PAGE IN PROGRESS What you see here is a page of my hypertext book POWER of meanings // MEANINGS of power. Initially empty, this page will slowly be filled with thoughts, notes, and quotes. One day, I will use them to write a coherent entry, similar to these completed pages. Thank you for your interest and patience!
Language has power over us: poets composing, about Keats in Poet’s Mistake: “It then has struck him with astonishment—and seemed rather the production of another person than his own—He has wondered how he came to hit upon it.” (Intro)
What is language ? Sounds filled with meaning, stringed together. I understand it when I hear someone speaking language that I don’t don’t and that does not seem like any language that I know. Then I cannot assign meanings to a h sounds. I just hear the sounds.
language having power us - This is an example of macropower
We are at the mercy of language - a clumsy and clunky tool Trying to describe the world using language sometimes feels like trying to pick up a snowflake with a foot.
we say that at a certain age children start speaking their country’s language in reality, we could as well say that language starts speaking them
By analyzing language we learn about people; what it important to them (language is meant to express what’s important, what is not important to people is difficult to express)
When do we know when language confuses us or gives us a hint: - power of sight - power of her beauty
Barthes "Death of the Author"
Separate discussion: power of language, language of power, words can hurt, changing language to make society a better place (inclusivity, debates about political correctness)
Language has power over us because we cannot choose to say whatever we want. If we want to talk about something really complicated, we often struggle to express ourselves. Words and their combinations just don't capture what we are trying to say. When we read scholars who use very complex language, we sometimes (often?) blame them for not having anything substantial to say. As one person I know used to say (I am paraphrasing): "If you cannot express your thoughts clearly, perhaps you don't really have any thoughts worth expressing". But there might be another explanation: language is a very crude tool that we use to understand the world and ourselves. We have created this tool the way it is because of our limited abilities as human beings, of our limited power. And now we find ourselves at the mercy of this tool (but really, at the mercy of or affected by our own limitations) as we are trying to do what language was meant to accomplish.
Language as a tool, but a tool that is given to us. We do not fully possess it, it possesses us. We do not quite use it, it uses us. Other people speak through us in our every utterance. If we try to rebel, we discover that language limits our attempts to think what others have not thought about and say things that others did not say. Luckily, language has a degree or malleability. It is changing all the time. As we are trying to challenge what can be said and thought, we can potentially exploit this malleability, although there is really no simply way to do that, and no simple way to determine whether we have succeeded.
Language used for analysis of complex phenomena like power: it is not meant for such analysis. It’s like a looking glass: you try to see something smaller than what the looking glass supposed to magnify, and you just see a blur
I feel forced by language to simplify in order to properly understand. To make sense of the extreme complexity of what we call power, I have to first sacrifice my ability to speak about the complexity that I am trying to understand. It is a very annoying paradox. I can only hope that this sacrifice will eventually pay off.
Challenges of equality language: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/lost-debate/id1591300785?i=1000603518339 https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2023/04/equity-language-guides-sierra-club-banned-words/673085/ How can you fight for a better world if you cannot name the problem in a clear and comprehensive way?
Foucault in The Will to Knowledge: “Discourse transmits and produces power. It reinforces it, but also undermines and exposes it, renders it fragile and makes it possible to thwart it.”
Zen’s coans: how can be at the same time simple, confusing, deep and unhelpful? Big wisdoms that we know (treat others like you want to treat yourself) - same thing? Because it all depends on how we feel them with meanings? Unhelpfulness if language: we try to say something essential about our experience and end up saying a cliché or a confusing phrase.
Because we are so stuck in our own language, we are not aware of how other languages offer very different affordances and limitations (the pillow book). From Introduction: "She will often launch into a new scene without any orienting context except perhaps some thematic or tangential connection with the previous scene, and we find ourselves inside it without any idea of whether it is describing something that she herself once experienced, or that people of sensibility may well experience, or that we are experiencing through the medium of a romanticized scene from a tale. As we read on, we may come across a verb inflection or some other information that answers the question, but often we finish none the wiser, or confused by a description that seems to slip freely between reminiscence and a floating projection of the imagination. This detachment is exacerbated by the fact that the classical Japanese language does not need, and very seldom has, a specified subject to the verb. Is it I, or you, or we, or perhaps she, who is experiencing this? The question will often seem irrelevant, for in many passages, it is enough that the experience exists as we read, and that by reading we too experience it. In The Pillow Book, we seem to enter a kind of entranced historical present in which we will often find ourselves experiencing the moment as Sei Shōnagon herself does, but we are more generally the receptive consciousness of an anonymous lady at the Heian court.".
To entry about power: Robin asking: why is there word “perfect” if there is no perfect? I respond: people create words for things they believe in or want to believe in. Like unicorn. And then they sometimes start to believe that words described by these things really exist.
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