Tuesday, May 26, 2009


overhear. glass. concrete.
examine. exquisite. loiter.
rewind. fluorescent. beat.
garner. memorabilia. girder.
secret. display. break.
divulge. stardust. sell-out.
regret. recollect. graffiti.
repeat. Switzerland. predawn.

.... I spent ten minutes creating a list of apparently random words. Three lists, organized in an apparently random fashion. They have meaning only as individuals, together, they simply represent an abstract of the thought process. There was a process that led me from one word to the next, it wasn't random. But that process was not - and probably could not - be documented.

Obviously, we can't use mere words to describe all that we think, the process, the infinitely more detailed mental activity. But we simplify, we transpose, until we have an understandable representation. The lists were a crude transposition, paying little heed to logic, only to keywords.

Why is it a struggle to express ourselves? Why is it difficult to explain to yourself and to others what your thoughts are?

42. Imagine that the Hitchhikers guide had it right, that a two digit number was the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Amazing! But imagine how complex the question would have to be to make the number make sense. It would have to be huge.

Perhaps we struggle because the struggle itself is part of understanding. Of course it is, if we could perfectly express ourselves, the power of expression would become diminished. Perhaps the meaning expressed through words is more beautiful for the struggle to express it. At least, I think it is. I don't know what the lists mean, but they represent a thought process. That thought process was indescribably complex, and the lists only begin to explain the simplest parts of it.


  1. Why is it that struggle makes everything sweeter? (I . . . want a refund.)

    I liked this post partly because it's true, and partly because you used to words "fluorescent" and "Switzerland." Bono is amazing: I want to trip inside your head, to hear the things you haven't said.

  2. "If we could perfectly express ourselves, the power of expression would become diminished." Ahh...I suppose the difficulty of expressing ourselves is partially due to the fact that we don't even understand ourselves. But is that the only reason?

    I think that I think that communication is about clearly expressing an idea (and along the way finding out what the idea is) not about making the idea prettier. But then...I don't know. Perhaps the process truly does add worth to the original concept.

  3. But Rebecca, if that's true, what makes Dickens better than a learn-to-read primer? The most clear isn't always the most true to the meaning. (Think letter of the law versus spirit of the law.) I think depth and clarity of communication is by default a beautiful thing - clear expression and "pretty" expression are much of the same thing. And often ideas are far more complex and wonderful that even the most descriptive language will allow.

  4. The learn-to-read primer doesn't express the same depth of meaning, or as complex an idea. "Think letter of the law versus spirit of the law." Isn't that just a sign that the letter of the law is not always complete to express the spirit?

    I guess I've generally thought of words as "clothing the invisible man" of ideas, that humans give meaning to words. It's a foreign concept for me to think that words have power in and of themselves.