The Inadequacy of Words
The irony of setting up a blog and then calling the first entry into that blog "The Inadequacy of Words" is not lost on me. Seems counter-intuitive, right. Somewhat juxtaposed perhaps. Allow me to clarify what I mean. The more conversations I have over a broader spectrum of topics, the more I have come to realise that we are incredibly limited in what we can express, and how we can express something with our words alone. For example, a few nights ago I was engaged in an incredibly riveting conversation with a close friend about, ironically enough, language. Specifically Mandarin, the Chinese language. This conversation ebbed and flowed and subsequently evolved into a discussion about whether or not we even think thoughts in a language, as opposed to simply creating something coherent in our head all at once out of chaos, and then catching up with these thoughts by verbalising them in our own head. Putting that rudimentary description of the gist of what we were saying aside, it took us a good five minutes to get to a point of clarity and understanding about this idea between us, and what's more, is that it was only after a substantial amount of over the top hand gesturing, and ultimately, drawing a representation of what was trying to be said. Words alone were not enough. Because here's the thing, words are incredibly interpretive, putting tone, inflection, and immediate context from spoken linguistics aside (which can arguably make it harder from time to time), it can often be quite the task to discern the crux of someones point from just their words alone. People use words and phrases, and even idioms in a multitude of different ways, and things often aren't quite as elegant coming out of the mouth as they are flowing through our synapses. Perhaps it's due to the level of depth and magnitude that my most meaningful conversations embody, but I often find that both I and my conversational partner will have to ask each other to elaborate on the point we're making or sometimes just to re-word what we've written entirely. But is this the only hurdle when establishing clarity in conversation? I suspect not. I was sat in my chair a few weeks back simply thinking, as I often do. I was thinking about someone I'm close to and pondering on whether or not they were doing okay. (They had recently called me and spoke of a few minor issues they were experiencing and I did my best to listen and interject with objective viewpoints where appropriate). So I'm sat there thinking about this, and wondering how they were doing on their personal journey and where I felt on my journey in relation to theirs. I then began to think about how I might help them again if requested to do so, and I boarded several different thought trains departing from the same initial station surrounding this area of thought when suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, into my head popped the phrase "Wow, I'm actually being quite narcissistic here."... But how? I had started from a point of genuine concern and empathy, how could I possibly be being narcissistic? Then it hit me. A flood of new perception came rushing to the forefront of my conscious mind; words don't matter. Let me be more clear, intentions don't matter, because anything you or anyone else says, or even thinks, can be spun a hundred different ways to emphasise and represent two complete opposite ends of a spectrum. There ultimately is no subjective or objective. All there is is context, and the intentions of those whom you're talking to. We live in an age where people are very quick to simply jump on a bandwagon in order to perpetuate a group identity label. Unwilling to consider the possibility that someone may have differing views from your own for a good, or at least a justifiable reason. Too quick to simply place people who disagree with their ideologues into the category of 'them', or 'other', or 'enemy'. I'm oh too familiar with this because I very much used to be this person. I too was someone who was unwilling to recognise the simple fact that I should not only accept, but appreciate the fact that we live in a society where someone can have the freedom to disagree with you completely, and voice that concern with absolute resolution. This is the very core concept of what it means to live in the western world, in an incredibly privileged 'first world country'. Dare I say we need people to disagree with us entirely, lest we fall into a society of one size fits all, never have a controversial thought mentality.
So yes, it is my humble opinion that words are, at the best of times, inadequate. But so long as we all strive to be nuanced, understanding, and empathetic people, those inadequacies just very well may be worked out.