Saturday, January 5, 2013

SEMANTICS, LANGUAGE & PROPHECY

approximate reading time: 6 to 7 minutes

It has been brought to my attention that before I can release my series on why I am divorcing the Church, it perhaps would behoove all of us if I shared some of what my education on writing and the use of language has been...not in attempts to explain myself so much as an attempt to bridge the gap in trying to help you understand what is going on inside my head...in attempts to hopefully help you understand what is going on both in your own head and with our cutlure.

Language as Art
"The tongue, our lips are the brushes.  Our words are the colors.  Our inflection and intentions are the strokes.  The air leaves the lungs, leaves the mouth and paints
the canvas of Space between you and me." 

SEMANTICS
My writing abilities come from my high school program and four amazingly gifted teachers that I both hated and loved...like I'm sure many dedicated students of that age find.  One teacher drilled me in grammar, conjugations, sentence structure and the like till I was blue in the face; one drilled us in the classics of some type of Lit (not something at the time I enjoyed, but am thankful for now) and who relentlessly demanded from us to to write with both our head and our heart; one that taught us the tricks and trades of great modern writers and insisted nothing but our best using these techniques every Friday afternoon.  

Yet, there was one more...one that was a bit of a legend at our school - a Santa Claus type personality if you will.  He was a football coach, my brother's football coach.  He had taught many of the kids' parents in my grade as a young teacher. Sadly, the school district my senior year offered him and other long-term teachers a retirement package in order to bring in younger, less expensive teachers.  The kids that came after that will never know what they missed in this teacher.

He was Mr. Jack Yerkes.  My freshman English teacher.  I entered his classroom where my brother a few years earlier had sat.  I hung on every word Mr. Jack Yerkes spoke that year, and some how proved myself enough in his class - either that or he saw something in my abilities - that had him ask me if I wanted to enter the Honors/AP English program at Munster High School...a program known throughout the region if not the state as being one of the toughest.  I can remember being slightly hesitant knowing that the road ahead of me would be anything but easy...yet something in me, a resolve that I have always had to never take the easy road in life must have kicked in and I thankfully said yes.

So what did Mr. Jack Yerkes teach me?  To be honest, I do not remember much detail except books like Animal Farm and the likes; fast forwarding through a few seconds of an older version of Romeo & Juliet where Juliet's breasts are shown; and the way that he said the word "semantics".  The way he said this word made it seem sacred, holy, revered.  I had no clue then the impact this word and his teachings on this word would now be having 22 years later.

The main thing I remember from his teaching on semantics is that words, phrases, sentences take on different meanings over time.  That language continues to change and evolve throughout the centuries.  We would read books written just 40-50 years earlier and run across words that had already changed...how much more so over hundreds of years.  And that some where along the line, our English language was losing something that previous versions and other languages had.   It was becoming shallower.

THE USE OF LANGUAGE
Between these four talented teachers and my foreign language classes, my love and passion to understand the written word and how we use it to communicate was born.  It is because of amazing people like this that my mind - that up until then had been locked into only the logical/mathematical/science side - was able to finally open up and produce written works that I had desperately longed to be able to produce.  Even from the age of 8 or 9 I had wanted to have a voice through my writing...to be able to express myself in stories and word. 

It is from this beginning of understanding first our English language followed by foreign languages that I can now see what Mr. Yerkes saw in our current version of English.  We are desperately missing in our day and age what the PURPOSE of language is, what is at its core.  While I admittedly did not spend enough time in a foreign country to fully grasp the limits of the English language, I did spend enough time struggling in Southern Spain back in '98 trying to speak a language that was so much more expansive, had so much more depth than my small English mind could truly see until more recent times.  From that experience I did start to realize that there were some things I was understanding in Spanish that just could not be translated into the limited, gender neutral language of English.

As I've been entering this new world through writing this last year, it has again brought me back to this truth about language:  Language is NOT just something that we speak in order to make it through the day.  It is NOT just something we use to get what we want or to document our history.  I would argue it is not even something that is concrete or can accurately paint a picture of any one reality.  Language is NOT just something that defines what country you are living in...

Language is a tool.  It is a tool to help unlock the mind, to help connect souls that are separated by bone and skin and space.  Your personal use of language helps define what world you live in, what person you will be and what person you will become.  It is not only what defines our outside world...but it is how in this present age we have learned to define even our inside worlds...the worlds that live inside our heads. 

