Monday, September 03, 2012

The Power of Words - How Concepts Define Our Thoughts

Words are important.  As it turns out, grammar matters.  Don't believe me? I know I would have been skeptical this time last year.  I remember English teachers trying to teach me proper grammar; what I don't remember is any mention at all of the fact that accurate grammar is the most fundamentally important skill any individual can possess.  It turns out, words have the power to bend our minds; even more surprising: we know it.

Concepts are The Foundation of YOU

Have you ever wondered why you do not have any memories before the age of two or three?  It turns out the fact that you did not form lasting memories during your first few years is directly caused by your lack of ability to build concepts in your mind.

Memories are concepts.  They are your brain's conceptual representation of your direct sensory experience.  Memories are not your actual experiences, they are the conceptual symbols your brain has created to keep a record of your experience which has since passed.

At the age of two or three children's brains develop the ability to build an maintain concepts.  At this age suddenly a ball that rolls out of sight no longer ceases to exist.  The child now can use concepts to extrapolate the ball's existence beyond his immediate experience.  Once this door to conceptual thought is open, a flood of abilities follow.  The two most prominent being memories and language.

Our thoughts are the concepts we build in our minds.  Thoughts are already symbols for experiences, so it is not a very large leap to translate our mental symbols into verbal ones.  As such, the acquisition of language as a structure for organizing and expressing our thoughts is a powerful gift that exponentially increases the speed and efficiency of our acquisition of concepts.

With language, we are able to structure our thoughts so that they can most accurately reflect the reality we experience.  The additional toolkit of structured language also opens the door to self analysis.  With language comes logic.  With logic comes the ability to process the information we receive beyond the immediate.  This ability to reason, to process information logically prior to acting on it, is noted to be the most significant human skill which sets us apart from all other life on our planet.

Bridging the Gap - Outside vs. Inside

We all face a challenge, none of us can actually think directly about our reality.  Reality is forever trapped outside our mental processes while our "self" or MEcosysem, is forever trapped within consciousness.  It is for this reason that language and grammar become vital.

The accuracy of our internal mental logic and reasoning is wholly contingent on our ability to consistently and accurately identify our reality using concepts such as words.  Words and their associated grammar is the methodology with which we bring our reality into our minds for processing.  Grammar is the first step of the millennial old education method called the "Trivium", the basis for all liberal arts education.  The Trivium is the acceptance that all human thinking comes down to three steps:

  1. Grammar - Taking in Information
  2. Logic - Processing Information
  3. Rhetoric - Passing on Information

This trivium was the basis of all classical education for thousands of years.  This method of being taught how to think is the reason why most of the famously brilliant people of more than 100 years ago never needed much more education than passing basic elementary school.  Once one knows how to think, one can pretty much figure the rest out on their own.

If We are Experts in Anything - It is Language

Think for a moment about the ability in which you believe you are most skilled.  Think back at how much practice you had at it.  How long did you practice?  How many times did you need correction?  How vital was it to you to become skilled at it?  Do you remember how much practice you put into this skill?  Now look to your language.  Look to your words.

Do you dare to compare the practice put into your beloved skill to the epic amount practice you have put into words?  Just bask for a moment in this new thought...

Relax, sit back from the screen and ponder...

You have practiced words and grammar a hundred, maybe a thousand times more than you have your most cherished skill.  You are an expert.  You are more of an expert of words than you will be of any other subject you will learn for the rest of your existence.

Turn now to your feelings.  How do you feel looking at this possibility?  I know I get a bit of a knot in my stomach.  I am feeling a little queezy right now as I type this post.  Do you?

Here we are staring at a body of knowledge and experience that is more vast than any other subject in your life.  It is a mighty oak tree to the squirrels of knowledge which which we normally busy our time.

What have we been told about this body of expertise?  Have you been told you are an expert?  Have you been encouraged to develop your writing for the sake of you, not some test or some class?  Have you been supported in increasing the accuracy and colorfulness of your language, diction, and grammar for your own self-empowerment and pleasure?

Or could it be the opposite?  Are you chided for being anal or nit-picky?  Are you told not to analyse or take people literally? Is expertise in language something that is only for dull intellectuals or lawyers?  Is the use of slang, or false statements as humor, a membership card to fit into a group?  Is the manipulation of language used to exclude or put down free thought?

We are all taught to openly shun our expertise in language.  At the same time we are all taught to wield this great power to manipulate ourselves, and others.  We are taught to externalize our opinions in order to both, defend against attack, and inflate our thoughts into formidable mountains against which others will cower in fear.

Do you feel comfortable with the idea of embracing of your expertise in words?  Would you feel calm if your words accurately reflected your experiences?  What if you told yourself truth, instead of a story?  What if you told others your true experience and thoughts without spin or manipulation.

What you demanded truth from others instead of stories?  What if, when you heard a story coming from yourself or another, what if you knew the story teller was using words to manipulate their mind or the minds of others?  What if you knew the story teller was running away from their own sane processing of reality.  What happens to someone who tries to run from their own mind?  

I invite you to take a deeper look into the power of words and language.

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