on…words and lost meaning


I’m a writer. Writers love words, right?

Well, yes. It’s hard to write without words. They are the building blocks of how we communicate. They join together to form streams of ideas, which then fork out into a tributary of arguments, developments, thoughts, emotions…quite frankly words are quite useful little things.

I’ve dropped the intensity of that sentence off a hypothetical crumbling cliff on purpose right there. I’ve been thinking lately quite a lot on how much we experience the world without words. Unfortunately the only way to try and tackle this concept of thinking without words is to think about it with words, but that’s just one of those lovely paradoxes that always end up appearing when you think too much.

I’ll start by sharing a quote I’ve found recently. Here’s some wisdom from Terence Mckenna.

“Culture replaces authentic feeling with words. As an example of this, imagine an infant lying in its cradle, and the window is open, and into the room comes something, marvelous, mysterious, glittering, shedding light of many colors, movement, sound, a transformative hierophany of integrated perception and the child is enthralled and then the mother comes into the room and she says to the child, “that’s a bird, baby, that’s a bird,” instantly the complex wave of the angel peacock iridescent trans-formative mystery is collapsed, into the word. All mystery is gone, the child learns this is a bird, this is a bird, and by the time we’re five or six years old all the mystery of reality has been carefully tiled over with words. This is a bird, this is a house, this is the sky, and we seal ourselves in within a linguistic shell of dis-empowered perception.”
~ Terence Mckenna The World Could Be Anything (1990)

found here. https://www.facebook.com/EtherealExposition/photos/a.144806929042766.1073741829.144767382380054/321604901362967/?type=1&theater

Do you know that feeling when you experience something new for the first time? Maybe not. Maybe you haven’t experienced something new for a while, but I doubt that. maybe you’re in the position that Mckenna describes, that you have abstracted everything to the point where there is no wonder in them anymore. Take the view of a young child, pointing at everything  in excitement  on a walk in a forest

“what’s that? that crying flower? Why does it look so sad? Look! It’s crying!” “that’s just a daffodil. That’s just a drop of rain, falling from it’s leaves”

“What’s that noise? It sounds like the ground is shaking! the forest is awake!” “No, that’s just a woodpecker – look! There it is, in that tree.”

“But what is the tree dreaming of? Is she happy?” “no, it’s just a tree.”

Who’s right?

Already a young child has abstracted some things. Bird, tree, flower. We need to so we’re all on the same wavelength and able to talk with each other. But children still have so much more to see, so much more to turn from wonder into the normal. You know when a baby stares at the seemingly most mundane object, in wonder? What if we could do that? why don’t we? I think it’s something to do with everything just being ‘just’ something.

Just a daffodil. Just a woodpecker. Just a tree.

Of course, words are how we communicate with one another. i couldn’t write this to you all unless you partake in this word game known as the English language. Yet as soon as words are placed on something some of the beauty is lost. Let’s take hypnogogia as an example. Most people don’t know what this is, but we’ve all experienced it to varying degrees.

Hypnogogia is the transitional state between sleep and wakefulness. during it we see swirling colours which sometimes form shapes. It’s beautiful. Sometimes unexplainable. I could spend hours writing about it and never quite reach what it actually is. It’s more beautiful in the fact that I can’t full explain it.

In most languages, the script in which something is given its name is biggest abstraction of all. what is ‘t’ on its own? It’s a sound. it’s a shape. It means nothing. How about ‘ttttttt’? now it’s just a meaningless shape. You can’t pronounce that. And then ‘t t t t t t’? now they are shapeand they make a sound. Still no recognisable meaning though. we could attach meaning to the sound though – that ‘t t t t t t’ could describe the tattattattat of the woodpecker in that forest. We’ve applied a total abstraction to a sound/action. And now that action is a collection of meaningless abstractions. This extends to actual words. What does ‘w-o-r-d’ say about the word word? Nothing.

Let’s compare that to Chinese, where the writing sound isn’t totally abstracted. put 女(nü)(woman) with 子(zi)(child) and you get 好(hao)(good). Aside from the fact that the idea portrayed there is a rather traditional view, a woman and child together meaning ‘good’ is very clever and quite beautiful.

Each concept in life has however still been boiled down to a few strokes on paper, even in the Chinese. The words are less abstract, but they do still serve the purpose of defining something in a generic term we all understand, removing part of the personal experience.