It is a tool that has been used for centuries in order to express abstract ideas that are inside of our heads in order to hopefully connect with another inside their head.  They used their physical world around them in order to help explain these abstract ideas.  They used the contrasts they saw around them ~ feminine/masculine, dark/light, sin/holy, death/rebirth, sacrifice/salvation, etc. ~ in order to help each other understand pictures they were seeing within their souls.  For centuries and longer, language was used as this metaphor to describe a world in which people could not explain their world otherwise.  They created stories called myths with heroes and heroines who were symbolic characters of an outside world that resembled aspects of their inside world...a world inside their heads...in order to help connect to one another and to share truths that they were finding amongst their heads.  Truths that when told in story format, could be unpacked time and time again for more depth and more meaning...and mean different things for different people at different times in their lives.

They began to make symbols on the sides of caves and in rocks and on papyrus also as tools to try to express things that were going on inside their heads...in order to connect to another...in order to bridge the gap and hopefully find out that while they were alone inside their head...they were not alone.  Our first ancestors used language and eventually drawings that became letters to say to one another, "me too."

Picture taken from this site.
Yet, like any tool...there are limitations and walls that a tool will run up against where it might no longer work.  Anyone that has taken a communication class knows that only about 6-7% of what we say is a full picture of what we are trying to express.  Language, both spoken and written has limits...and much is lost with this form of communication...so much so that sometimes a writer or a speaker has to be drastic in the words and style that they use in order to bridge that gap between minds.

LITERATURE & PROPHECY
Let me say this as a side note:
I know that for me and my upbringing in the church the words
"myth" and "metaphor" often brings up the so called heathen religions of the Greeks & Romans.  For a long while my mind sought to discredit this word because of that.  So if you wish to substitute words, you can use analogy or better yet - parable.

This wall is what I think Jesus ran up against in his time.  The Pharisees of his day had started to look at language not with its original intent...its metaphorical use that paints a picture using the outside world for the inside world; but instead looking at their language as literal definitions, descriptions of what should and should not be done in the physical world. They made their language reality instead of metaphor.

I know this is what I am running up against in my own life.  While I seek to put into words the new way I am seeing the Bible and the Spiritual Truths Jesus died trying to illuminate for those in his day, I seek to use my words to grab attention...to make people stop and think, then to think again and perhaps to think again about what they are really believing.  Jesus and the great rabbis of his day understood this use of language.  That is why they asked lots of questions...knowing the limitations of language.  That is why Jesus and the rabbis of his days always spoke in metaphors...a way of speaking that is all but lost in our culture as we replace metaphors with literalism...

I would argue that this is what any of the great writers of old have done.  Homer, Shakespeare, Hemingway, the writers of the Bible - whomever they are.  They knew the original intent of language and thus used it to paint physical pictures for the mind - but always having metaphorical meanings behind them.  John did it with his book in Revelations...and I suspect he also did it with his other famous book - the Gospel of John.  I suspect most of the writers, even the true Pauline scriptures, used language in this way.

READER BEWARE
It is with this idea that I seek to use my words.  To bridge the gap, the space between my mind and yours.  To help you see the world in a different way than perhaps you have seen it before.  And that way may turn out to be completely different than I intended...I'm okay with that.  Perhaps in seeking to challenge you on your thoughts, you will find a new way to accept Jesus, his metaphorical teachings...and hopefully yourself.

I write not of concrete times and ideas...but of abstract meanings using analogies from the physical realm.  I use my word choice on purpose to catch your attention, to make you perhaps a little or a lot uncomfortable...to stir up long forgotten feelings and ideas that you by chance might not otherwise wish to think about because living a shallow life with a shallow language is much easier than a life fully examined.  Sometimes we need to feel uncomfortable, to feel the pain in our own souls to help us feel or see the need to change.

I will not fully explain my metaphors, just like another teacher I am learning from...because I am seeing that I am of better use as a catalyst to The Way than I am as the actual car. 

It is with this idea that I seek to use my words.


Next in series: Why Criticize a System and Not People?



4 comments:

  1. Dear Joy,
    Language is so important.
    English is such a dualistic language.
    I tried to describe God holistically in my post "In Holistic Language" July 2012.
    It was really hard.
    Perhaps you can help me with He as well.
    Michael E. East.

