Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Language As Barrier

The idea of language or the capability of language to help us convey anything must be fallacious. We think of the written word, of what it stands for , in association with other words and on its own and then find that there is a failure, a failure of effective communication. The time that it takes from the cup brimming with words to the lips and from lips soaked with words to the sinister whiteness of paper, inside that time, words lose their capability.
Yet, bravery, bravery to think that we can rise above this barrier and breach what is unbreachable is either vanity or the innate essence of humanhood. I remember silence being extolled, the virtues of silence and the superiority of music over words. However, music can only exist in the shadow of a mood and falls apart, inspite of its verve.
I have always felt the inadequacy of words most at the time to say goodbyes, at times of parting. There is a rush, a rush of emotions, waves more heaving than any wave in any sea tide you over, leaving one suffocated, leaving one struggling with the idea of words. If one cannot say the sayable and leave without having named the pain of leaving, what use words?
We rely on words because that is how we exist. Our world is based on words, on language. We have to speak because we must, we have to. And then, having spoken, it comes apart, it does not make sense because we have not been able to say anything.
Perhaps that is why the greatest loves are the one's where the verbal confession, the desire to break the solitude of loving alone has not given in to the desire of living together. To demonstrate, to show, to feel, to share and to understand....that must be the primary purpose of words. When we metaphors, allegories, symbolism, we fail.
This is not a philosophy of expression or even on expression. I am writing to convey something and am finding it difficult to do so. This is what i meant earlier about failure. However, I cannot say that it is always impossible to express. What I feel is that it is difficult to convey everything.
I digress. I write as I think. Perhaps one should think first and write afterwards. The hallmark of great writing is thinking first, writing later. This is where the language of cinema is far superior to any art form. There, one can build and show, construct the inexpressible, show the sordid and the sublime, show the sunset that makes us go to pieces.
Only cinema has an authentic language. Only in movies, I mean really great ones, has this problem been tackled effectively. More and more, everyday now, words are losing their verve. We start somewhere and end in darkness. But with careful cinema, craft, intelligence and sympathy, words perhaps will mean a bit more, in that cinematic context.
I know that I will surely go back to words and language but in my innermost marrow, I know that a Tarkovsky or any one else is better than any painting, any great writer, any music.

10 comments:

Alok said...

"The time that it takes from the cup brimming with words to the lips and from lips soaked with words to the sinister whiteness of paper, inside that time, words lose their capability."

that's very nicely put...

I think it is just the case of our language faculties not keeping up with our consciousness or capabilities of thought. There are of course great writers for whom this gap is small but for lesser beings who lack this ability to tame the language, the possibilities for self-expression and even self-knowledge are reduced.

KUBLA KHAN said...

alok...i agree with what you have written.for lesser mortals, language can be a curse.

Antonia said...

what about an extended definition of language?

"By 'language' I mean not only speech, that is, language consisting of movements in the mouth-cavity producing sounds; I mean chiefly, because that is the most highly developed kind of language men possess: but I also mean any system of bodily movements, not necessarily vocal, whereby the men who make them mean or signify anything."

Antonia said...

this is from R.G. Collingwood - The New Leviathan ch VI

KUBLA KHAN said...

antonia: i think your stance is more philosophical, more rational than mine. i also notice from your posts that you are well versed in philosophical schools etc, not knowing about you, i cd daresay that.
my problem is a lack of rational thinking ALWAYS. i had approached this issue from a more unscientific way, maybe less persuasive but perhaps tender.
and i think it is wittgenstein who asked whether language produced thoughts or vice versa.
please correct me.
i think if thoughts produce language, then fine. if language produces thoughts, then what are we doing?
what do you think?

antonia said...

that's a big question in phil.of language, whether thoughts are influenced by words or the other way round,not only Wittgenstein was concerned with this. However I am with Humboldt in this question who has a reciprocal take on this, both thinking and language influence each other, but we are not completely at mercy of language, Humboldt says there may be a violence of language but we can put against this the power we have as individuals with our thinking and feeling and can form language to a certain degree, too (for instance making up new words). So it is reciprocal. You know it is about generosity, this whole question about 'language is shit, because it lies to us' and that all-most of teh philosophers want to get rid of language for the reasons you mentioned and others, for language is not clear and so on and all the attempts to create new perfect languages stem from the desperate aim to create perfect insights, the perfect system. Philosophers who see languages as a tool are bothered by inaccuracies of languages who are an obstacle on the way to the 'real shit'. They don't see the richness that languages have, all those ambiguities, they cannot see this as a gain.

KUBLA KHAN said...

thanks antonia.
by the way, just finished reading old masters, bernhard, and this post of mine seems just ridiculous after having him make me laugh loudly , seeing what he has done to Heidegger in this book.
Bernhard just wont stop me laughing. he is the ONLY writer who has done it, if i remember.

rakesh said...

Language as words is used as a medium of communication. Communication of information gathered by our five senses and also the ideas/thoughts of our mind.
information grasped by our senses can be easily transferred provided we have all the words differentiating all the things perceived by our senses and also are senses are ablely able to differentiate. Imagine one seeing red colour but unable to communicate it as he doesn't knows the word red so may be he will symbolizes it with sth else or write few lines describing it i.e may use prose or may be invent a new word for it.
Now considering ideas of mind. Lets consider 'mathematics'. Since mathematics is well structure and has proper boundaries, language required to communicate it serves us well. but for something like 'love' which is again an idea of mind but much more complex i.e unstructured as well as without any boundary. So we feel it difficult to express it with language. Maths is solely an idea of mind where as love involves heartbeats, emotions (donno if this can be included in five senses or not, it necessarily is not an idea of mind) etc. so the times when we feel unable to communicate through language we actually are not definite (coherent) inside. Then instead of saying something unintelligible we prefer not saying anything and even if we end up saying something we feel it incomplete and lacking.
Also our thought process is quite different from the way we write, speak or more broadly use language. thats why writing technique like 'Stream of consciousness' are bit difficult to read.
what i wrote above is not much readable/comprehendible not because i couldn't communicate but because i didn't had any proper answer and wrote whatever that just came to my mind.
sorry for butting in.

KUBLA KHAN said...

hi rakesh
thanks for leaving your comments. i agree that it is difficult to pin point language and semantics to some rules and then explain those.
we can try, try to give feelings a language, from a language that feels.

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