What do you experience when you read a novel? Many people who read fiction incessantly might talk of really knowing the characters in their favourite book, and of really feeling the emotions of the character, the environments of the story, a life brought onto those words. The words translate into images. You interpret them into something more. Yet you are always restrained by the author’s choice of words, and your own interpretation of them.

An imaginative reader might get close to the feeling of the unexplained, through extrapolating what they have been told and making it into something new. a great example of this is not with literature but with art. Dürer’s famous rhinoceros. He had never seen a rhino, but he had a great go at sculpting and drawing one on written accounts of their appearance. He got close, but not quite there. That’s what words are like – you can have a good go at explaining something, but you will never truly have the whole image.

"Dürer's Rhinoceros, 1515" by Albrecht Dürer - Christie's. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:D%C3%BCrer%27s_Rhinoceros,_1515.jpg#mediaviewer/File:D%C3%BCrer%27s_Rhinoceros,_1515.jpg

“Dürer’s Rhinoceros, 1515” by Albrecht Dürer – Christie’s. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:D%C3%BCrer%27s_Rhinoceros,_1515.jpg#mediaviewer/File:D%C3%BCrer%27s_Rhinoceros,_1515.jpg

And now here’s another quote I found over the last few days, this time a criticism of written word.

“The only possible opening for a statement of this kind is that I detest writing. The process itself epitomizes the European concept of “legitimate” thinking; what is written has an importance that is denied the spoken. My culture, the Lakota culture, has an oral tradition, so I ordinarily reject writing. It is one of the white world’s ways of destroying the cultures of non-European peoples, the imposing of an abstraction over the spoken relationship of a people.” – Russel Means

http://www.blackhawkproductions.com/russelmeans.html#sthash.NLTJbUpd.dpuf

Although this quote only indirectly affects what was written before it, the divide between spoken word and written word is interesting. The idea I want to look at here is this ‘Legitimate thinking’. When you speak words, those words are accompanied with facial expressions, rise and fall in tone and movement. It’s a marriage of total abstraction and part-abstraction. Conversation allows further discussion of the most disputable points of meaning. The written word lacks that. When words are written to describe something – anything even – no matter how beautiful, chances are that moment would have been more beautiful without them.

My leaving note will be this. Do you know those moments when you think “I don’t have the words” to describe something incredible? Maybe we shouldn’t try.

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On…Rhetoric


Rhetoric. The most often time we hear that word probably is in context to politicians. when a world leader makes a dramatically grand, yet sweeping statement, there will always bee someone around to exclaim grumpily (and it’s usually me, I admit) “Oh but it’s all rhetoric! Nothing was said there at all!”.

With an opening comment like that, I couldn’t possibly be a supporter of excessive exposure to special rhetorical twists of the tongue, could I?

Maybe that sentence shows where my allegiance really lies. I’m quite a fan of rhetoric and today I want to talk about it a fair bit. Here’s why…

I have a pretty hefty tome of a book stuffed with essays, quotes, speeches and such similar things of important figures from modern Chinese history. I was reading through this the other day, when I came across a quote on rhetoric from a fellow called Yang Xiong, a poet of the Han dynasty – in other words, not modern in the slightest. Here’s what he had to say on rhetoric:

“A woman has beauty; does writing have beauty also? The answer is yes. The worst thing for a woman is to have her inner beauty clouded by cosmetics; The worst thing for a piece of writing is to have its rules and proportions confounded by excessive rhetoric.”

Obviously one must take into account that this has been translated from traditional Chinese (not by me – I won’t take credit for that!) but Mr Yang Xiong seems to have not noticed just how much rhetoric he used on his attack on rhetoric. Even if you excuse that unbelievably obvious rhetorical question, there’s still all the slightly more subtle additions to his hypocrisy; usage of strong superlatives (the worst), repetition of phrases (The worst thing for a…), the comparison between a beautiful woman and literature…that’s a lot of rhetoric for someone that allegedly doesn’t like it very much.

Oh, and the translator hasn’t helped either, by adding alliteration (clouded by cosmetics).

The fact is, it’s pretty tricky to get away from rhetoric, as it’s essentially any element that makes writing catchy. If your text has no rhetoric, considering you would almost have to be a genius to avoid it in most types of writing, it’s probably your shopping list for the week.

And although your shopping habits may be genius, that is not me trying to insinuate that a shopping list is the greatest form of literature man has ever devised. That’s a bit out there even for me I’m afraid.

