This is a fun meditation to try and explore the nature and limitations of language. I'd call it a travel guide to fairyland if I had to be poetic.
This was mainly inspired by Zerzan's Time And its Discontents. Zerzan remarks that language, by being so useful while not universal, obscures many concepts that we'd otherwise have access to. From his anarchist point of view, this not only robs us of certain freedoms, but also makes us unaware of them. ("language is a straitjacket for the mind").
The idea that language was oppressive was profoundly new to me. I was skeptical but still set out to find the things he said we'd lost.
This is classic psychonautic exploration. You'll need some familiarity with mindfulness meditation and its techniques. In a "hand pointing at the moon" way, I can not tell you what the things are, but I can tell you how to find them:
You could name these concepts now, but since they are nameless by definition, you'd transmute them into something else. I found them hard to remember personally, but easier to find after a while.
- Tune in to the noise of the mind.
- When a concept comes up, on top of the usual stuff, do not categorize it, do not even name it.
- But let yourself be pulled in by the associations. Prefer things whose names don't come easily to you.
- At some point (I hope), concepts will come up that have no form, outline, name or meaning. This is what we're looking for.
I've found a few of these in dreams, now that I have a handle of them. One I would describe as something stolen from fairyland, a bit like a gem.
For me, this revealed the hard limits of language - I had found things that I could not only not describe due to personal inadequacy, but due to their very nature.
Since language's problem is its normativity, I set out to find alternatives. Apart from poetry I found that music fits the bill: It doesn't even try to be normative. Music conveys emotions and while you can strive to be precise, in the end it depends on the mental makeup of the listener. Sad pieces will end up beautiful in other ears. So people usually don't even try to be exact and that's a good thing.
published: Feb 28 2016.
epistemic status: solid.