Language, meaning and our internal story-teller

The fact of language is one more thing that divides him from nature. But, he finds that if he doesn’t record the days, he has nothing to keep them apart. They blur into each other, a mass of green and gray, and he loses not only them but himself. (Alison Pick in ‘The Sweet Edge’)

This set me thinking. I have often felt the urge to learn ‘the speaking of silence’. Words sometimes seem to fill the spaces to bursting, getting in the way of real meaning. Despite a life-long love-affair with words, I have always retained some uncertainty as to their fundamental value.

Yet without words, what happens to memory?

True, the scent of lavender will always bring my grandmother close. But without language, can I even conceptualise this awareness?

Memories seem to me to be a kind of internal story-telling, our personal oral tradition. The stories we tell shape those memories, also shaping the people we become. We shade the telling of our stories according to audience and circumstance. But over time we fix a dominant version of our narrative, pinning it to our soul. We define whether we are victims or whether what happens to us, however difficult, is merely fuel for our growing. But we retain the option to change the story we tell. Words give us great power in our own lives.

Without words, what would we be? Would our existence be only in the present moment, and, if so, would this limit or free us?

If joy exists only in the now, would the absence of words bring us closer to joy? Or does the ability to create meaning through words enable us to extend our capacity to tap into joy?

(To be continued . . .)

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