Saturday, September 07, 2002

Trapped By Words

I have a friend who has near perfect language skills. She is incredibly exact in her choice of words due to the meanings they imply. But her insistence on being exact overflows to her peers- leading to occasional debates about what each really meant during conversations. That's the problem with words, isn't it? When I say "Sand", a more romantic person might picture sand in an hour glass or on a vast expanse of beach, while a more tech-savvy guy might picture sand-based silicon chips!

I think that she missed the point of the use of language. Language in the end can never be used in a 100% exact way- since the same word has as many meanings as the number of people in this world. And what's more, the most important things cannot be conveyed by language; only self-experience works- be it the experience of Nausea or Nirvana!

She missed the point of language being only an approximate tool for communication. Instead of clinging to words so tightly in the realm of either black or white in concord with the dictionary, she should relax and and learn to see the greyness of words. Only then can she fit more comfortably with the rest of the world. Words should be used only to go beyond them. Yes, you'd heard this analogy many times already- words, even those uttered by the Buddha Himself in sutras, are but fingers pointing to the moon, which represents the Truth. They are mere guides to the destination, not the destination itself. I remember this quote from somewhere, "The map is not the territory."

For my friend, hers is a case of the overuse of language in an absolute way. It reminds me that the overuse of anything leads to the abuse of it- beginning with mental attachment, which causes physical attachment. Yes, cigarettes, alcohol and drugs... and words too! The bare-nakedness and relatively wordlessness of Zen makes so much sense when i reread what i just wrote here!

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