What might strike some as odd however – at least those who were paying close attention to Yang’s chosen profession – is that a poet who despises ‘excessive rhetoric’ is a rather singular poet. Poetry is the kind of writing where some readers could justifiably wave their arms up in despair, begging for mercy from the onslaught of hyperbole and hyperbaton..and apparently alliteration (that second one was unintentional, honest). Yet here is a poet declaring war on excessive rhetoric…strange man.

Now, the other reason I’m possibly writing on this particular topic today is the book i’m reading currently – “The Elements of Eloquence”, by Mark Forsyth. This lovely little book could be considered a crash course in the art of turning a phrase that makes people go ‘oooh’.

I recommend the book highly, but the main reason I’m mentioning it is that it makes something very clear: You will struggle to say anything at all without a certain element of rhetoric. It seems to me as if it were its own branch of semantics, as essential to why a sentence works as the main underlying rules.

Although the aim of Forsyth’s book doesn’t seem  to point out that almost everything is rhetoric (I haven’t finished it, so this is all supposition. It has more of an aestheticism feel to it currently.), that message shouts out of the pages. The sheer number of excellent terms to describe all these techniques you probably have never heard of really highlights just how many techniques there are that we all use unwittingly. Antithesis and assonance will be common to plenty of us, but anadiplosis and scesis onomaton will not only be all greek to most, but also send every word checker in the universe into a frenzy of red underlining.

So dear readers, don’t reject rhetoric like Mr Yang up there. Mr Yang Xiong was silly. You need it. It would put me out of a hobby, humble me typing away trying to fit in as many memorable bits as possible.

And anyway, You’re going to struggle to get away from rhetoric if you decide you don’t like it!…

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it!

Did you know? you’re all inspiring.


It’s true – everyone here on wordpress is inspiring to me. Even those blogs that my eyes jump over in an instant as if they were never there are amazing. Even those who have ideas that I disagree with have a positive influence on me…I even follow one or two blogs whose views are opposed to mine. Now, i have to attempt to justify why I think this, and feel free to disagree with me – that’s partly what the comment box is for after all!

Do you remember when and why you started writing or reading on wordpress? I do – and, my friends, is for another post. My guess is that you had something to share with the world; a passion, a hobby, a talent, a story, news; something that all in all was incredibly important to you. Or maybe it was an experiment – a search for a new hobby perhaps, or a new form of public diary.

BLOG IDEAS

BLOG IDEAS (Photo credit: owenwbrown)

What’s important, is that we all made the active decision to start writing and join this flourishing community. No one forced you (I hope) to share your thoughts here. What is even more amazing is just how open some of you are here. They say one of the reasons people write without inhibitions on the internet is because they are anonymous. That is rarely the case on a blog. Most of us have a page that tells our followers about ourselves, and some even share the most private of things, for the good of others.

That active decision to share what you’re passionate about, and then to write about it regularly, is what I find so inspiring about all of you.

But maybe you need some proof of the inspiration all around you as you delve through WordPress. For that reason, i’ll point out a handful of blogs (of rather different types) that prove my point of just how inspiring all bloggers can be. Now, this next part, as well as pointing out the inspiration there is to grab on the blogosphere, is also a thanks to all the bloggers I have written about and linked. And a note to the written about bloggers, this isn’t one of the blog awards – it’s simply a sign of thanks as I rarely comment, but truly appreciate what you write.

I’ll start off with one of my first and no doubt my most loyal follower, whether he realises it or not, ‘Pouring my art out’. I believe he started blogging about the same time as me, but I must say he’s been much more successful than myself. And for good reason. He owns one of the most entertaining blogs i’ve come across in the year i’ve been here on wordpress. It’s hard, if not impossible to try and understand the mind of PMAO as it can get pretty strange sometimes on his blog, but the dedication to regular posting and the devotion to entertain, is in one word, inspiring. Pmao, Thank you.

Secondly, I’m going to mention a blog called ‘Rolling with Vishnu’. I know very little about hinduism, myself being agnostic, but I am very interested in all forms of philosophical and theological thought. The author particularly inspires me for the reason he is a paraplegic, who uses some of his time to make life better for others through exploration of Vaishnava Hindu thought. I feel I have learnt from his blog, and in the end that is what is important. Rolling with Vishnu, Thank you.

