Monday, December 26, 2011

What if Words Disappeared?

As a writer, a natural-born lover of all things language, I cannot imagine a greater disaster than the disappearance of words. Words fascinate me, stories enthrall. But what would happen if words vanished? I have listened to both a video (on and audio podcast (on Radio Labs at NPR) of Jill Bolte Taylor who described just this situation. Jill, a neurologist, experienced a stroke that left her without her left hemisphere functions for quite some time. In effect, all of the chatter in her mind went silent and she lived in sensual immediacy, with only a sense of joy and peace, which she valued highly. No words whatsoever, much like a return to infancy.

Other neurologists have argued that it is language that makes a person all he or she is, the essential "I"ness or "you"ness of a person. Yet when people have sought out peace, seeking that mindful, quiet space in their head where they can appreciate being alive, they also seek to stop the internal chatter.

I think the human condition is about the struggle of language since it represents the push and pull of love and joy and despair and connection and isolation and satisfaction and frustration. I do believe words define who we are, which is why I am in their constant pursuit. Yet I see the benefit of stilling those words. Another contradiction. I suppose the best books I have read inspire me to seek higher states of being, that transcendence that comes with pure silence. Ironic huh?

So read a book, write a book, listen to a story, enjoy the chatter, and then push those words aside and seek the peace of quiet, mindfulness. We all deserve the best of both worlds.


Wynter Daniels said...

It's hard to imagine the absence of words. Good post.

Casey Crow said...

Interesting post. Thanks for sharing

Michelle Polaris said...

Thanks guys. I am definitely in favor of keeping words. It might be interesting to consider giving them up personally for mindful moments, but they are the building blocks of all community.