Sunday, July 12, 2009
One Single Impression -- Thinking
Seeking to know
express the ineffable,
we mark divisions
(head and heart),
(mind and soul),
struggling to bottle
experience in the container
Sunday July 12, 2009
One of the core principles of anthropology and sociology is that language is the primary interface between the human being and reality; that in order to know something, to think about something, we have to be able to capture it with words.
One of my favorite books in graduate school was Structures of the Life Worldby sociologists Alfred Schutz and Thomas Luckmann (Volume I, 1973), a work in phenomenology which painstakingly examines the process by which humans use language to label, process and socially construct reality. Anthropologists/linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf went so far as to suggest that peoples that spoke different languages inhabited different realities -- an idea is called the "linguistic relativity hypothesis." [An aside: a wonderful novel that makes this hypothesis a key plot point is Juniper Time by Kate Wilhelm (1979)].
Twenty seven years of experience since graduate school supports the truth of these assertions about the necessity of language for thinking. But, and this is a big "but," there is a whole world of experience that goes beyond the grasp of "thinking" that cannot be encapsulated in language. The meditative techniques of Buddhism and other disciplines aim for that experience out side of thinking.
Beyond that there is the experience of being in the world. We may not be able to communicate this experience that transcends language, but it is there, we know it in our souls.
Painting "container" by sgreerpitt July 2009, using Corel Painter.