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Our Language

Virginia Wolf's Writing Desk

"Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than history." - Jack London, March 1903

Human language is a phenomenon that has awed and still awes many throughout the past and present and that will probably continue to awe many in the future as well. This, in mythologies, often considered the gift of gods or God is often seen as the very thing that has allowed humans to exit the realm of animal. The invention of writing systems marks the end of what we consider to be prehistory. Human languages have developed into a complex tree of languages, dialects and writing systems - each of them giving the humans the unique ability of giving form to their thoughts. It is the language that often, out of the pure abstraction of our thoughts, often undifferentiated and noisy, creates a story. The simple and easy answer to why has language been given to us or why have humans developed linguistic systems with their complex grammars, figures of speech is that it makes it easier for us to communicate with one another. But why should we communicate? Surely, there was a practical reason to that - it made our bonds, our trade, everything we do much easier. But humans do not use language just for that - humans have used their language to give form or names to things that are of entirely metaphysical existence. It is almost universal for humans to speak of monsters, dragons, fairies and spirits - even if they truly exist in the metaphysical world, it is the imagination, facilitated by language that allows them to take form on the pages of our books, as the characters in our films, and eventually as statues and figures in our cities.

The beauty of human language is then not just in its practical realm, the language serves our need for imagination and for the myth. Language becomes not just a tool of practical matters but reveals itself to contain a creative power - just like human creates with his hands, so he creates with his mind and language that allows him to sculpt that which is in his mind. When language is the creator, the language is not just there to communicate facts, it is there to communicate an experience. And not just any kind of experience. We, humans, in our thoughts and existences are often lonely. Even when surrounded by other people, there may often be a feeling that there is truly nobody to share our own experience of life with us - that eventually, we have to go through it alone, fight the battles alone and experience everything through nothing else but our subjective and personal filters. The experience of sweetness or bitterness of life, we feel, depends entirely on our personal taste buds that we rarely, if ever, share with anyone else. In this subjectivity, we are alienated - surrounded by people, yet lonely. And yet, despite all of this, we share an enormous need to connect, to understand and be understood, to be reassured that our thoughts, experiences and feelings are shared by others. When humans write of their thoughts and ideas, when they create stories and myths, sometimes they keep it to themselves and sometimes they share it with others to read. In both cases, writing serves its creative purpose - in the first it gives form to the often unclear thoughts we have and puts them in a context and in the second, through writing, we gather the courage to share our internal realm with others, hoping that it will guide, inspire, motivate, enlighten, entertain some other soul on this earth. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in his Nobel speech, commenting on the prophetic quote of Fyodor Dostoevsky: "Beauty will save the world" makes a statement that art, through Beauty will save the world because it has the power to exchange the experience. It suggests that in the creative endeavour there is something so universal that it can speak to every soul that is open to listen and that through sharing this universal experience, we will at the front line of the salvation of the humanity. This is my experience has proven to be true. For I found it quite magical that a Greek philosopher, who lived millennia before I was born, said something that spoke to my own thoughts and ideas, in the very beginning of their formation. And that same has happened with Japanese Zen poets, Persian and Andalusian Sufi poets, reading myths of Greeks, Indians, Romans and even those as distant to me culturally and geographically as the myth described in the Mayan Popol Vuh. The feeling that comes is that there is but one ontological language and multiple, countless dialects. The many writers whose work I have enjoyed did not simply provide with beauty of their words and stories - they provided a degree of familiarity, of "I had this thought too" and it is always beautiful to recognise a kindred soul, even if it is no longer part of the visible world. For the one who wrote, it is their piece of immortality in this world - through their work they speak to people across the time and space, leaving often a significant impact or trace. Our language, our speech, our writing should perhaps be such not that it creates noise, not to just add in yet another "opinion", a "take", but to communicate our very essences, the deepest realms of our beings, the most honest, authentic ideas with others. We should master the language, master the writing, learn the words, so we find the most perfect way to speak that which is in our minds - for language is a gift, and we shall not give it offense by careless and pointless speech. We should write, for ourselves or for others, because writing offers freedom from the undifferentiated darkness of our minds. We should communicate because it offers a consolation that perhaps in everything we do, experience and go through we are not alone - the dialect changes, but the core language remains the same.

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Sasha Blackwell
Sasha Blackwell
Sep 23, 2022

Nicce blog

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