Wish You Were Here
May 4th 2008
Another string on a much smaller bow.
Wish You Were Here
May 4th 2008
Another string on a much smaller bow.
Language is both wonderfully diverse and startlingly unique. It brings us together as human beings while dividing us in the same terms.
The words you speak say so much more about you than the message contained therein. The message is the canvas, with the smallest and faintest of outlines, nothing on its own; the words – however – are the colours, the tones, the highlights; and they are all yours to choose.
A differing medium to portray the same can, quite literally paint a very different picture as the artist throws their very own interpretation on their subject. Perhaps forgoing the fine detail or, maybe, abandoning the original outline altogether in favour of something new.
We may not see ourselves as such, but we are all artists, with our metaphorical paintbrushes in equally metaphorical hands. There are those which shine at this artistry and there are others who, clearly baulk at the prospect.
However, words are not alone in their task of making our counterparts understand our message. Anything one being does that has an effect on another should be held up alongside. Art, theatre, music, even mathematics – all of these are examples of parts of our culture which have an innate effect on us, and this list is by no means exhaustive.
I visited one of the larger art galleries my city has to offer not too long ago; on the whole, I see the beauty and am aware of what the artist is trying to put across. Yet I do not appreciate this effort in anywhere near the same terms as I would in a piece of literature, for example.
The message within a painting, or a portrait, is not something I can interpret nearly as well as one I can gleam from a metaphor or aphorism in a phrase or lyric. This, by no means, makes me stupid (only in my own opinion) but perhaps highlights my point:-
The nub of what I want to get across is the idea that there are a near infinite way of communicating with fellow man, and language is only one. It is an important one; it is a prevalent one; on occasion however, to re-appropriate (and misappropriate) a Churchill quote, words are the worst way to get your point across, except for all the others.
In one word I could describe a cow as ‘cow. In two, it could be ‘brown cow’, in three, ‘big brown cow’. Keep adding one after the other, only by adding more and more chunks on can any additional information be gleaned. There is a reason the phrase, ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ is so commonplace. In its own way, it is quite true. A picture may (arguably) be the better way to confirm the way to Amarillo, or to show you a big brown cow.
Is it a quizzical cow? There is no way to tell in the picture for certain, except for my caption underneath. (I decided it is!). So there are some things, language is strong at – and others where it seriously falters. With a limited scope, it suddenly becomes quite an inefficient way of communicating.
When I was younger, and quite bored – I was taking a walk and decided to practice my schoolboy French (probably giving far too much about myself away…). There was to be no thought running through my brain unless it could be transcribed into the French vernacular. It was quite remarkable, as my language skills are notable only by their absence. This is an extreme example, perhaps, but I found that my ideas slowly started grinding to a halt as I was fumbling over the most basic of terms, verbs and tenses. Something one would usually consider as quite vibrant became incredibly generic as I struggled over vocabulary.
A ranging vocabulary is key to being able to paint a lexicographical picture. It is dependent on two, or more people being able to communicate using the same words. This means, I am not suggesting that the largest vocabulary is the best. If someone knows 25,000 words, but those around them are aware of only 20,000 – that’s 5000 wasted words. This is true of slang and colloquial words too – if two people can express their feelings to one another bae using their best turns of phrase – then it is a worthwhile feat.
I discussed with a friend of mine the idea of how language may be now holding us back, rather than furthering our understanding of the world around us. Man was developing language at the same time as they were putting together basic tools. Words have adapted and evolved a great deal in the time between then and now; the basic tools have also, but they have been abandoned, replaced, re-hashed and re-invented (flint –> scythe –> laser-cutter). We are still using collections of sounds to portray so much, while still having many things remaining indescribable.
As new things come to pass, new words come in to describe them, but if you imagine being able to define each thought in our head on every minute of a clock-face, perhaps the words we use can only define the ones which fall on each hour-mark. There is so much being missed – perhaps, it is because I am inadequate at explaining my own thoughts – but I am nervous of believing this is the case.
