Words shape our thoughts.

Via on Nov 14, 2011

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“He gave man speech, and speech created thought, Which is the measure of the Universe” — Prometheus Unbound, Shelley

I’ve always loved the song “Ready for the Country“, by Neil Young. It’s funny: the Wikipedia entry talks about Waylon Jennings’ album rather than first crediting Young for the song. Nevermind.

Slipping and sliding
and playing domino
Lefting and then Righting,
it’s not a crime you know.
You gotta tell your story boy,
before it’s time to go.

 

Anyhoo, I first heard it when Harvest came out in the early 70′s. I always thought it was about going to the country. Like, going from the city to the woods.

Are you ready for the country
because it’s time to go?
Are you ready for the country
because it’s time to go?

 

I found a bunch of cheap CD’s at a resale shop and bought “Harvest” for a buck, even thought I have it on vinyl and surely have MP3′s. Just because. Because it’s one of my favorite albums of all time. And, what the heck. For a buck, I got a copy to leave in the car.

I was talkin’ to the preacher,
said God was on my side
Then I ran into the hangman,
he said it’s time to die
You gotta tell your story boy,
you know the reason why.

So, I popped it into the TV (yes) and was listening to it this morning. I thought as I listened to “Ready for the Country”. I pictured hopping on a bike and riding from the city to the hill country. Oh, the imagery. I could smell the pine trees. The cool air kissed my face as I shifted gears through winding roads in the crispy cool morning, sun rising, foggy fields, horses, everything clean. I was ready for the country.

Then, I decided it was probably easy to play on the guitar, so I looked up the lyrics. One of the comments said:

This march is about going into service for Uncle Sam. There is too much glissando in the lap steel for my taste, but the piano part rocks. Notable is Neil’s dissonant piano chord at 2:11 (on the second beat of the measure), as if to highlight the irony of the words “It’s time to die”.

WTF. 30 years, I’ve thought it was about rural life. Now, I think it might be about the war. Probably. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

So, you gotta agree that words shape our thoughts, right? I hear country and I think pine trees. You hear country and you salute.

What is reality? There’s a leap. What is real and what is imagined? If you dream a dream and in the dream you hold a match to your finger, it hurts. Is that pain real?

In high school, there was a cool, pseudo intellectual catch phrase people said that went “Why is the sky? What is reality?”

Descartes talks about reality in his Meditations . Pretty fascinating stuff. My philosophy prof cast the line and reeled us in. I loved that class. He stood at the head of the class, blue jeans and T-shirt, looking more like a hung over football player than a philosophy teacher. And, again, I heard about this reality stuff.

“Human beings are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problemsof communication and reflection. The fact of the matter is that the “real world” is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group.” The Status  Of Linguistics As A Science, 1929, Edward Sapir

So, I wonder: if someone says or does something, is it real? If he doesn’t mean it, is it still a reflection of him? Say I’m pissed off and I curse you and say I hate you. Is that so? Is that my head or my heart speaking? What’s the diff? Does it matter? I think so.

I think there’s truth and fiction. Reality and fantasy. Screw a bunch of fine line.There’s no fine line. Things are what they are. Quit yer’ bitchin.

Magic 8 Ball (photo from wikipedia)

I bought a Magic 8-Ball at the same bargain shop. Always wanted one. Might have had one once, but they are cool. Deceptively simple. Know what I mean? You know, they are those big softball sized plastic 8-balls that you ask a question to and turn over to see what the answer is.

So, I asked it a question last night and it said “Signs point to yes”. And, I thought about that.

 

 

Photo of Inayat Khan Words are but the shells of thoughts and feelings.                        Bowl of Saki, November 14, by Hazrat Inayat Khan
Commentary by Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan:In spite of whatever wisdom we may have; we can make a mistake if we have no control over our words. And we can easily find examples of this truth; those who talk much have less power than those who talk little. For a talkative person may not be able to express an idea in a thousand words which those who are masters of silence express in one word. … What gives power over words? What gives the power that can be attained by silence? The answer is: it is will power which gives the control over words; it is silence which gives one the power of silence. It is restlessness when a person speaks too much. The more words are used to express an idea, the less powerful they become. It is a great pity that man so often thinks of saving pennies and never thinks of sparing words. It is like saving pebbles and throwing away pearls. An Indian poet says, ‘Pearl-shell, what gives you your precious contents? Silence; for years my lips were closed.’   from  http://wahiduddin.net/mv2/IV/IV_34.htm

The mystic sees another significance of the mouth than for it to be a receptacle of food and drink.  Through the mouth words of wisdom are expressed, sacred words repeated.  Therefore the mouth is likened to a shell from which pearl-like words become manifest.  As by the opening of the mouth words are expressed so by the closing of the mouth the word is drawn within, which becomes a living word compared with all other words, which are lost after once they are spoken.

   ~~~ “Sangita II, Shaghal 9″, by Hazrat Inayat Khan (unpublished)

   ~~~ Words are but the shells of thoughts and feelings.

About Michael Levin

Michael loves sharing what he's learned about organic lifestyles like living off the grid and bicycle commuting. He calls it "lifestyle entrepreneurship". He's into organic gardening, mindful living, and realizes that we only have this life and each other. His favorite quote is "The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he's always doing both." (James A. Michener)

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5 Responses to “Words shape our thoughts.”

  1. Steve Ballmer says:

    Magic 8 Ball warned us about Microsoft when it told us Outlook Not Good.

  2. Bill Burroughs says:

    I’m the Soul Doctor, and you know, language is a virus from Outer Space.

    And hearing your name is better than seeing your face.

  3. Sasha, Thanks! Wouldn’t it be interesting to read Flaubert and Balzac in French? I’d love to read the haikus Gary Snyder translated in their original Chinese. Reading Borges’ Labyrinth in Spanish might reveal ideas the English translation completely misses. I’ve always been fascinated with language. Learning French is on my bucket list. As for my demeanor, I think it’s very observant of you to note. The tone of voice I used in this and my last article are very out of character for me. I felt uncomfortable but published them anyway. I actually asked 3 friends to proofread them for me before I published them, which I rarely do. Glad some of the meaning got through. Best, Michael

  4. [...] There’s a whole body of law surrounding libel and slander. Words are powerful! [...]

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