Friday, August 18, 2017

A World Made of Language

One of my favorite authors and--although he wouldn't admit it, shamans--is Terence McKenna. Mainly famous for his ascendency as the progenitor to Timothy Leary, McKenna made it his mission to enlighten his audiences about the very deepest fact no one talks about: our world is made of language.

And when he refers to "our world", he means the modern technological Western-style world, with its materialism, and embedded scientism, usually denying the reality of personal experience in favor of "objective observations" of agreed upon, consensual reality.

New flash: These are not the characteristics of non-Western, non-technological societies, such as isolated tribal cultures of South America, Indonesia, Africa and the Australian Outback. To these cultures, language does not define their worlds--and in some cases is avoided in favor of telepathy or dreaming.

I was deeply impressed with the recent movie, "Arrival", which attempted to address this subject. As McKenna has said, if there are assumed to be intelligent extraterrestial life forms, most likely they are so alien, we wouldn't possibly be able to comprehend their purposes or their agendas, let alone their modes of communicating or conveyence. The movie pivots around this point, and ultimately shows how our reality is shaped by language. In the movie, the visitors defined human language as "a weapon", possibly due to it being so limited that it was harmful to comprehend it. Conversely, the contact human, a linguistics expert interacting with the aliens, was completely transformed by attempting to comprehend what the aliens were actually using as their mode of communication.

As standard operating behavior and habit, we interpret our experiences as words. The feelings, deeper perceptions we have about the world are translated into words. We say it's because we want to understand these things and be able to report to others about them. But this is really more of an excuse not to simply BE without words, and use our capacity to know outside of understanding. If we are filtering everything with the language we use to interpret it, how much of it is not covered by words, and so is lost?

One of the exercises I was taught by my guru many years ago was the practice of non-duality. In this practice, we try to see the world and our experience of it as a whole system containing both ends of a spectrum or duality. Say we witness what appears to be a cruelty in the world. The non-dual approach would be to simultaneously notice the kindness resulting from the cruelty. We try to see hate as a cry for love; a judgment as a desire for something greater. After practicing this for awhile, you come to a place where language seems limiting--indeed a "weapon" of limitation, secrecy and control.

Even in the "new age" spirituality movement there can be a "weaponizing" of spiritual concepts by using them to belittle, invalidate or limit another. Your 4th Chakra is closed down, so you are a hateful person, for example. The non-dual version would be the observation that the person's 4th chakra is in the process of opening as indeed is the entire being.

Because our world is made of language, we can use it to define our lives in a more constructive and generative way, by simply repeating the words to construct the life of our dreams. In light of the dualistic nature of language, the task becomes one of disciplined mindfulness: observing the negative thoughts as openings to a reality without that negativity--using the negativity itself to build a positive, life-affirming, generative life full of purpose, joy and ease.

Tune in to the oneness. It is emanating from every point in the Universe.

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