On Words: Part 1

On Words: Part 1

On June 12, 2016 a radical Islamic terrorist shot 102 people inside the Pulse nightclub located in Orlando Florida. On June 12, 2016 a home-grown terrorist shot 102 people inside the Pulse nightclub located in Orland Florida. Which of the previous two sentences do you believe best describes what happened on June 12, 2016 inside the Pulse nightclub located in Orlando Florida?

As you mull over your answer, consider what you must do in order to answer. You must identify that the only difference between the two sentences are the words “radical Islamic terrorist” and “home-grown terrorist.” You must determine the difference(s) in meaning between “radical Islamic terrorist” and “home-grown terrorist.” And you must determine which best describes what happened on June 12, 2016 inside of the Pulse nightclub.

In doing these things you are illustrating the role of words: Words force us to understand the world in the way that we understand it. The reason you favor one group of words over another is because you believe they represent the world in the way you believe actually represents the world. This is thinking.

Of course we don’t have to think. We can dawdle from day to day and never examine the words that give rise to our thoughts. In such a state we are unable to connect cause to effect, generate alternatives, consider trade-offs, weather the effects of probability, eliminate engines of pretense, and confront reality. We are quite literally incapable of controlling our thought and therefore fully under the forces of thought control.

Some of the people who are in this state are in this state for no other reason than they are always in this state. Even if they can be convinced that there is a real difference between “radical Islamic terrorist” and “home-grown terrorist,” they can’t be made to examine the next bit of twaddle that comes their way. These folks are destined to live the flighty, day to day life of an administrator, journalist, sportscaster, politician, or laxative salesman.

But for most of us the failure to pay attention to words is nothing more than a mistake. The mistake isn’t that we fail to find the appropriate expression of a difficult idea. The mistake is we occasionally permit unacceptable words to act as label(s) for what we believe. After all, keeping an eye on the words we come into contact with is difficult and tiring work. So what if our great-uncle makes reference to home-grown terrorists. We know—although he may not—what he’s really talking about. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is that words are for telling, not labeling. The difference is important. Telling is a matter of choosing and arranging words in such a way as to produce for our mind, and for the minds of others, a genuine view of the world. Labels on the other hand are anything but genuine. They are proxies that eat away at our mind and eventually remove our ability to produce a genuine view of the world.

The phrase “home-grown terrorist” can be used as a proxy for “radical Islamic terrorist.” That bit of labeling can be done with words. But a person who does that with his or her mind is like a tree afflicted with a disease that slowly and quietly eats away at the wood. Sooner or later all that will remain is a pile of rubble made entirely of bark.

Words force us to understand the world in the way that we understand it. If we do not, or cannot, pay close attention to words we will be dominated by those who do.

On Words: Part 1
Written by Matt Manna
Oct 20, 2016 • D721FCD4(R01)
Photo © Christopher Hall – Fotolia.com

Severe Restriction

Severe Restriction

Imagine a bomb exploded in your hometown today. It was in a messenger bag that belonged to a person sitting in a popular restaurant in the heart of “restaurant row.” The bomber reached into the bag and detonated the device shortly after 12:00 noon, lunch time – the busiest time of day. Many people, including the bomber, died. Many others were wounded. Some seriously.

What likely conclusions can you draw about the bomber in this imagined event? Was the bomber tall or short? What was the bomber’s favorite color? Did the bomber like music, own a pet, have a favorite food? How about the bomber’s religion? Is it not easy, ridiculously easy, mind-numbingly easy, to identify—with almost complete confidence—that the bomber envisioned above was a follower of Islam?

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Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

It’s observed by both the devout and the mindless attendants of good taste. It suggests day-to-day life in America dulls appreciation. It prescribes a yearly twenty-four hour period of thankfulness as a restorative. Its name is Thanksgiving. And it would be a terrible thing if it were true.

Life in America is neither dulling or dull. Life in America is brilliant; made so mindfully and continuously by the very day-to-day experience the fourth Thursday in November misrepresents.

Daily life is the result of a process started 3.75 billion years ago when energy from a small yellow dwarf star joined forces with pre-biotic chemicals located on one of eight nearby orbiting planets. The crowing achievement of this process (so far) is the human brain, a unique biological structure, in which, somewhere, is found the human mind.

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Talent

Talent

Talent

Every drummer’s “ten best” list contains the name Buddy Rich. From seasoned pro to beginner, Buddy is universally recognized as the master. Why? What made Buddy so good? The answer is talent.

Talent is natural ability. It is separate from, and paramount to, knowledge, character, and discipline. A popular and enduring principle concerning talent is summarized by the claim: “Anything is achievable so long as one works at it enough.” This woo-woo gobbledygook philosophy is utter nonsense.

The result of “working at it” is experience and experience cannot generate talent. It’s true that experience can develop talent. But it’s equally true that talent must exist before development can occur. Any philosophy or guiding principle that treats talent as a product, instead of a prerequisite, will lead to an infinity of headaches. Speaking of which…

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