The Power of Language

If I describe how I feel, having never thought about my emotional response to the topic, do I unearth my feelings that were present before, or do I form them in the moment?

There is something very simple yet bizarre that the unfathomable range of human thought and emotion can be squeezed into a handful of characters; say 26 for example. Simple shapes in a limited range of combinations and patterns to represent physically all things, including that which we are yet to comprehend or understand. Its strange that you rarely hear of people complaining of the limits that language brings; that writing or speaking to express ones-self is the most widely used form of communication – despite its vast restrictions. Furthermore its possibly a unquantifiable task to try and determine how many alternative interpretations can be taken from one speech, one poem, one story – let alone a lifetime of conversation. 26 letters, 10 numbers, a collections of other symbols within algebra and grammer are meant to be enough tools to describe, explain, question and teach everything present and subject to, the cumulative range of every human consciousness, mind and imagination, now, then and indefinitely.

The power of text can change history – for past events are mostly only recorded in such a way that is subject to the writers’ intention, knowledge and ability to portray the events. When all we have is text or language to explain something unseen, it has the most incredible power to determine the minds opinion. We only know of what survived.  So how does this translate to language describing the unknown of the future – does language have the same shaping effect as it does on the past? If both are simplified to be considered outside of the current time, and therefore unknown to us, and if one (the past) is controlled or influenced by text, it might be true for anything outside the realm of now (past or future).  Perhaps this means we can not predict but control the future if we find and harness the power in our own language and text.

My love for books is that the story is always there, suspended forever in the lines of a book you can open at any time. ‘He was free falling towards the ground’. The power a book gives you is to control how often, when and for how long this man falls. Every time a book is opened to this text, every time it’s read and the reader stalls, or then closes the book – the man is falling, for infinity within this one line, those 7 words. Wonderful, horrible, disturbing, delightful, tense, delicious, scary and beautiful moments, ideas, characters and places are frozen in time, instantly thawed and refrozen as and when the reader desires. What immense control language gives us over fictional characters. And yet – characters are not always fictional, are always based on something. Is there then an exponentially increasing level of control over the real character the closer the text comes to reality? Can the lines of text or language as literal, visual and auditory subjects be blurred with the solid lines of flesh, concrete, bark and water? If a text describes a real tree, but details fictionally a demise which is entirely possible – is the fate of the actual tree effected?

The emotive power of text is fascinating to me, in 100 words you can create the darkest moment of someone’s’ life, a beautiful scene, a tense conversation, a birth, a death, a journey across town, or out of our solar system, a moment, a day, lifetime or memory. In 100 words you could create anything, and evoke your chosen emotional response, likely to be uniform amongst the majority of your readers. Writing, speaking, using language gives each individual the power to effect the emotion of others, assuming the ‘others’ surrenders themselves to your language and expression, and gives you the power over them. Everyone is a dictator, everyone tries to use their linguistic powers to influence the position of those reading or listening; to teach, to manipulate, to challenge, to confuse, to control, to tease, to age, to affect. Just a pool of 26 letters and a few additional symbols used 3726 times to create this text. Will you give me the power to have it effect your mind, opinion or understanding? Do you even consciously have a choice? Have I set you a trap by publishing this, tempting you to read, taking the power over your own emotional response without you noticing, but been open about what I’ve done, and in doing so controlled your rejection of my initial control?!

Inside Out

Everyone has times of difficulty, tribulations and secrets in their life. As people, we are made of both light and dark, and the journey of life has us travel between times in each, and at every stop we collect a little to carry forward with us. So at any point in life you could look down at yourself and realize you’re carrying the weight of your past experiences, and some are bright and delightful, dancing around and eager to be seen, and there are also the dark shadows that we desperately try to hide. We push down, cover up, deny and hide from our demons, our struggles, our destructive behaviours, our mistakes, guilt and pain. We try to hide it from ourselves and from everyone else. The world is built in a way to support this process – to pretend and deny. We live in a world where there is an assumption of how long things should take to heal, how much crying is sufficient, how we are supposed to react and feel. There are endless books on the rational breakdown of emotional stages, the steps to recovery, the journey to appearing better. There is a pressure on people to keep up appearances, to still present themselves according to local cultures’ ideal of adequate, to still share and care and laugh and joke around. We are living in a world that encourages us to heal on the outside as soon as possible. Fix the surface, brush it off and go on as you did. Get over it already and man up and carry on regardless. Fake it till you make it. Try and act normal, pretend you’re okay and show your face.

