Thursday, November 10, 2011

This will be sort of like Plato's Allegory of the Cave... that we have a sort of exploratory dialogue going on between the philosopher and his friend.  Except in this case, the friend can't get a word in edgewise.

E: Sometimes it's too bad that language is a linear mode of communication.

J: How do you mean?

E: (He asked for it...)  Because, as I'm sure you know, ideas have a tendency to sprout (or explode) off in all directions from whatever starting point, and it can be cumbersome to follow one thread through to its fullness and then have to go all the way back to the beginning and take off in the next direction.

We talk of going off on tangents as though they're extraneous and distracting, but they may in reality be essential parts of the fully developed idea, and we need them to understand the entirety of what's being explored.

I find that I can't ignore the little offshoots of idea (at least when I'm working honestly, from the sincerest part of my creativity), which is probably why I use so many parentheticals, footnotes, fragments, and inside jokes and in my verbal communication.  Which usually means that streamlinedness goes out the window.  But by referencing the points of connection, I can hope that my readers/listeners will get a clearer picture of what's really going on with the idea.

That's a very tenuous hope, though, due to the fact that, by its very nature, language is one-dimensional.  Spoken or written, we can only process it one word at a time, in the chronological order of its reception.  Forcing a whole idea into this time-linear format creates the illusion of precedence (or antecedence?), which can lead to the illusion of causation, when often the components of a truth just are, together and simultaneously.  That's nigh impossible to portray with words.

So, then.  Why write, you ask?

J: No, I actually didn't--

E: Because words, for whatever reason, seem to be the common denominator.  Reading and writing/speaking and listening are skills that almost everyone can learn.  And words are specific; you can be almost sure that your message will come across to anyone who receives it if you've written it well (as opposed to a piece of visual art, or music, or dance; the general feelings may come across all right, but the specific reactions they elicit and images they evoke will often vary enormously from what the creator intended.  Notice that these kinds of things often have a written "artist's statement" to clarify the artist's intentions and/or to shape the viewer's interpretation.  And, yes, much writing is as obscure as any Pollock and can be interpreted and debated all sorts of ways; but words can attain a higher level of precision of expression than any other medium.  Long parenthetical.).  And we in our society expect that of each other.

J: . . .

E: But to write well, in the sense of clarity, one has to conform to the nature of language, i.e. streamline.  Focus.  Cut down on...well, on the sprouts (the bean sprouts; she wants a bean feast).  Otherwise, your writing comes out like that last sentence of mine, and you lose people.  You have to own the single dimensionality.

J: Right.

E: Except that it's wrong!  Because the idea, the truth, (the elephant!) is so much more than that!  Truth is at least two-dimensional, probably more--hence painting, sculpture, music, dance, drama--but when we try to capture it in anything like its entirety, the potential for explicit, certain understanding (slim as it ever was) goes away.  And isn't the point to be understood?

(?): Maybe it's okay for now, while we have to exist in a time-bound realm, to have to deal in its limitations.  We won't always be stuck with an imperfection (lack of wholeness).  Some day, some existence, we will have the capacity to see things as they are (see Moroni 7:48), and those who are with us will have a perfect understanding.