I was thinking about meaning and words. And rest assured they are no thoughts that haven’t been, well, thought before.
I’m sure this isn’t everywhere, perhaps it is more a reflection on western society or even an experience in a social class, so keep that in mind.
George Orwell actually wrote quite a lot on how when we misuse words the language devolves into “vague or meaningless” utterances. George Carlin and Louis C.K. have entire bits about it. But today I was playing out the practicality of the meaning of words.
There are plenty of subjective words we use every day, and honestly, most applications of abstract terms are completely dictated by experience.
My worst day might be worse than your worst day, but the relativity of that experience for the “observer” is the same. You might love your dog more than anything else in the world, and that love is, well, love.
And what words mean to us can be subjective to. We might experience the subjective realization of irreconcilable definitions we hold among ourselves. You might hear, “well you can only have one true love,” but that experience may be that you have many unique, inescapable experiences of true love.
One thing we’re not good at though, is subjectively relating and scaling experiences between each other. Comparing and judging comes all too easy. I was listening to VSauce on Illusions of Time the other day (side note, language and time, another very interesting thing well worth the discussion) and I guess it should come to no surprise (that because we’re traveling THROUGH time) our protagonist interface with the universe carries into that too. Meaning, our time is significant whereas it is our only reference point. Similarly, as stated above, our experiences are our own and the definitions of subjective terms used throughout language adapt and change along the way.
I often consider this, an infant’s worst day may indeed be in strict definition their worst day; the scale of applicable experiences just isn’t able to reference anything comparable. Interestingly and conversely, I think there is a cap of experiential joy, but that’s to be discussed if you want to ask me about it, and has to do with the fact we adapt so easily into new norms.
Loads of tangential thoughts there, but I do see it all coming together. However my main point of focus wanted to be on the use of words I see cascading us into the world of non-meaning. I recently discovered the Paradox of tolerance, which simply states: “[…] if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant.”
Which is an interesting mind game, but gets me to where I want to go here, what happens if we use the word so much improperly that it effectively holds no meaning at all to any of us? I understand language evolves, but I wonder at some point does it devolve? Does it become a mixed mash of ineffective communication where we cannot truly express ourselves in unique and creative ways because we’ve just all been co-opted through laziness and not having the attention drawn enough to the necessity of it.
Or instead does it reflect on its users and culture embracing it? Does it say that the society using it no longer wishes its use? If we have one way, then it simplifies and does not isolate those incapable of the 5000 expressions of joy. You just have one, and everyone can have one. Ha!
Maybe it is an effort for optimization, or just the death of a language, the move to a new one, the development and continued progression of humanity through time. Either way it is of extreme interest to me.
Finally, my pet peeve, and I think, one that, if changed, reshapes your life. Need vs want.
I’ve found that those around me often use the two as if they are completely and utterly interchangeable. They are not! And I know that does something to the mind, just as studies have shown the more expressive lead to more expressive thought (or at least different), duh. This is one of the highest impact changes I’ve been able to make in my life, learning the definition and application of need vs want. And rightfully so, the definitions are so intertwined it’s easy to get them confused (just look up the definition), but their application is critical to its understanding of a situation. I’ll settle on the definitions below to take my point.
- require (something) because it is essential or very important.
- circumstances in which something is necessary, or that require some course of action; necessity.
- have a desire to possess or do (something); wish for.
- a lack or deficiency of something.
I’ll just pull out what I think is the key aspect between the two, “essential.” If something is not essential (and we can get into the definition of that as well), then it is not “needed” it is desired for so it is “wanted.”
When we say we need this or need that, when we really just want it, we’re tricking our minds into creating the necessity for whatever reason. This is essential to consumerism, we are required to replace our “want” with “need” as it is required for our “happiness.” Which again has been studied and put to the test of happiness and fulfillment.
As an exercise, I challenge you to assess your need vs want usage next time you witness the use of the word, even if it’s easier for you to see someone else using it, and remind yourself that words have their meanings and those meanings define our thought process and relative use of such, which in turn impacts our experience of the world and those around us in profound ways.
As an aside, maybe two years ago I discovered my use of the word finagle was completely inappropriate in almost every use. So I am not holier than thou, just try to do my reflections and do better (wow what a loaded word there) as I go along. It’s about progress towards a more appropriate use than it is about arriving at it.
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