I oversimplify, for my own amusement, and even having written 910 words on the subject already, perhaps that is not enough – or I haven’t picked the right ones. There may be a single word in a foreign language to describe all the above. Quite simply, as I search for a way to make my thoughts as clear as possible I wonder if words may not be the answer. I await a time where people can share their emotions, ideas, dreams without the need for this enforced filter. Telepathy, second sight…or another word yet to find its way into being.
Live long and prosper.
I am a lover not a fighter.
I have a mean right-hook when it comes into play, though – but, thankfully irrelevant to the rest of what I want to say. In fact, it probably is in direct contravention.
As any sports (or RPG) fan will be aware – if you do not have a good attacking set-up ready to play; your defence has to be watertight. I wasn’t really considering sports (or RPGs) when I pondered on this but they do act as a good metaphor for life, which is what I was anticipating.
My godfather gave me a piece of advice some years ago. It was a very strange thing but had a certain charmed logic to it (a feature most things I remember seem to share). Advice is as follows (I paraphrase): –
If you are stopped in the street late at night, by person (or persons) looking to rob, steal, malign etc. When they make their demand, whatever it is they say, you reply while looking them squarely in the eye and say:
“Just wait and see about that man over there on the wall – he’s not happy and I never done nothing.”
In the – inevitable – confusion, run…or punch him in the face.
Non-sequiturs are the way forward, apparently. It is never something I’ve put into practice,
Where I can help it, you won’t find me in conflict any more; the gains are never as appealing as what I stand to lose. At best, I will have proven myself correct and put someone firmly in their place (one way or another). At worst, I’ve got a bloodied nose (metaphorical or otherwise) and a bruised ego. I – genuinely – don’t understand the point of view of people who look for a fight at a moment’s notice. It doesn’t really prove anything, except, perhaps, a weak argument.
Do not mistake this with a condescending I am mighter than thou. I am, perhaps, the angriest, most confrontational person going. The first thought in a conflict is always fuelled by anger, the second, however, is ‘Where’s the fun…?’
That is the question I ask myself most in – pretty much – every human interaction. Where’s the fun? I interchange ‘human interaction’ with ‘conflict’ here, because I, quite honestly, find both equally challenging at times. If you don’t have an attack ready, my best defence is the product of wondering ‘where did all the good times go?’ People use the word ‘deflection’ as if it is a bad thing. I only partially agree: deflecting from an issue, if done right (as many, many years of practice can guarantee) can be most helpful.
It is not a badge you wear with pride, it is an armour you wear beneath (with or without badges of any inwardly directed emotion). It is the defensive play; the Hail Mary pass. Anything un-towards, or unexpected comes forth it can be held calmly and firmly – until an appropriate response can be called from the depths within.
It is simple one liner; or something slightly more off-the-wall, dependent on who you’re speaking to, I suppose. Anything that can both hold true while the brain struggles for facts. Having done this for so many years it is almost seamless and beyond concious effort (almost frustratingly). As reflex actions go, it is both a support, and a crutch – one you can hit people with every once and a while…
This sort of practice is far from unique, and something that everybody does (although mostly is a one-off method of avoidance rather than a way of life). It gets to the point where it surpasses the intended shielding of personality and, instead, gets out of hand and develops one of its own. Yes, it is an armour, a mask, a shield – but has a heart, brain and sovereignty defined outside of the one ascribed to myself – separated only by a pair of tired eyes.
Humour is great. It is one of the few aspects in life that can truly surprise an over-thinker like me; the opportunity to go off-piste is always all too appealing. Comics and stand-ups are often attributed as being deflectors and joke just to get through awkward situations. I don’t wish to make myself sound professional at anything; I suppose I am an aspiring apprentice.
Good excuse to finish with some of my favourite one-liners below.
I remember one time my uncle asked me to spell “schadenfreude” and I couldn’t. But he’s dead now and I’m not, so I win. – Gary Delaney (@GaryDelaney)
Banstead library has updated it’s internet service. It’s very very quick now although obviously I have to factor in the walk from my house. – Tim Vine (@RealTimVine)
Militant feminists, I take my hat off to them, they don’t like that. – Milton Jones (@TheMiltonJones)