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April 3rd, 2021
What exactly is the meaning of that word? We’ve all occasionally had disagreements about this or that word, either by slip of memory of genuine mistake. Though, what exactly are we arguing about, and how can we be sure about the truth of a word?
Surely a dictionary is the obvious source of truth in such a case. But if this statement itself were true, there would be no reason to print new dictionaries. It’s not just that new words are bing invented, dictionaries are reprinted because words are also shifting and sliding in terms of what they mean. Even the most casual thought about etymology should prove this point.
Language is a dynamic, organic entity that grows and evolves. But where exactly does it do this? It’s hosted not so much on paper and within books as it is within our minds, and particularly, our communal minds.
A secrete language known by only one person is fairly useless. Surely it may be useful for that single individual who wishes to keep thoughts and ideas private, but it’s utility is inevitably tied to what the person does in concert with other people, namely the expression of those ideas and thoughts through other forms, as when their secret research finally bears fruit that can be shared with the world.
Language is, a communal hallucination. It is validated for stability through it’s continual use, and this process of testing it for truth unfortunately only has a partial connection to reality. Much of language remains stable across multiple minds through a circular proof. There are many words and usages that become detached from practical reality and drift off into an ether of what might be called ‘nonsense’.
And yet the nonsense functions because it’s shared, and many people can, together, have the same fantastical idea. Reality is always an interesting wake up call when such meandering forms of meaning start to inform actual behavior and that behavior comes into hard contact with the consequences of the world we live in.
We are all living in a fairly concentrated hallucination through language. So much so that our idea of things through language can blind us from what’s actually right in front of us. It’s fairly easy to get lost in that hallucination because talking is so much easier than actually doing things that have practical consequences.
So no matter who is talking, be it yourself or someone else, it’s useful to remember that we’re all just dabbling in a pool of fantasy. Sometimes it yields some useful things that we can use in the real world, but for the most part it’s a staging ground - the original simulation that we use to toss ideas against one another in a harmless battle royale to get a sense of what might actually work.
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