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  2. Yes, English is sooo limited...we have removed genders that most other languages still have...and this impact can not be rated as how much it affects our ability to understand the Divine - how the Ancients understood the Divine. I was trying to describe the idea to my almost 7 year old about how in Spanish there are Masculine and Feminine objects...and that is when it hit me how much this lack in English plays into our ability to expand our minds to think more like the Mystics must have thought.

    Second, we continue to "dumb" down our language especially with the invention of text. I am so guilty of this as well. The longer words, the more descriptive descriptions mean something, they paint a different picture....they help expand the mind. But in our attempt to save time and be more efficient, we continue to shorten our words and condense the language.

    Not sure how I can really help expect to encourage you to continue to read my blog looking for the "picture" I am trying to pain beyond the words I am saying. Look for the parables and the symbols that words represent. These are Archetypes...common character types that show up repeatedly throughout history: the Judge, the critical parent, the princess, the baby, the middle child syndrome...the savior, the king, the servant, etc.

    In ancient times, in Myths and stories, these characters I believe were seen more as SYMBOLIC representations of a personality aspect people saw INSIDE themselves. I'm not so sure these people believed in a literal pantheon of gods/goddesses. These simply represented, pointed them to as reminders about what was going on inside of them. When they talked about Aphrodite, I think perhaps it was more about what aspect internally needed to be loved or was loving. It was their form of psychology...at least that is what my studies are leading me to believe.

    In all, when we "dumb" down our language, we "dumb" the Divine down to only "one" aspect of who S/He really is...and we are missing out on ALL the other Spiritual Truths the rest of these different "personality types" brought to the picture. Yes, is there an aspect of the Divine that NEVER changes...that is the same today, yesterday and will be tomorrow? Absolutely. That is the Masculine Essence of the Divine. YET...YET there is also this part of the divine that is always in flux, always changing, moving forward, going through the ups and downs of seasons...that is the FEMININE essence of the Divine. We have almost all but removed the feminine essence or tried to make the Masculine take on the Feminine essence, both dangerous positions because then we become people rigid, inflexible, unable to handle change and death and rebirth...or at least not very easily.

    Wow...that was long...but once you get me going!

    Hope that helps a bit...

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    Replies
    1. I agree entirely about ancient mythology. I have studied Greek and Egyptian myths and the archetypal story-telling is very strong. So different from how we practice religion these days.
      S/He is an interesting pronoun. It says She but it also says He. I'll think about using that. The masculine and feminine aspects of God are hard to pin down. I would like to hear more about your ideas. The Father is the archetype which we unconsciously associate with God. This can sometimes conflict with what we are thinking consciously. You might find my post God in His Universal Form interesting. My experience of God is personal but I know that S?He is cosmic. I think we re still working through these concepts. The more we discuss them the better.
      Michael E. East.

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  3. Great- so glad I am not the only one seeing that. I think the more we can train our mind to think how these ancient writers did when we are reading their texts...the more we can understand about the Divine. Love your openness to discuss. One of the things I have realized on my journey as an "awakening woman" and finding my feminine side of myself...is that most of our dominant world religions are written almost exclusively from a male perspective...this leaves ALL of us (men and women) without this other side of the Divine...whether you want to call it feminine or what not. Here is a link to a man's writing that blew my mind way open when trying to understand a lot of these concepts. He talks a lot about how the "profane" other is the Goddess idea http://netage.org/support/. Also, Sue Monk Kidd's book The Dance of a Dissident Daughter opened my eyes to why I was at first uncomfortable with the idea of using the word "goddess"...again mostly because we have been conditioned to always look at our world from a masculine perspective...the word "goddess" isn't pagan or wrong...just another aspect of the Divine.

    Then, being open to other "religions" such as Native American and what most Christians would call "pagan" has expanded my mind to be able to find Spiritual Truths ALL over the place. People in these "religions" speak so similar to Christians it blows my socks off and makes me feel right at home...many people say things just like Jesus does in the bible without having ever read the bible. AMAZING....just goes to show that S/He is Cosmic and not tied to one line of practicing. These other "religions" haven't lost the BALANCE of essences...in fact they see both masculine/feminine, sin/holy, bad/good, right/wrong, light/dark as just words to describe essences in our abstract personalities that exist in concrete terms...but both as needed to see the FULL picture of our souls and the Divine...

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