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Words cannot encapsulate reality

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

I was listening to a short meditative reflection by John Astin about language on the Waking Up app, and it made me realise that words are just a model of reality. You say tree, but in fact the word tree falls far short of the reality of a tree. It doesn’t tell you if it is tall or short, young or old, blossoming or in leaf. The word cannot encapsulate the reality of the tree, which always has more detail to be examined.

Also, what you see in your mind when you read or hear spoken language is a collection of impressions from the past. You may have a specific idea of a tree, tall, deciduous and healthy and in full leaf. But the author whose word tree you just read may have had a very different image and idea of a tree; it may have involved palm leaves and coconuts. So your impression of a read passage of words is pretty unique, based on the past encounters you have had.

Poetry deserves a special mention, because poetry is like an impressionist painting made out of words. It forms an image in your mind which is only loosely related to the actual words used.

personDavidmarcitko

Comments

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    I kind of think of it like using an ice cube to describe water. Reality flows, whereas language and really even thoughts and emotions, freeze reality into something discrete and isolated.

    Shoshin1David
  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    Against a background of chaos, a temporary compilation of skandhas, as ethereal a structure as the karmic momentum that instigated it, try to connect with other skandhic compilations .......through words.
    As near or as far from reality, as a finger is from the moon that its trying to point at.

    lobsterShoshin1David
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    It's fun trying though.

    It is a good point to remember when we catch ourself clinging to our views.

  • LionduckLionduck Veteran

    No, words can not encapsulate reality.
    But words can conceptualize perceptions of reality.
    and that is often enough,

  • Shoshin1Shoshin1 Veteran

    Words cannot encapsulate reality

    ...and in reality that's the reality of reality for ya...

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    … as we know Reality includes words. Just as emptiness includes form.

    The reality of specific forms are an embodiment/projection/revealing of their nature. Archetypes are reminders. So for example a tree may reflect:

    • Buddhas awakening
    • An ideal Eden
    • Climbing

    Etc.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @Lionduck said:
    No, words can not encapsulate reality.
    But words can conceptualize perceptions of reality.
    and that is often enough,

    The words are only an abstraction though. If your concept of ‘sad’ or ‘red’ is much more vibrant than mine, it becomes difficult to find common ground.

    Lionduck
  • LionduckLionduck Veteran

    @Jeroen
    The words are only an abstraction though. If your concept of ‘sad’ or ‘red’ is much more vibrant than mine, it becomes difficult to find common ground.

    Yes, words are only an abstract of thought or perception.
    The limitation of words can be a barrier, sometimes that is so.
    However, our words enable us to approximate our conception, our perceptions, our feelings. In that function, words, though "limited", can carify.
    Feelings, experiences, emotions, thoughts are so often beyond the ability to put into words, in any language. However, words do push us in the direction of comprehension.
    It s the habit of the Mentors to use words to provide us with a direction, no matter how straight or convoluted, to seek our understanding, our awakening, to embark and continue upon our roads of discovery. This is as true for the engineer, the artisan, the seeker of the way, the chef, the child upon the bicycle.

    Peace to all

    lobster
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    Often though there are no appropriate words at all. The Eskimo’s have fifty different words for snow. You could think that a language that could richly describe the inner would have a few more words for mental state, or for motive energy.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    This speaker presented at a Mind and Life conference with the Dalai Lama. She talks about the way the language we use can shape the way we see the world.

    This idea is at the heart of the movie Arrival

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    Arrival was a great sci-fi movie, I really enjoyed it.

  • pegembarapegembara Veteran

    Words/concepts or thoughts fabricate your reality.
    The Vikings have their Valhalla, the Greeks Mt Olympus, the Nazi's Third Reich.
    We have the USA, Europe, fiat currency etc.

    The 'tree' is a collection of roots, trunk, branches, leaves, and flowers. The tree is not an independent reality. Nothing is.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @pegembara said:
    Words/concepts or thoughts fabricate your reality.
    The Vikings have their Valhalla, the Greeks Mt Olympus, the Nazi's Third Reich.
    We have the USA, Europe, fiat currency etc.

    To each person these mean different things, they are collective illusions.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    Some illusions work better or worse than others. Reality is conditional and interdependent, not arbitrary.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    How, exactly, when many illusions are dependent on the contents of mind and memory which you have built up over a lifetime? An Iranian or Russian’s concept of the USA will be very different from that of someone brought up in the States, just because the shared stories by these groups of people will be massively different.

    If you say “reality is conditional and interdependent”, it sounds like you are referring to those concepts of which we all have a shared base, such as throwing frisbees. There you can ‘work out’ the conditions and see the interdependence, but for a lot of other concepts things get a lot more nebulous.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @Jeroen said:
    How, exactly, when many illusions are dependent on the contents of mind and memory which you have built up over a lifetime? An Iranian or Russian’s concept of the USA will be very different from that of someone brought up in the States, just because the shared stories by these groups of people will be massively different.

    If you say “reality is conditional and interdependent”, it sounds like you are referring to those concepts of which we all have a shared base, such as throwing frisbees. There you can ‘work out’ the conditions and see the interdependence, but for a lot of other concepts things get a lot more nebulous.

    In my mind what I'm referring to is the part of reality that is more concrete. Like the physical reality of concrete being stronger than wood or the way evolution has shaped humans to bond with and care for their young.

    There is a large degree of nebulousness and fluidity in society and language but my main point is that it isn't absolute. Physical reality places constraints that lead to worse and better outcomes depending on how we construct those illusions.

    lobster
  • LionduckLionduck Veteran

    Someone once said that there are basically three realities.
    Mine
    Yours
    Actual

    He or she was referring to Reality as it is, Perceived reality and Conceived reality....

    One soul, after enduring all the argruments and presentations on reality simply stated, "What is is.", stood up and went out for tea.

    Peace to all

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Physical reality places constraints that lead to worse and better outcomes depending on how we construct those illusions.

    exactly.
    This is the nature of karma, skilful means. interdependence.

    In the realm of full stops
    We stop constructing and we fall to bits

    and … are built of Nothing.

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