Seeing through language, not your eyes

I grew up thinking that there was only objective reality, a world “out there” that existed apart from me, and that the quality of my life, particularly how smart I was would depend on how well I was able to learn and describe what already is.

When I became aware of those that questioned the very notion of objective reality I dismissed them as weird and not worthy of a rational, logical person as yours truly.

It wasn’t until my early thirties that I was exposed to the notion of reality as created through language vs. reality as merely described through language.

The distinction of language – not just communication – as what makes human beings very special on this planet, has made a world of difference to how I am now able to deal with the world and with other human beings.  It has opened up a new way of “seeing” the world (“objective” reality), people and the stories they live in.

Stories are the mechanism or manifestation of our ability to language and to the extent that we are blind to the stories we live in (like the fish being oblivious to water because of its very obviousness and all pervasiveness), we suffer.

We see in/through language, and having this as your background of understanding – your “common sense” – will greatly expand your ability to cope with change, cause positive change, maintain and grow relationships.

For an example how we see in language, consider the days when you were a child and an adult told you a story.  Through words alone an entire world of scenes, characters, situations and emotions became “real” for you.  Through words you learned of things and people that may or may not now (or ever) exist.

Words are the building blocks of creation.  Perhaps this in why it says in John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

4 Responses to Seeing through language, not your eyes

  1. Nice post here, just read it.

    It leaves me with “OK, now how do I apply it? How do I get better and seeing through language, and seeing my own story, so that I do not suffer?”

  2. Good question and thanks for asking. I do my best to keep my posts short and this means that I don’t deal with many of the things and issues that may come up for a reader. My intention is that overtime through several posts on the same or related topic that I eventually deal with many of the questions and issues that come up. I do my best to link to related posts.

    As for your question I’ll say this: Being conscious or aware that you are creating in language is enough to start seeing the stories that run your life, and the stories that you participate in or co-create with your communities at home, work etc. Being aware of the stories is enough to stop suffering, because you get that the stories are not “real” and you can either create new ones or participate in other stories e.g. by joining other communities.

    Like everything else I write about here, it comes down to inventing practices to help you remember to look for and distinguish the stories that you currently swim in. Journalling is a brilliant practice that can help. When you journal, pretend that you are a researcher looking in on your life (almost like the person journalling is not you) and invent the stories that can account for how you and others in your life (the observed) behave. Hope that helps.

  3. Hi Peter,
    Reading the above, I remember thinking, after growing up and examinating what my parents told us about many things, that what they meant was probably correct but by not being elaborate enough they achieve the inverse of what they wanted : I mostly rejected in total their views because they were too simple in my opinion.

    Sonowadays, when I try to “educate” my grand children, I hope I’m not making the same mistake but I suppose I’ll do some others… 🙂

    Everything OK in Trinidad ?

Any thoughts? Contributions/acknowledgments welcome.