Consequences of Language

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Lately I have been confronted with the challenges of language. The development of a common language within a group of people is quite convenient. It is much easier to tell someone that there is water than to gesture wildly and get that person to move with you toward the source. In that sense, it makes communicating with other people who speak your same language much easier. However, there is so much left to interpretation in language. Take any book and ask two or three people their opinions on it and, I am sure, that they all would have read something slightly different. People even make careers out of the interpretation of language – pretty much every creative writing scholar and professor in every English department of the US is delving into the infinite interpretations of literature.

There are numerous quotes that render words along the line of “think before you speak”. The consequence of a developed language is that even if a group of people all supposedly speak the same language, that group of people may not truly speak the same language. We may all interpret something in a different way when hearing a speech or someone speaking on a topic and that person may or may not realize that some of what they said has underlying connotations; that it is “saying” something to someone else that the speaker may or may not have intended. In that sense, language can be and is used as a weapon, an intangible tool to wound and attack another person, wittingly or unwittingly.

I find that it so important that I am expressing myself with the correct words. At times, I have found myself in situations where I spoke poorly, or I spoke from some inner place where I was deluded into thinking that the receiver of those words knew everything that I was feeling at the moment and the head space in which I was speaking from, and in turn, unintentionally hurt or angered that other person. I had not chosen my words carefully enough and fell prey to the consequence of language. Throw emotion, stress, external pressures and/or naivety into the mix and one may have a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, it is also imperative for the listener to consider all those factors as well, so as not to entirely fault the speaker. We are all human after all.

I feel that it would be beneficial to our species, our society, to begin to raise the importance of silence. Not only can silence “speak” more loudly than words, but silence give us the time and space to ponder and consider what we are to say or if it is even worth speaking aloud in the first place. I find that if I jump in to respond right after listening to someone speak during a conversation, I was not actually listening to them. I was thinking about how I was going to respond to something that they said rather than hearing the whole story. We teach “active listening” but your mind cannot be active if you are listening. It must be focused on the task of listening, then, once that task is done, can it effectively switch over into the task of thinking and responding. When you finish a book, it is more effective to digest what you have read and allow yourself the time to make connections and form an opinion than just speaking your mind automatically. After all, most authors have spent years writing down the story they want to tell or researching the multiple views that they have gathered to present to you in providing as whole of the story as possible.

The absolute truth is that we live in a rather complicated world of our own making and on a living organism of what’s elements making it what it is are fully interdependent on the others. It would be beneficial for our species to keep that and the words of Ali Ibn Talib A.S in the forefront of our minds: “You are master of what you say until you utter it. Once you deliver it, you are its captive.”

-Samantha Hanchett, Marketing + Outreach Coordinator

*Please note that the opinions of “Thoughts” are just that and do not necessarily represent the views of the Thomas County Public Library.


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