Thousands of years ago, the human race had so little to communicate that grunts and hand motions were sufficient. Now, our world has become so complicated that every year we have to add new words to the dictionary just to keep everyone up to speed. From the day we are born, we are learning new words everyday and never stop to question them. In fact, when we start learning them we are so young we don’t know that there is even a question to be asked. Well today I would like to ask you that question. What are words?
Recently I have been reading a book called The Fifth Agreement by Don Migel Ruiz and in it he introduces a very interesting paradigm. He explains the story of how we learn words, and how as we grow up we simply accept the definitions of those words because the people who have come before us teach us what they mean. In essence, we agree to believe in the meaning of those words. Then, as we grow up, we get so used to defining everything around us with words that we find a word for everything… we even make them up if need be. And soon enough, we don’t even know how to think about things without words, we must define everything in order to maintain an understanding and control of the world around us. What’s worse is that we start to define ourselves using those words, and therefore limit our minds and personalities to their definitions.
For instance, as a young boy I often wrestled with the idea of whether I was smart or not. I knew what “smart” meant, but it was so subjective. The best measurement seemed to be school grades, but I felt like they were too limiting. As my grades improved, and I started to consider myself “smart,” I then learned of all the negative social aspects of being a “smart person.” People didn’t like you as much, some people made fun of you, and you were often alienated. So, then I decided I wasn’t smart. But that too gave me trouble because I didn’t want to be stupid… I KNEW it was bad to be stupid… Right?
Eventually I found a way to define myself using other words, bigger words, and yet they still didn’t seem to satisfy me. And it wasn’t until very recently that I realized that the most important ideas and concepts do not have words for them. Take, for instance, the word “God.” If you were to ask 10,000 people all over the world what the word “God” meant you would probably get a huge variety of answers. They could range from an all-knowing all-intelligent being, to an old man with a beard in the sky, to the very essence of the energy that is within all of us. And the strangest part is that, in a way, they would all be “right.”
THE TAKEAWAY: The point I think Don Migel Ruiz is trying to make is that it is impossible to understand the truth in any form, using words. Words are just symbols people have agreed upon to represent a thought. Words are just symbols to make communication between people easier. And yet, it is often words that cause the miscommunications, arguments, and wars between those very same people. So today, I am hoping to spread an awareness of the space between words and what they represent. If we could go through our lives without obsessively using words to define everything and everyone we see, then we might just find ourselves marveling at the beauty. After all, the most beautiful things this world has to offer really should leave us speechless.