Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Minute Meditation




Language is the stuff of the imagination.  The imagination is the creative aspect of language.  It enables us to use language to its highest potential.  It enables us to realize a reality beyond the ordinary, it enables us to create and to re-create ourselves in story and literature.  It is the possible accomplishment of immortality.

-- N. Scott Momaday --
from  The Man Made of Words

Can we imagine anything without words?  

22 comments:

  1. Doesn't a preverbal child or nonverbal person (e.g., deaf, blind, and untutored) imagine things?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tim,

      I don't know. What do you think?

      What do you think of Momaday's comment?

      Delete
    2. Yes, language is the key. I cannot imagine my life without it. I cannot think without it. Still I wonder about other sentient beings without language. 'Tis an enigma.

      Delete
    3. Tim,

      I remember reading the Appendix to Orwell's 1984 and the discussion of vocabulary and thinking. It was an eye-opener.

      Some might argue that sentient being without language is a contradiction. Can one be sentient, a thinking being, without words? I wonder if one could think in images only?

      Delete
    4. Tim,

      Do animals think? In the same way we do? I doubt it, but show me some solid evidence.

      They may have their own way of thinking, if you define thinking as taking in sensory impressions, processing them in some way, and acting upon them. But, I doubt they handle concepts, although I can't rule out dolphins, whales, and perhaps chimps.

      Delete
    5. Fred, do animals think? I don't know, but I would wager many animals have a more complex "mind" than we would believe possible. From house cats to dinosaurs, animals must considered sentient beings, capable of remarkable "thinking." I have no proof for anything I have asserted. It is simply a personal belief.

      Delete
    6. Tim,

      Agreed. I think we greatly underestimate the mental abilities of our fellow inhabitants of this planet.

      Delete
  2. In high school geometry, I noticed that I usually "saw" a proof before I could put it into words. Language is invaluable, but it's not the only mode of thought.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don,

      See my response above to Tim.

      Delete
  3. When I was a mechanic, it was important to be able envision the drive train in motion with all the components interacting, in order to diagnose problems... Some mechanics with which I was acquainted could barely communicate in words, but were nevertheless good at thei jobs...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mudpuddle,

      Images are important in many activities, but I think imagination includes language as well. There are many activities where language is not that important, or so it seems to me.

      Momaday, I think, refers to going beyond the immediate.

      Delete
  4. I have read a few books on human conciseness by Daniel Dennett. If I am reading him correctly he strongly implies that much of what we think of as Consciousness is us thinking on words. I think that he may be on to something with this.

    Thus, existence without language seems incomprehensible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brian,

      Language, today, seems to be a necessary part of existence. I wonder how much of this is due to our existence in a primarily virtual world.

      Delete
  5. Even a very small meditation comprised of words with the application of one's imagination can lead to infinite speculation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. James,

      Very true. The short Minute Meditations on this blog frequently generate the greatest number of comments.

      Delete
  6. This is a highly provocative post. Language is important because it formulates into abstract symbols our thoughts, feelings, ideas etc...The more literate a person is, the greater ability he or she has to think on a critical and discerning level.

    I would personally propound that the more languages one is able to speak, read and write, the more one's intellect is exercised and thus increased.

    Something that has been concerning me lately is how television and movies are causing young people (I suppose old as well) to become less literate and hence less able to clearly communicate their ideas or even to think with discernment.

    I read a profound article that said our youth, even those in college, think more in images and feelings rather than with words, which, in my opinion makes them more pliable to manipulation and less able to operate in a reasonable and articulate fashion.

    They justify their opinions along the lines of emotions. "I'm a good person if I believe this. I'm a bad person if I don't. You're a bad person if you disagree with me." And they seem utterly incapable of substantiating these strong convictions.

    I am speaking in great generalities. After all, I know many college students that are more than capable to intelligently support what they believe because I've had wonderful conversations with them.

    It's simply a growing trend I'm observing.

    In conclusion: We need words to help us think reasonably.

    Isn't that why we love an author who is able to adequately put into words something we feel strongly about but personally weren't able to express very well?

    Really great post, Fred. You've got me going. I have had to put into words how I think about this topic. Thanks for that!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hence the importance of haiku, I think, anyhow... In which the mental inquiry beyond the words is the point...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point Mudpuddle. It reminds me of the Chinese language that packs so much meaning into monosyllabic words. A friend of mine (from Birmingham Alabama no less!) spoke fluent Chinese. Thumbing through a Chinese dictionary of hers I found a one syllable word that meant "to render assistance to someone who is a victim of a natural disaster."

      Another word was translated in English as "to skip joyfully with swinging arms."

      The topic of symbolic sounds attached to meaning is fascinating.

      Actually, I don't think I'm talking about exactly what you meant. I kind of went off on a tangent...just the idea of certain words triggering the mind to imagine or envision certain things or ideas.

      Delete
    2. Actually, I agree with Sharon's point; I've been noticing that I'm frequently not very clear in my comments... Must try to fix that...
      I was referring more to the practice of meditation...

      Delete
    3. Mudpuddle,

      I like that--haiku are among my favorites. It is a few words that convey images that lead to going beyond what is on the page.

      Delete
    4. Sharon,

      I think you are on topic: both Momaday and Mudpuddle are talking about the importance of the imagination which starts with language and then goes beyond.

      Delete