Words are a Trap

Words are a trap that most minds cannot escape. The words are inextricably linked to concepts embedded in minds. Once a word manifests, either uttered or in written form, the mind is obliged to track it to the concept with which it is linked and then all the associations it has. This becomes the intellectual or affective endeavor that the mind settles in, even enjoying it.

But even the linkage the words have with the concept in our minds is not a clear-cut one-to-one. At best, words are an approximation. There exists no word that does full justice to the concept it represents. And this often leads to the usage of even more words to explicate the first. What we have in our mind can only be imprecisely described by any words we know. The words we use to describe what the first one represents add to the fog of it. The fog actually grows, and blurriness around it increases. But at times, strangely, the concept becomes more clarified, as if the aggregate of the fogs of multiple words chips away the detracting parts while layering down more substance for the parts that add to the understanding of the concept.

That words are a poor representation of concepts becomes starkly evident in translations, especially of poems. A translation that does justice to the original is rare. Perhaps even an impossibility.

There are some minds that do permit words only a loose hold over them, in a way, keeping their sounds and shapes separate from the concepts they are expected to depict.

For the former, songs are musical scaffolding for words. The poetry of the songs is paramount. For the latter, songs are music on which words are like pegs, and at best, ornaments. Poetry for them is an adjuvant, like a condiment. Music is the meat. At least they expect their feast to be music, with poetry playing a subservient role.

Let us give a name to those who remain trapped in words, and even revel in them. Let us call them wordians. I believe they probably have a poorer understanding of the world but definitely an impoverished enjoyment of it. They feel compelled to understand poetry only in terms of words. They cannot help but be verbose about paintings or musical pieces. Many are parasites, not even bottom feeders, of these art worlds, often manifesting as art critics, art historians, and music critics. Yet, they are essential because there are many other wordians out there who need to be drawn into the world of art; we can hope that once within the ambit of the art world, they may perhaps shed the shackles of the words and will come to enjoy the art things in a purer sense.

Words, or language, evolved to allow us to communicate, to facilitate collaboration. Later we began using them to express feelings. They serve us better for the former but not so well for the latter.

What if language was not the mode of communication we had evolved? Say, if we only communicated by odors, pheromones, touch, or musical sounds, would we have been a different species? Would this fuzzy universe be better understood and described by a fuzzy mode of expression?

There are times when we suspect that words are superfluous but we rarely consider that words corrupt us.



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