Tag Archives: English language

Do I Understand What You Mean?

I promised this blog to Steven Z. In response to a tweet, he wrote, “I have a possible new article suggestion for you and it’s simply – Rethinking Word Usage.” He continued,In general, people use ‘words’ that they unfortunately have no clue of their true meaning or origin. I’ll even go so far as to suggest the paradigm of usage has become corrupted on purpose, as a social control mechanism. By whom?”**

After giving examples, Steven Z concluded, “It’s all these subtleties that add up to being where the world is today = lack of awareness.”

On June 17th, I answered back, “Great Message, Steve. I’ve written extensively about this issue. 1) Virtually every key term in the English language has been perverted to the extent that the same word means both one thing and its opposite. 2) Unraveling this “Tower of Babel” factor is essential to communication.

In fact, I tweeted out today, from The Positive Paradigm Handbook: ‘Axiom Six: Used as a linguistic tool, the Positive Paradigm Wheel promotes clear, accurate and effective communication.’”

Here’s an illustration worth a thousand words, It shows the range of different meanings assigned to the single word, “discrimination.”

062414 Discrim

Here’s a basic explanation of Axiom Six:

Like humanity itself, the English language is also becoming an endangered species. Clear and effective communication can no more be taken for granted than any other aspect of the civilization.

In tracking the meanings of words, their devolution is found to be systematic. In some cases, the same word means not only one thing, but its exact opposite as well. The inherent danger is that people often talk at cross-purposes, thinking they understand each other when in fact they’re missing each other coming and going, only vaguely aware of the disconnect.

It’s worth the time to pay attention to what’s meant by specific words in common use. Working with the Positive Paradigm Wheel explains the dynamics of shifting definitions. The same word takes on different meanings on different levels of the Wheel.

One example is the word “positive.” Webster’s Dictionary lists seventeen (!) different uses. They span the continuum from center to surface, with many gradations along the route. At the core, “positive” refers to that which is absolute, unqualified, and independent of circumstances; that which has real existence in itself.

At the middle, energy level, the term is used describe an electrical valence. As an attitude, positive can mean either confident or dogmatic. At the surface, positive may mean showing forward progress or increase, making a constructive contribution.

As this one example serves to indicate, it’s extraordinarily difficult to communicate so as to be understood as intended. The “Tower of Babel” factor issue is addressed in Rethinking Survival and Conscience:

Tower of Babel Factor

The gift of language sets humans apart from animals. It provides the building blocks of communication. It’s the foundation of civilizations and the necessary glue of cultural continuity.

That being said, humans are the only creatures who rationalize greed, lie to others about their actions and deceive themselves. . . .

That’s quite the opposite of the language I’d learned to love and respect in high school. There, we were taught to regard language as the premier tool of logic. When used with Sherlock-like diligence, applied with the powers of keen observation and heightened awareness, it can solve mysteries — not only detect the crimes of evil-doers and the nefarious plots of national enemies, but reveal the mysteries of life and the universe.

Turned inwards, used with self-honesty, language is an essential tool of introspection used for cultivating self-awareness. For the truth-seeker, language is the necessary vehicle of information both on the inward quest and on the return journey to share its benefits.

** In Rethinking Survival, I’ve also described the intentional perversion of the English language to which Steven Z alludes. However, it’s outside the limits of this particular piece.


Answering Chrystina’s Question

globeToday, December 30th of the waning year 2013, Chrystina Trulove-Reyes posted a question about Rethinking Survival.

She wrote: “I would like to know more about the book. Is it about survival, the human condition, or mythology.”

Hmm. I answered back, “Good question. The short answer is, All of the above. The long answer deserves a post.”

Here I must caution, as I do in Rethinking, about the flexible nature of the English language. We often miss each other coming and going because the same word can mean many different things. This makes clarity in communication challenging — at best.

My answer as to whether Rethinking is about survival, the human condition, or mythology depends on what you and I mean. And it’s not really an either-or choice.

This isn’t just a quibble.

For example, take the word “mythology.” In the full spectrum use of “mythology,” it can simply mean fiction. But sometimes the slang use implies unscientific and therefore utterly false.

In a certain way, Chrystina, you’re creating a mythology with Cleopatra Stevens at survivingthezombieapocolypse.wordpress.com. But your story, though fiction, also speaks to the human condition.

Joseph Campbell, the famous comparative religion buff, used “myth” to describe the creation stories of the world’s great religions. These stories may be fiction, but they have served to answer our deepest questions. How did we get here? What is humanity’s place in creation? They define our common purpose and suggest possible futures.

From Campbell’s perspective, Yes. Rethinking is about mythology and the human condition. It’s basically one and the same subject.

“Paradigm” is another word for myth. It’s a structure for how we define ourselves, the operating rules of the world we live in, and humanity’s possible futures. Paradigm is used interchangeably with world view and belief system. Rethinking is, most importantly, about the importance and effect of paradigms.

In this context, Rethinking is also about survival. My point is that our belief systems — paradigms, world views, mythologies — shape our experience. To the extent that they’re false — don’t correspond with the facts — they can drive us crazy, push us to murder or even suicide. They can endanger our very existence.

When Einstein said we will need a substantially new way of thinking if humanity is to survive, he was referring to the dangerous effects of limited, separatist thinking. According to him, we must to expand our circle of compassion to get free from the prison of limiting world views.

Rethinking answers this urgent need.

So, Yes. it is about human survival. Yes. It is about mythology insofar as the term is interchangeable with paradigms and belief systems. And, Yes, because paradigms have a great impact, for better or worse, on the human condition, it is about this as well.

Thus my short answer: All of the above.