Next is ‘Life as I see it’. I always found this blog inspiring from the first time I stumbled on it. I found myself staring at a stunning scene from Nova Scotia, with an inspiring quote attached to it. What more could someone ask to see? But I’ve learnt since then that the blogger has fought disease for the last few years, and despite that she is thankful for everything. The positive energy from ‘life as I see it’ is incredible. Life as I see it, Thank you

Now i’d like to thank ‘Source of Inspiration’ . As i mentioned previously in regards to rolling with Vishnu, I’m agnostic but interested in religious ideas. source of inspiration finds her inspiration from the abrahamic God (I have to say abrahamic, as I don’t remember seeing any mention of Jesus, so I can’t say for certain if the blogger speaks from a christian, jewish or muslim view. It feels mainly christian to me, but I can’t say for certain (Apologies if this is offensive to you Pat Cegan, I sincerely hope it isnt, but i’m aware some would be offended)). What I find so inspiring about this blog is the passion felt for God and everything that is given by God. God (sorry for the repetition of ‘God’ but I refuse to give God a gender) is a strongly positive force in her poetry, inspiring, supporting and leading; and the glory of God is portrayed wonderfully. Such energy to describe God is englightening to someone like myself who has no faith, but is open to and wishes to learn more about ideas of faith. Source of inspiration, thank you.

Finally, I finish with ‘Work the Dream’. I read this blog regularly, and almost never comment on it despite it being worthy of a lot of time. The problem is, I often read the posts, then have nothing to say that could possibly add to it. Each post is just simply inspiring. I’ve talked about a positive energy in quite a few of the above blogs, and it is the same with work the dream. The blogger, whose name escape me (although i’m sure it’s mentioned somewhere on her blog), is permanently on oxygen and suffers from other disabilities, yet you will struggle to find a more positive blog about happiness, dreams, kindness; essentially everything good there is about emotions and morals. On her blog, you will find stories of good times and hard times, but they will always be positive. You will find quotes that in themselves are inspiring, but always inheritedly linked to the post -which just accentuates how meaningful her posts are. Of all the blogs I have listed, this is perhaps the most inspiring, and yet I never have anything to comment with on her posts. It’s hard to explain, but the feeling I get from her posts simply makes me think that my comments couldn’t not just add anything to the conversation of her post, but also not express my thanks or thoughts on each topic. So work the dream, thank you.

Now just to wrap up today’s writing. What i’ve been trying to prove here is how amazing it is that you’re all here, writing, sharing and being so open. here are the everyday thoughts and lives of people, showing the rest of the world that the everyday person and story is as inspiring as the characters of the history books. You have all chosen to make a mark on everyone that sees your work and continue to share. Most of you don’t expect to make money from all this writing – all most of you wish is that you’re contributing to the world and making other people’s lives better.

That, whether you agree, makes you all inspiring.

Thank you.

 

What is it that makes your writing tick? my seven (deadly?) writing needs


As I sat down today to finish off the poem i mentioned yesterday, I suddenly wondered-what exactly do I need before I can write something that i’m proud of. Consequently, I thought it would be nice to write about those essential things that I simply must have to write. So, starting with things which help and going down to the very most essentials, here is what makes my writing tick..

1. A nice cup of coffee or tea. Some of my poems and essays would never have been finished without these trusty beverages. There’s something about the smell and warmth that keeps you going…let alone the caffeine. Cafes often also have the right feel for writing. Why do uni students seem to always hang around  in cafes? They inspire writing! (again…trying to ignore the obvious answer of caffeine…) I have to put this as the least important for a very simple reason however. It also seems to have a dreadful habit of also ruining writing if you rely on it too much.

2. Time.  I’m sure many people would argue with time not being considered that important, but the truth is you can write anywhere, anyplace, anytime if you want. Although changing those three things can of course contribute or remove from what you write, if you keep your pen and paper with you all the time, all it takes is to pull out your notebook as soon as you see something worth writing about. Time is however on the list because you do need to invest time to craft those ideas which have been collected and sculpt them into something.

3.Music. Some need music to write, some can’t stand even the hum of a bird from outside whilst they write. I am a strange one, in that at different times I fall into either group. As I write this, I’m listening to a band called Faun-A German group that play medieval and folk music with a twist (don’t judge my slightly out there taste in music 🙂 ). Right now, that is exactly what I need to keep writing, yet other times it would force me into not being able to think a single word.

4.A pen and paper. Unless you use solely a computer, you need the simple yet loyal paper and pen. Part of me argues that I should put this at the bottom of the list as the most essential part of writing, but as I sit here typing I can’t bring myself to believe that it is the most essential part-So I send out a big apology to any writing purists that will only ever write on paper and never the computer screen.

