 2011

Have you ever been tripped by word into silence and forgetting?

Is it true that on certain nights, mountain and ocean exchange places and that in the monumental moving, man often finds man? 
I have thought many times that all the problems of the world can be put down to inappropriate definitions and descriptions.  Labelling has a way of ascribing values and attributes that are either not present or not as pronounced to deserve mention in the terms expressed.  I have thought many times that nothing is more violent than framing.  I think that it is the prerogative of the slothful and cowardly to name things, define them, set out parameters that are supposed to contain and thereby give meaning while at the same time banishing other attributes to keep definition intact, tenable.

A world without lines is hard to imagine.  A world without definition would render conversation impossible because each and every word would have been divested of meaning immediately.  We need description and definition. We need to be able to conjure a mind-image the moment we hear a particular combination of sounds. ‘Tree’ for example, would make us think leaf, trunk, bark, root, branch, flower, fruit, canopy, shade, timber, furniture, money, investment, paper, global warming, climate change, natural disaster, death, destruction, hunger, famine, impoverishment, habitat loss, biodiversity depletion and the immense solitude that is at the core of the human condition.  All these words and terms have meanings.  Each of them can trigger thought-train in innumerable and unpredictable directions and to unforeseen destinations. 

Words didn’t fall from the sky. They were coined.  They contain histories. They are the landmark products of thought processes, the rest-signs of journeys.  They move on, long after we die.  They were something else centuries ago and they will be something else centuries from now as human being twist, turn, defined and redefine as appropriate to moment, place, culture and prerogative(s) at hand. 

Words, we are told, we tell others and we like to think, are about communication; about expressing something to someone or to the world.  They are supposed to be lubricants of sorts that make smoother the commerce that occur among human beings.  They are about making someone understand where one is coming from and where one intends to go so that adjustment, if necessary, can be arranged, so that agreement can be reached. They are there so that when someone says ‘paper’ someone else won’t imagine ‘rock’ and a third person imagine ‘scissor’.  They are about lies too.  Aren’t they?

I am not sure if anyone has ever undertaken a study of words and their (ab)uses, but if I were to hazard a guess I would say that each word that expresses truth, empowers, celebrates, enhances clarity, is also used an equal number of times to lie, deceive, silence, insult, humiliate, compromise, subjugate and impoverish.   I used words, so I know (to a certain degree) their uses and abuses, their shining moments and dull, the embellishing and stripping naked, the truth-value and falsifying power.  I use so many words that I have to confess that each time I finish writing something, I am convinced that I have said nothing.  I wonder, for example, whether I have said what I wanted to say. I wonder if people read what I intend that they read. I wonder if my words have taken my thoughts in directions that I desire them to travel or to places that I would be horrified if they ended up at.  The truth is that I have no control over the cartographying that word-travel could produce once they leave my fingertips, once they heart-exit. 

I am so in awe of words that I find them utterly contemptible.  This is why I like to jumble things up at time.  This is why I wrote that line at the beginning of this essay.  Sometimes I am convinced that this kind of thing happens; sometimes before our very eyes, so apparent that we don’t see it happening. 

Just consider mountain and sea exchanging location.  Consider violin as voice and voice violin; a house as prison and a prison as residence, truth as a lie and falsehood as truth, god as man and man as divinity, the earth as sky and cloud as soil, line as space and space as time and time as line.  It is not too difficult.  A tree is not a tree, didn’t you know?  It is a face.  It is my tomorrow.  My daughter’s yesterday.  Speaking of children, are they really ‘little’?  Isn’t it true that nothing turns an adult back into a child than an infant, that a man learns more from his daughter than his parents, that teachers learn and students teach? 

We are made of the people who have touched our lives.  We are scarred by the scars we inflict. We are beautified by the beauty we’ve welcomed into our lives. We spit on ourselves when we spit on earth, we are nothing when we have everything and are all-powerful when we shut the door on power.

Have you seen sunlight streaming from the moon?  Aren’t fireflies but the coming-to-earth of constellations to dance for awhile?  Aren’t reservoirs made of the tree I spoke of at the beginning of this piece? 

Words are like water.  Cannot be stopped by sword.  Like sorrow. Cannot be drowned by alcohol, which only helps us understand that sorrow obliterates intoxication.  In the end, both word and silence are utterly incompetent in the alleviation of pain.  In the end, we are confronted by mis-naming, deceit, disguise and other things that confuse and cloud, not illuminate and clarify. 

We were not born to be happy, were we?  We get nowhere until we sit under that tree called ‘Me’, bathed in the sunlight called ‘Me’, contemplate a universe called ‘Me’ and recognize in all things ‘Me’. And we become so tender that word and silence blend into tree and shade and colour breaks into melody, texture into fragrance and prerogative into ‘rubbish’ and impossible into possible. 

Too many words here. I shall stop now.  I hope I’ve confused you enough because I am convinced at this point that it might help clarify. Something. Anything. Or even, who knows, everything!

[first published in the 'Daily News' of June 14, 2010
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beautiful sunshine said...
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