Sometimes I’ll write simply because I haven’t written anything in a while. Sometimes that feeling is just that, a feeling. The fact is that I am writing every day and some days I am writing quite a lot, but it is not the sort of writing that I would post here. So that aforementioned feeling probably stems from not doing this kind of writing in a while. I just abandoned a piece of garbage that will languish in my documents folder titled “unfinished stupid shit.” I can’t bring myself to delete it, but it will likely never be re-opened again either. There are not many of these files on my computer, but there are those rare occurrences that I have written myself into a corner with no hope of return. I am trying to redeem myself at this very moment…
When it comes to writing for this blog, I only have to answer to myself. Nothing is ever “due;” I have complete freedom to write or not about anything or nothing. My archives are full of anything and nothing, some of which I am quite proud of, some not so much. But writing for me can serve as a window into my soul, as a way of exploring those areas of my psyche that I am otherwise too preoccupied to pay much attention to. And it always comes back to the words. Words are random; meaning is arbitrary, if we have not agreed to a large extent what words denote, there is no meaning whatsoever. But that is only a start. Our language is in constant evolution and the connotative meanings of words bring life to them – and often become denotative in time. However, language in all its infinite flexibility and variety is still restricted by our ability to come to agreement.
Yet despite all our differences and seeming inability to agree on much, especially in the polarized society in which we currently find ourselves, the ability to come to terms on terms is astounding. Despite the butchering of the English language that is found in the explosion of textual communication in recent years, correct grammar is still the rule – the gold standard – one that is still acknowledge even by those who do not, cannot or choose not to practice its tenets. Changes in the rules of grammar have been few - the structure of our language has remained largely static even if the vernacular evolves daily. Yet the proliferation of willful violations of those rules in places where they are still paramount does not bode well for the continued agreement of this most basic requirement in communication.
But it begs the question: If communication is about the sharing and creation of meaning, does it really matter how that is done? In other words, does the response, “But you knew what I meant” hold any validity. I would argue that in discrete, isolated and informal circumstances, the resultant exchange and negotiation of meaning is sufficient to satisfy that communication did in fact occur. But in a more global context, this is a non-fallacious slippery slope. If the rules of formal communication, mass communication, research and the like are made up as we go along, relying on the sole criteria that “You knew what I meant,” then the already imprecise nature of communication based upon agreed norms becomes nothing more than a crap-shoot. It leaves too much open to interpretation and a return to textbook postmodernism that takes away any universality to what is true, good and beautiful. Furthermore, what if I “don’t know what you mean?” Then what?
My world is self-admittedly about communication. It is what I study, what I practice and what fascinates me every time I stop for just a moment to ponder it. Our ability to communicate has transformed the world, for better and for worse. The power of communication is undeniable. No other species has come close to the accomplishments ours has and the one and only factor that separates us from them is our ability to communicate symbolically. It is more fascinating than our technology, our mobility, our arts and our sciences because communication makes all of that possible. It seems that as a species we disagree on more than we agree on, often violently so, but we could not have become who we are if we were unable to effectively negotiate meaning – to communicate.