5.My own notebook. Call me a creature of habit, but I write better if i’m using my favourite notebook. This notebook came from the national museum in London and is decorated to look like part of the Rosetta Stone. very cool. It contains most of my poems, random notes, chord progressions for songs, and notes for a piece of English coursework…among other things. Although it is probably completely phychological, I no doubt write better when I have it with me.

6.Inspiration. What is writing without something to talk about? Luckily the world is full of inspiration-the trick is in spotting it…and in my case, remembering it afterwards. You could write about absolutely anything, but generally you only write at your best when it is something that fills you with passion and fiery emotions. Inspiration is the base of all writing.

and finally 7.a clear and peaceful mind. Writing can almost come close to being quite a meditative exercise and in my opinion that clarity of thought is the most essential part of writing. Inspiration may seem like the true foundation of writing, but without that peaceful, open mind, you miss so much that could have been written about. For the past couple of months in which I have written very little on the blog for example, I haven’t had a peaceful mind; I’ve been stressed every moment of every day. Now however i’m getting to calm down a bit more…a little weird considering the close proximity to exam time, but that just seems to be how it is and i’m not going to complain.

What are your 7 essential things you need to write? Feel free to share them on the comments!

(p.s. Sorry about the rather obvious links on this post. I’m only completely guiltlessly seeing if adding in some the recommended links kicks up the views a bit…)

Trying something new here…


I’ve tried something a little bit different today. Its not a poem and its not really a thought or story. Instead, a sort of more creative way of writing out a thought, but almost verging on (very) short story. I can’t really explain it, so i’ll just share this little bit of writing and you can tell me what you think…

My simple world

It was late. Yet I still kept writing; scribbling away on pages and pages of once pristine white paper. It felt almost terrible to cover something so pure in the scrawling mess of writing that was so haphazardly forced upon it – The paper’s purity slowly being enveloped in a writer’s struggle to express the feelings he know he feels, without knowing exactly what they are.

Reader, I ask you whether you also have felt emotions that don’t seem to fit the limited vocabulary we have devoted to feelings? After all, we all are so different from one another that what we feel and how we are affected by the strange happenings of the world surely cannot be completely described in ways we can accurately pass onto others.

It was one such feeling that I slaved upon into the early hours of the morning. It had been troubling me for a whole day now and seemed particularly out of the ordinary. How could one conversation change the whole of my simple world?

No words come


Staring at a blank white page

In need of words to breathe in life,

But no words come.

Held still for a restless age

The pen cuts paper like a knife,

But no words come.

 

 

If you get writer’s block, what better thing to write about than writer’s block?

overcoming writer's block - crumpled paper on ...

overcoming writer’s block – crumpled paper on wooden floor – crushed paper (Photo credit: photosteve101)

Me? a classic novel writer?


Although I would never consider that I will become a classic novel writer at some point in the future, that is what came up at my end of year assembly.  This came up as part of the joke-y presentation of  people ‘most likely to…’ do certain things in the year group, including such things as ‘most likely to’: become a Somalian pirate; be exported to mexico (the receiver of this one was particularly happy with the idea of being exported rather than deported…it made him sound like a beer); become prime minister, etc. So in other words a mix of serious and not so serious-which does make it tricky to decide whether my little award was a joke or serious, but I shall be an optimist here and take the latter 😉

When comments like that turn up when you aren’t expecting them however, they bring up questions: Is this serious? But what about that other person who has already won a writing award? Who’s been quitely reading my blog when I haven’t been looking? What if, underneath all those jokes, there is some truth in the statement? Could I maybe have the talent to write a novel?

I have had an urge to try writing a novel and perhaps now is the time. Never have I had so many successes after successes in my life as now, so it seems like the opportune moment. The first obstacle is to think of my topic.  There are so many things I could write about, yet i fear the everlooming curse of the cliché. I have an idea though…

give me a topic, any good fictional topic…

and the comment on this post with the best topic I will write a paragraph about. It probably won’t be the start of an epic novel, but its just a bit of fun for me and a nice way to bring you readers into the blog instead of standing a few metaphorical metres away all the time. You never know…you all might just inspire me to actually take up the pen to craft a beautiful novel filled with deep characters that really come alive in whatever wonderful world they happen to find themselves placed in.

For the pen truely is mightier than the sword and always will be.