The Limitations of Language

The Limitations of Language

Angela Abraham 01/09/2018 6
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Let's take a trip in our imaginations; you and I are now scientists in Antarctica. The snow blizzard has slowed to a light flurry and we are eager to get outside. I ask you if you would be so kind as to photograph a penguin. Your brain quickly and easily comprehends that:

a) I am speaking to you.

b) I want a photograph

c) The photo should be of a penguin.

You can then agree or not, as is your right. But, what has happened? We have simply and easily communicated an idea that is fairly complex. Language is great! So, what's the problem? A penguin is very different from a table, a jet ski or an airplane, yet as we age we are in danger of having the same emotional reaction to each - which for a great many people verges on indifference. At some level, because we have a word/label, we have assumed that we have a level of knowledge. Thus, if we fail to be aware of the limitations of language, then we are in danger of reducing our concept, our intuition and awe of nature and the world into these soundbites we call words. Instead of our emotional intelligence being engaged, it is in danger of being silenced.

If we fail to be aware of the limitations of language, then we are in danger of reducing our concept, our intuition and awe of nature and the world into these soundbites we call words.

To explain this better, let's hop into an imaginary time machine and visit a younger version of you, perhaps a year and a half old and... bring a penguin with us too, why not? Before you could speak, you could still see and feel. If we show this young version of you our penguin we will see an emotional response. Your young self feels a surging sense of joy, your eyes grow a little wider, you smile and jiggled on the spot a little, your voice becomes a few octaves higher. In that moment, the toddler you is feeling the sacredness of what you are seeing, an excitement and, in truth, a wider concept of “penguin” than any older child or adult that "who already knows it's a penguin!" So, without a culture that consciously maintains our baby/toddler sense of awe and joy, your innate concept of life is about to be reduced to labels and utility. What could be done to protect it? What could we do to protect today's children and help them remain soulful?

If we imagine for a moment an alien landing on Earth, and naming humanity, “Blarg!” The aliens who arrive afterward point at we naked bipeds and ask, "What are they?" The first alien is very pleased to know the answer and says, “These are blargs!” The other aliens now feel that they know what we are, we have our label. They see that we “blargs” are edible and easily frightened into compliance and soon make “blarg farms.” We are obviously less intelligent than the trans-galactic species that they are and they have no problems with using their new found “blarg resource.” Many of the aliens say that given the history of Earth, the new situation is an improvement. They have no concept of how we feel, how we love, our mental anguish, our need to protect our children, our sense of connection to nature, our need for community and for liberty. So, after this very short and sad story, let's ask again, "What is a penguin?"

Well, beyond the obvious, penguins are animals that form family bonds. They are capable of feeling emotions and having social rituals within a society that has expectations. They show love and affection. They appear to have a sense of adventure. Some are more brave than others. Some can be “dyslexic' for their sense of direction. And, if for a moment, we imagine being a small child without language, meeting a penguin for the first time, we can once again feel as we did as a small child. The instinct for sacredness is still there; the powerful sense of wonder returns and, in that moment, we feel a strong connection to nature and more pure of spirit. It is a sense of joy no "product" of the modern age can bring. Thus it is when we attach our sense of childish wonder to our 'labels' that we begin to regain the ability to safeguard all of life on Earth.

Yet we do need our words, our labels, because they are important tools for communicating and for "programming" our brains. From the label “penguin" we can attach other information about penguins such as details of their habitat, moments of joy from watching them, concerns for their environment and knowledge of the community they live within. So long as we keep an awareness that language is a crude tool that reveals truth only to the degree that it is able, and that when we find its limitations it is our emotional intelligence that leaps the rest of the way.

Language is a crude tool that reveals truth only to the degree it is able, and when we find its limitations, it is our emotional intelligence that leaps the rest of the way.

When followed to it's logical extension, the concept is truly liberating. It allows us to see more fully the wonderfulness of each person, feeling and seeing who they truly are instead of reducing them with labels.

Thus, we can see the wisdom in being a humanity with humility. We need a sense of humbleness, gratitude and love to respond appropriately to nature, as fellow creations rather than cruel and indifferent "masters" with "resources." And a huge part of it comes from comprehending where language is overrated and our childish sense of wonder is underrated.

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  • Craig Fisher

    THIS is so damn INTERESTING !!!!!

  • Paul Lawrence

    As someone who speaks a few languages I've become aware of my personality differences every time I switch, it's incredibly amusing really.

  • Derek Jackson

    Just like Mathematics is the language of Physics, Sanskrit is the language of spirituality. Language actually changes our ability not only to understand, but also to experience reality.

  • Craig Paterson

    Interesting article... on an extremely interesting subject.....

  • Gary Bosworth

    Fascinating read!!!

  • Danny Wright

    Thought-provoking piece

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Angela Abraham

Social Evolution Guru

Angela Abraham is a biologist and author. She is the leading voice in the modern call for social evolution, a way to evolve the current global culture and structure to one that is sustainable, healthy and leads to a genuinely happy and thriving humanity, one in balance with planet earth and other species. She specialises in using many areas of biology, including medical, neuroscience and behaviour, to help form policies that will lead to social evolution (slower yet more sustainable, orderly and lasting than revolution). She is a self-confessed spider-web thinker and her articles blend science, faith, creativity, art, linguistics and common wisdom. Angela is currently writing the world's first book on social evolution. Angela is the CEO and founder of "Descriptionari," a website that helps millions of youth worldwide with creativity, writing and better mental health. Her work is also used by authors, script writers and movie industry professionals. Descriptionari is also used to spread good ideas that promote peace, understanding and social cohesion. Descriptionari is a form of social evolution in action, one that has become increasingly mindful of the ways linguistics programs the brain and ways to reverse social damage. She credits her own leaps in creativity and problem solving abilities to the formation of Descriptionari, to forming new random ideas daily for many years before applying the skill to science and peace building. In 2017 Angela published a series of books that integrated emotional intelligence and physics concepts with natural creative stories for young children. The rights to the books were sold internationally and were translated into many languages. She is an accomplished public speaker, speaking as part of a panel at the European Parliament building in Brussels and also at The House of Lords (UK), The Royal and Diplomatic Club in Dubai and The House of Commons (UK). Angela is active in peace advocacy, speaking internationally to promote the role of social evolution in conflict resolution and positive policy making. She finds solutions to conflict of all types, able to see many perspectives, conceptualise them, and show how the parties can find alignment. Often times arguments stem from fear and, to borrow analogy, the parties are as expert tennis players making excellent shots... never realising that they are either on different tennis courts or actually on the same side. Angela is a cyclist, a lover of movies and a fan of nature, able to lose herself in the smallest of details. She takes every opportunity possible to further the cause of social evolution, firmly believing that with love we can find soulful solutions to all the problems of mankind. She believes in blending technology with what's worked in the past for humanity. She is a believer in preserving what is good in culture and promoting community spirit, liberty and creativity. For Angela, joy and access to the "rents of the land" (as English philosopher, John Locke said) should be a birthright and, for that, she both challenges the status-quo with an eye to preserve the old that was the good.


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