One of the biggest problems most people have is they think they know what’s real and true. Their reality is the reality; their truth the truth.
Wonderful, Awful Words
A dog is a dog. A house is a house. A job is a job. We can all agree on those words representing the things to which they refer. Right? Common realities and truths. Right?
What specific dog are you talking about when you say “dog”? I hear “dog” and I may picture a kennel full of mutts about to be euthanized, while you may be thinking about Fido who slobbers on your face and makes your heart race with joy.
A house may be your house, a dozen houses, a row of them on skid street. My house may be a home, full of warm memories, making me cry about my little gone girls all grown up and living far away.
Your job might be a dream or a nightmare, what you’ve always wanted or never wanted. I think of “job” and there’s a dozen car lots and a few teaching positions, but mainly now sitting at the computer writing emails and processing editing work.
Writing my novels and these blog essays isn’t a job for me. It’s a pure kick of joy.
The Words Mean What They Don’t
Point? Our realities and truths are definitionally dependent. Words denote and connote. They try to refer to specific things—a dog, a house, a job—but they always refer to very different actualities in our individual brains.
So what you think of one way (cool dog, a house is a house, rotten job), I think of another (dumb animal, my house as my home, my job ain’t my life).
Everybody attaches different denotations to every word. So every reality is different; every truth contingent. (No, I am not a radical relativist. I’ll discuss the distinction another time.)
And connotations? Holy cow, Harry Carey. Just as every word evokes its own specific representation (your word “dog” means something different to you than my word “dog”), every word triggers emotions, feelings, memories, associations.
Take the Rodney King L.A. riot of 1992. It may mean nothing to you: no emotions, no memories, no feelings whatsoever. You can bet it means more than just about anything in their lives to thousands of people who lived through it. The emotions run strong; the memories are seared in their soul’s flesh.
The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round, Round and Round….
So your reality and truth is not my reality and truth. But neither of us is necessarily living in a false world or delusional mindset.
We’re just figures of speech, really. Humans as metaphors, with lives like words—open to interpretation, closed to conformity. Gliding and sliding down an endless slope of signification, where one thing leads to another—eternally.
Not buying it? Then let’s hear another theory for how 10,000 years of human “communication” has led to this current state of global uber-miscommunication that has us all teetering on the brink of total annihilation. How else to explain it but to blame it on the words themselves? And our failure to compose them into compatible realities and cooperative truths.