Have you ever wondered why sometimes words fall short of expressing your untethered thoughts?
This essential ineffability of experience is the limitation that liberates, one which all great artists have struggled to pinpoint.
Alan Watts (acclaimed author and philosopher), rather articulately said, “If you try to identify the world as it is, with the way it is described, it’s as if you were trying to eat dollar bills, and expect a nutritious diet.”
To put it another way, nature is multidimensional, while language is scrawny. Anyone who speaks a language has underlying assumptions that go unexamined.
When you classify existence in terms of symbols, words, grammar and syntax, you’re actually describing how your nervous system interprets what seems to be an occurrence. The object is not its respective word just as the territory is not the map.
One may infer from a subjective point of view that cognition is allegedly determined by tangible symbols arranged in temporal space (like a sentence); however, your thoughts and awareness actually operate out of a state of mentalese—the symbol-less hypothetical representation of concepts and propositions in the brain, where the meaning of words are digested and organized.
In other words, language does not dictate your thought process. The experience of instinctual meaning precedes the codification and organization of abstractions. Mentalese is web-like in nature, and this network of associations, (which is the content of thought) is then refined according to the grammatical laws that are familiar to the experiencer.
It was the advent of symbol amalgamation that distinguished our remote ancestors from animals.
Aldous Huxley (eclectic writer and aesthete) said, “language is a device for making it possible for people to do in cold blood, what animals can do only in the heat of passion.”
People have the unique ability and “advantage” of harboring a conceptual language to develop upon abstractions, which we give symbols, numbers, and words that act as a veneer.
Our capacity for higher order intentionality, (an expression of mentalese which involves an exponentially elaborate entwining of intentions and thoughts) gives us the facility for intellect.
For example, ruminate the following figure; the “knower that knows that I know that you know.” This knower is an example of third order intentionality.
Most non-human mammals don’t conceive thought above second order intentionality; such as I know that you know. Throughout day-to-day experience we use third and fourth order intentionality unconsciously to approximate social behavior, but can exude higher levels among mathematics, art, and philosophical inquiry.
“We must make the best of all the worlds in which our extraordinary complex nature predestines us to live,” said Huxley.
The immediate experience is a grammar transcending state of mind, where the world is looked at, not through the latticework of the local symbol and language system, but by direct experience.
Beyond conceptual thought is a domain of edifying brilliance out of which our instinct equips us with language to navigate this thriving natural perplexity. As the words leap from the page and into your conscience, contemplate on how a set of letters can transfigure its patterns into a comprehension of reality that matches the interior landscape of the writers mind—and also on how this phenomenon is evolving.
Language is our map of the cosmos, and no map reveals all of the territory (such as every tree), so choose your lexicon with integrity.
Meanwhile, as information accumulates, your map can be revised, and linguistic “universal truths” crash onto the shore only to retreat into ignorance.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Holly Horne/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: martinak15, Flickr