Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Danger zone ...

... Sticking the world together with words. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Foreign languages are unsettling. They remind us how arbitrary the mental world we live in is. Silence is worse. When we try to imagine consciousness without words, when we think of a day, even an hour, without any words in the head, we are overcome by a kind of vertigo. As when we think of death.


  1. Mostly what I'd have to say here is "Well, duh."

    As a person who as at various times in life been fluent in three foreign languages, I long ago came to believe that there are expressions that are local that they say something unique in the language, and cannot really be translated but only paraphrased. Each language has its own mindset and worldview, and while we all have things in universal common, there are things that just don't cross the cultural barriers too.

    The anxiety and torture described in the essay are entirely self-created. They're not anxieties I particularly feel, even as a writer.

    And as a poet, silence is my best friend.

    I always have found it strange how averse some people, especially word people, are to silence. As though they're afraid that if they don't hear the constant chatter of others, or of their own monkey minds, they'll lose their sense of self, or collapse into fear of the vacuum, horror of the void.

    Whereas in Zen the whole point is to quiet the monkey mind and enjoy the silence.

  2. Couldn't agree more, Art. Also, a better translation of "in the beginning was the Word" would be "in the beginning was the Tao."

  3. "Lost in Translation

    "New cognitive research suggests that language profoundly influences the way people see the world; a different sense of blame in Japanese and Spanish"