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Life Without Words
I teach personality theory - identity, concepts of the self, individual differences, etc. As if these things we identify in ourselves and others really exist. There are many perspectives on personality: psychoanalytic (freud), humanistic (Maslow), Behaviourist (Skinner), Trait (Goldberg), Type (Jung), Evolutionary (Buss), and Neurological (Fisher), to name a few. They all have merit, and they are not necessarily contradictory. We might form a more holistic picture of the human condition when taken together, but they all miss something. The problem is, I can’t quite put my finger on it. Therefore, I question the existence of a self or personality at all. Just because I believe myself to be, because I convince myself of my own existence by virtue of my thoughts and words and that of others, does not mean that I am. The more I consider it, the more it seems I am not.
There is a monologue inside me, although, at times, it seems like a dialogue. This is all a fabrication. Language, whether uttered aloud or within the confines of my being, is clever but limited. It either builds me up or tears me down; all the while, it is a fiction. Or rather, it represents a fiction. That fiction is what I refer to as me, a creation of whatever I am at my core. Language allows me to communicate, but I don’t need it, really. People of different languages, or indeed none at all, find a way to communicate. Besides, language never really delivers. We can never say what we mean; often, what we say creates more problems for us and others than we’d care to have. I cannot explain my experience fully. Language isn’t enough.
Without the narrative that goes on within me, I could not be me, whatever that is or what I choose to believe that is. Without the words that silently disrupt my inner state, I could not be this fictional thing, this actor. I’d be something else, or maybe nothing at all. Maybe I would be more like the animals. Perhaps I would be free then. In that sense, language imprisons us within our own concepts of ourselves. We believe the words we and others utter, or we don’t. Either way, we believe something and disbelieve something else by the very act of the first instance. And within this false dichotomy, there is us, caught, imprisoned.
There is no humanity in the language we speak. Our sense of humanity is lost in the words. Too much is disguised by words, hidden away in the dark corners of our minds. I am hiding behind what I say, and so are you. “How are you?” I ask. “I’m grand, thanks; how are you?” he replies. Do I really want to know? What do I mean when I ask someone how they are? Maybe I have something I want to reveal, so in asking, I want to be asked. I want to say how I am, but still I fail. I wish to reveal my humanity, but I can’t because saying it somehow makes it real and the act of everyday living untrue. If I speak it, I release it from the dark corner of my mind. Maybe something else in me speaks it or wants to speak it. When they respond, “I’m grand, thanks”, what do they mean? He’s not actually grand at all; He’s in a nasty fucking place. His relationship isn’t great at all these days. He’s not getting on well with his teenage child. His job is shitty, and he’d rather be doing something else with his life. Fuck it anyway, he thinks. Blinkers on, head down. If he ignores it, it will go away.
We fool ourselves and others fool us too. We accept it all. Politics is essentially the “art” of deception. Sales and marketing are, too. They purposely use words to deceive, manipulate, and coerce us and perhaps themselves too. To conjure the words of an apparent higher power that acts as a veil over their own true intents. They are psychopathic. And us, unable or unwilling to challenge the authenticity of the words used, to pull back the veil and to reveal the deceit, row in and accept the words we hear as truth—naive, stupid humans.
We often praise ourselves for being the highest order of animals on this planet simply because we can chew up and spit out everything and everyone else at will. We are destructive and psychotic creatures, and although our cognitive capacities have allowed us to think and rationalise, this function will be our downfall.
“I don’t know, I feel as though, I was cursed with a brain”1.
Sometimes I think we’d be better off without words, without language. It acts like a smokescreen. Without it, maybe we’d get to know who we are and treat ourselves and others a little better.
And yes, I get the irony here.
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