But what does that actually achieve, this healing from the outside? We are pressured to keep moving at the pace we were going at despite the bumps in the road, we are given little grace to recover from catastrophes, there is an expiration date on compassion and support. So we are swept up in this bizarre game, because everyone is playing it, and we pretend things are fine. We convince the people who don’t care, then we convince the people who do, and then we convince ourselves. We trick ourselves into forgetting that there was something dark and painful and uncomfortable in our lives. We turn our attention and energy away and focus on forgetting and acting out our roles. We forget there was anything to even hide, we are so well trained at it, and then we smile, and share, laugh and joke around. We accumulate possessions and stories and a lifetime of memories. We force ourselves to continue down the path we thought we were destined for, and blind ourselves to any signs it’s not exactly right. We do not accommodate for our own discomfort, regret, shame or anger. We turn our backs and look forwards with a smile, taking as much enjoyment from life as we can from that position, just like everyone else.

But just because we don’t look at the darker stuff doesn’t mean it will slowly decompose and erode itself away. It’s not going anywhere. It stays, heavy and hidden, the forgotten burden we shoulder that sets us off balance. Because we don’t look at it, we can’t see want it’s doing, where it’s influencing, what impact it’s having on our choices, ideas and sense of self. The darkness seeps into everything. Its sets in and infiltrates the mind, body and spirit. It pollutes our world. The silent killer of bright eyes, real laughter, true honesty and genuine trust. It corrodes the world we build on the outside, from the inside. Because when you just fix the outside, and forget that you did it, you never spend the time needed on fixing the inside. The surface looks good, and you don’t expect the inside to be rotten – but it is, the darkness festers in its own denial and betrayal.

Instead, we would be better to take the time to look at the darker side of ourselves, to pull the shadows into the light and observe them for what they truly are. To stop the game of acting okay to make others feel better, but actually try and help ourselves get better. Look at the pain, the anger, the grief and loss. Find the root, explore your choices and motives and influences, uncover the cause and take its power away. Face your fears, and own your life, accept you are imperfect and your flaws make you real. Spend the time and energy on fixing yourself from the inside out. Look at the darkness and then release it back into the Universe, rather than ignore it and carry its poison your whole life.

Lighten the load. Be true to yourself. Heal from the inside out, and the surface will heal for itself. Never pretend things are better than they are to yourself, or to those who love you. Don’t forget your pain, but embrace it and it will diminish.

Heal yourself, love yourself, be yourself, share yourself.

A Blank Page

A blank page, the start of something new. A space for exploring the dark corners of my mind, and for sharing the shadows of what I find. It would have to be shadows, because how arrogant would I have to be to think I possessed the capacity to translate thought into words in a way to make all readers interpret and comprehend the same unfathomable concept as the one in my mind. Shadows and blurred outlines will have to suffice, as a hint to you and reminder to myself, an attempt to bring life and colour to things untouchable and invisible.

Writing. Writing for me is a tool, a tool I cherish. I hold a pen poised over paper, or wriggle my fingers over a keyboard and feel like I write on instinct. I don’t always follow my primary voice of consciousness, the narrator of my life, but normally find myself writing from a different part of my brain, one further back and less attention seeking. Sometimes I write, and then read it back to hear, for what seems like the first time, my own opinion on something. I find that this happens more when I write with pen and paper rather than a keyboard and screen. My unconscious thoughts flow out more organically and unpolluted through ink than text.

It is the wonder of writing that it teaches you so much about yourself.