Speaking of Words

"The path is blocked by vowels and consonants," said the Buddhist monk, Khana, over a thousand years ago.  

The problem, for starters, is that words hold different meanings for each one of us.  Even simple words we're sure we know create one meaning for me, the person writing them, and another for you, the person reading them.  If you don’t believe this, try a very simple experiment.

 

 

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The Say What You Mean Game

Draw something very basic such as a star, a dog, or a house. 

Without showing anyone the picture you drew, ask several friends, family members, or co-workers to draw the same object.

Now compare results.

[By the way - This is a very basic example of the type of games and exercises that make up this website and The Roving 'I'.  Actually play the Say What You Mean Game when you get the chance.  Don't just assume what the result will be and pass on the experience.  ]

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So what are the chances that all the drawings will be the same?  For 'star' someone may draw a pentagram, another an asterisk, another a shooting star, another a sheriff’s badge.  There will be big dogs and little dogs of all shapes and breeds, maybe even a hot dog, while houses can range from single family homes to apartment buildings, exteriors to floor plans.  One student once drew a hole in a tree... a bird’s house. 

It’s not that you communicated what you wanted poorly or that the people you asked were unintelligent or weren’t paying attention.  It’s just that words are not the reality, they only represent the reality as perceived by each individual, and as such they represent different things to different people. 

Now if that’s the result we get dealing with words that represent simple objects we all take for granted, what do you think the result will be trying to get agreement on emotionally charged, non-material words like mother, love, freedom, happiness, or consciousness?  Since what we're attempting here is to have us share the common human experience that exists deep within our very core, using words and expecting us to be in complete agreement and understanding on their meanings is unrealistic.

In addition to the inexactitude of meaning, words must also be delivered sequentially and cannot convey the sudden, complete, ‘aha’ experience that occurs in consciousness studies.  Even if we had a 100% agreement on the meaning of all the words we used, you cannot replicate a cognitive experience by merely observing the subject from the outside or intellectualizing a sequence of words describing someone else’s sudden subjective experience.  Following a trail of words can lead to that point of knowledge, but you must transcend the words and see the light for yourself, subjectively, internally, and suddenly to know it to be real.

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