Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The difficulty of 'is'

I'm a fan of the general thought of Merleau-Ponty, and one of his basic ideas is that we're condemned to try to express what can never be truly expressed with language and words. Words always fall short of the reality, there's always more to the reality than whatever connotation our words give it, yet words are the way we express ourselves, so we're condemned to try to make meaning, fall short, then try again, with the knowledge that no matter how close we get there will always be a gap between language and what's actually signified. Perhaps there are ways to partially get beyond this, such as trying to contemplate words in a more poetic vein, in ways that people in oral cultures or cultures that at least existed before the spread of mass media did. Being able to say words and meditate on the meaning of particular words and phrases...

But language, as Burroughs said, can also be thought of as a virus, something that lives with us and that we struggle with, sometimes cooperating with it, sometimes fighting against it. Burroughs' solution was to cut up language and reassemble it into new structures, thereby cutting up the systems of implicit control that he believed lay in language structures, control that unconsciously manipulated your thought through semiotic meaning.

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