May 2, 2013

Language and Communication

Yesterday, I watched a movie called Waking Life, which happens in a man's dreams, where he meets various people and they talk about the meanings and purposes of life and the universe. This vĂ­deo shows one of those discussions - a monologue, to be exact - where a woman talks about what she thinks about the beginning of language and about the way we understand, or not, each other. Despite the "romantic touch" in the end, I found it quite interesting because it focus a very important point about communication: are you communicating what you want to? Are you reaching people?

"Creation seems to come out of imperfection. It seems to come out of a striving and a frustration. And this is where I think language came from. I mean, it came from our desire to transcend our isolation and have some sort of connection with one another. And it had to be easy when it was just simple survival like, you know, “water.” We came up with a sound for that. Or “saber-toothed tiger right behind you.” We came up with a sound for that. But when it gets really interesting, I think is when we use that same system of symbols to communicate all the abstract and intangible things that we’re experiencing. What is, like frustration? Or what is anger? Or love? When I say “love,” the sound comes out of my mouth and it hits the other person’s ear, travels through this byzantine conduit in their brain through their memories of love or lack of love and they register what I’m saying and say yes, they understand. But how do I know they understand? Because words are inert. They’re just symbols. They’re dead, you know? And so much of our experience is intangible. So much of what we perceive cannot be expressed. It’s unspeakable. And yet, you know, when we communicate with one another and we feel that we have connected and we think that we’re understood, I think we have a feeling of almost spiritual communion. And that feeling might be transient, but I think it’s what we live for."


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