So I listened to the Radiolab about words, which ties together a few things I’ve heard about or listened to:
- Ildefonso, the guy who never knew language. He grew up deaf and nobody taught him sign language until he was 27. At that point, he didn’t even know that language existed, or the idea that things have names. When he learned this, it was a life-changing revelation. He voraciously gobbled up all the words he could, was so thrilled to have this new thing, and couldn’t communicate with his other languageless friends anymore. When asked, he says he can’t talk about his pre-language days, calling them “the dark time”.
- Jill Bolte Taylor, who has something like the most popular Ted talk ever, about having a stroke and recovering without language for a bunch of years. In the wordless existence, she was ecstatic, worry-free, and incapable of answering simple questions like “who is the president of the US?”
- Rats and pre-language children can’t come up with the complex concept “left of the blue wall”.
- In the development of a sign language among people who don’t understand language at a school for deaf people, those who have used the language more are better able to understand concepts like “he thinks that his brother thinks that the toy is under the bed, while really it is in the toy box,” as they have more words for types of cognition than just “think.”
- Shakespeare created a lot of words by adding “un”: unnerving, uncomfortable, unreal, unhelpful, etc. But these are not just words, they are concepts, which are now firmly entrenched in our minds.
- Meditators refer to the “monkey mind” state- the one with the constant internal monologue. It’s an obstacle to your meditation; you can’t concentrate if your mind is thinking all over the place. Being able to pause your internal monologue seems to help.
- “Flow” happens when your monologue ceases. (I offer this entirely unsubstantiated.)
Jam these puzzle pieces together rather crudely and controversially:
Words help you learn new concepts and survive better. Wordlessness helps you experience the divine. Words are the classical, no-words are the romantic. Yang and yin, etc.
- for better learning, I ought to name everything.
- for better meditating, I ought to do whatever I can to obliterate my language processing for a few minutes.
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