A thought occurred to me today. The limitations of language have been on my mind recently this year. One of my favorite words is probably “queer”
. But the way I use the term is often misunderstood by others. To many queer means gay. To others it means bi. To some it transcends the dichotomy of gay and straight and is in its most ambiguous form, “I am sexual. I lack any orientation”. In that sense, it isn’t even bi. It is giving the finger to labels and classification. I don’t like that this term is usually exclusive to sexuality. In a postmodern world of uncertainty, I think its use could be broadened to religious, political, and cultural subjects.
We’ve talked on the site lately about religion and a lot of people have given their own definitions, fully aware that a simple label isn’t enough. In fact, a label is often misleading and can be misrepresentative. When people ask what religion I am, I like to answer “yes”. I am spiritual, I just think that to express it in words doesn’t do it justice. So many things in this world are abstract. Particularly the field of ideas and intellectual conversation. Even the most articulate person is limited when it comes to using the tools of language that we are presented with.
It may or may not be coincidence that I went to see Kingdom of the Crystal Skull today. Which happened to deal with the subject of psychic activity or telepathy. I didn’t dwell on it much upon leaving the theatre. But the old biblical story of the tower of Babel came to mind tonight. And traditionally we seem to think that man spoke one language and then all of a sudden, with a snap of God’s fingers, they all started speaking different languages. What if this isn’t so literal and there was no “language” as we know it today, to begin with? What if communication and understanding was instinctive? Miscommunication wouldn’t have been a problem because they were not limited by language? I’m not suggesting they were telepathic, although I can’t rule it out. But maybe there was an undercurrent of something…
Or an alternative theory could be that they were the traditional idea of cavemen before. Using simple grunts and gestures to understand each other…
A tangent here: the idea of a “tower” seems sketchy to me as well. Perhaps the building of this tower was simply a metaphor for cultural and technological evolution? The BC humans got big heads and became worldly and advanced.
So if the tower is metaphorical as is the Poof-different-languages idea.
What if using language was part of that advancement? What if they developed language as their tower? And language complicated things and caused miscommunication and blurred understanding? And it continued to evolve until we have the languages that we have today?
The tower of babel was just a tangent. What’s really on my mind is both the potential that language has to help us understand each other…as well as the many obstacles and misunderstandings it can create. People can talk a lot and at the same time say nothing. And so much can be said with a simple nod of the head. Even as I write this, there is so much that I wish I could convey better. Without words.
Food for thought.
Edit: Some clarification maybe. This is an incomplete thought process, not an essay. And when I talk about Babel, I try to not be exclusively referring to christianity but the general mythology of towers and language development. The story of the fall of man takes many different forms, from apples to boxes. "Babel" has similar parallels.