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posted on 08.19.10

Synopsis: Language is overused, tired, frustrated and disenfranchised with itself. We need new language. But what does that mean? Read below and find out?

     Cultural Theorist Julia Kristeva proposes that language distances us from the Object we desire.

  Let's say this Object is Truth and for each person how you define truth is a subjective experience. But, if we can agree we all have a certain Object we are heading towards. For one person, truth might be love, so for that person the journey is finding ways to move toward's love.
For another it might be religion, so they then choose to live their life in reference to that Object. The next logical thing is to find ways to understand this Object whatever it may be. We might create a system of words, ideas, documents and essential doctrines to inform us and others of how we have come to this conclusion.   Let's put flesh on this.

  Joe falls in love with Sally. Sally is Joe's highschool sweetheart. So for all intense purposes, for Joe, Sally is the Object that he desires. Joe tries to make sense of who he thinks Sally is. So he begins using words like beautiful, confusing, and mysterious to encapsulate her. Now each of these words have a context and a historical contingency within which to refer to. Let's unpack the word beautiful. When Joe refers to Sally as being beautiful, he is already distancing himself further from Sally, why? Because who defines beauty? What is beauty? Is it how you look on the outside? Does it mean as a female you are skinny and have a big bust? Or does it mean that you have to be plump like in the ancient cultures that once believed beauty was only in thick skin?

  If you notice as we dissect just this word we are taken deeper into the rabbit-hole. Language distances us from what we desire. The more define another person or thing, the less it has a chance to be the person or thing it could be. If we keep defining beauty and what it is, the less Sally stays Sally and becomes more of what and how culture defines beauty, even further along than that, Sally no longer becomes Sally but the after-product of how Joe sociall constructs his ideas around beauty.

  Let's take the word confusing, I think this word has much to teach us. Confusing usually alludes to something we don't understand or doesn't make sense to us. When someone explains something in such a way that it doesn't register within what we know, we say we are confused. So then it seems logical to try and understand what is confusing to us. But this is where the danger lies.

  Rather than allowing mystery to speak to us, we want to speak for it.

  Ever since the Enlightenment we have wanted to try to turn everything we do into some sort of perverted science. This gnostic addiction has transformed our society into an overpopulated urban complex that desires to control the Object(s) of our desire.  

The third characteristic of Sally also much to say about the future of language. To Joe, she is mysterious. She is the uknown. This part of her personality Joe wrestles with most, because he can't understand it. He can't control it. He can only surrender to it. Joe is at the mercy of Sally's 'unknownness'. In this regard, the mystery draws Joe into Sally out of a deep subsconscious desire to want to know Sally, not to uncover her mysteriousness, but to know it. Not even to verbalize her mystery, but rather to embrace it.  

This is the same for language.

  So, where do we go from here? Practically, we need language. We need to communicate. I would posit that we need to enter into language as foreigners. As immigrants. As people who are naively idealistic to the possibility that language must eventually self-implode. Let me explain. Think of language like a carton of milk. When you head to the store and you peruse the aisles and finally arrive to the milk and cheese aisle, one of the things you might be concerned about is the expiration date. The expiration date informs you when the milk is going to start turning into everything else but milk.

  That expiration date is when it loses its milk-ness.  
Its the same with language, it has an expiration date. It too expires and stops being what it was meant to be. Language tends to be defined by its own history, culture and context. As we know, all of these elements change. History moves forward. Cultures progress. Contexts change. When we realize this we can then begin confessing the fragility of language and how incredibly damaging it can be if we do not allow for self-implosion or expiration.

  So maybe we can all participate in a contextual linguistic revolution that starts with a need for embracing mystery over language. Once we come to a place where we don't need to be in control of trying to make sense of everything, we can begin seeing each other as equals, rather than electricians, teachers, doctors or politicians.

  Once we divorce ourselves from the need to know, we can begin embracing the the mystic within us all. The next thing would be to approach language with the holy irreverance it deserves, and begin asking what it means to live in a culture where language sustains its fragility and ability to be transformed through self-implosion. When we approach our contexts with this hopeful idealism we an then begin living in the world of inclusive and endless opportunities.

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