Language doesn’t carry reality. As we know, the name ‘glass of water’ cannot be raised to one’s lips and drunk, and neither does the label ‘red’ convey the actual colour. Instead, these things call on us to bring out of memory a representation of what the label stands for. In effect language is just a model for what we encounter in the world, and the words are just labels for concepts in memory, which are themselves a limited abstraction of reality.
Therefore to read a book is to string together a series of impressions formed by our knowledge of language, our memory and our imagination. The words ‘fiery volcano’ may call to mind an image close to what we saw on TV when we were watching a documentary. We can construct images of things that we’ve never seen, like the ‘gigantic wall of ice’ which guards the Northern Kingdoms in George R. R. Martin’s fantasy book series A Song of Fire and Ice. Such a poetic description evokes an image in the mind’s eye constructed through our cinematic and dramatic sensibilities, calling on many different memories to fill in the blanks.
But these things are merely complex illusions, our mind’s eye taking flight powered by memories of the real world. If we are interested in truth and reality, we need to be aware of this capacity of the mind.