5.24.2009

I know.

But being reminded first thing in the morning makes for a remarkable day.





Words have a way of motivating us unmatched by other techniques. When they're pleasurable, we consume them, like Alice's cake, and we grow taller for awhile--bounding from one moment to the next with a certain sense of invincibility.

Burke argues that language is symbolic action, that when we speak the words hold the promise of thought transferable into operation. Like most sophists, he is partially right. Words are metaphors for interplay between consciousness and reality. They fill the interstitial space between object and perception. Without them we have no way of dealing with the process of thought and its relationship to the world and our relationship to that interaction. For this reason we distinguish between words and noise, words and grunts, words and mere sound.

Action, even as metaphor, requires something on which to act. There is scarcely any walking without something on which to walk or fighting without something to fight or thinking without thoughts. Why, then, consider language as symbolic action instead of simply action?

The person who has no convictions--no substantial thoughts or beliefs or morals--has nothing for words to act against. For Burke, and other modern relativists, the action is symbolic because he could not imagine a world were someone believed strongly enough in something to be moved by language. (Burke might try to defend himself by citing his belief in propaganda and manipulation as forms of "movement." I'll let you read his work and decide if they're the same thing...)

I remember a time when nothing anyone said moved me--in a positive or negative way. To me language was noise. I prided myself on not being able to be offended. I dared people to try. It wasn't as if I was born without the capacity for taking offense. I just didn't understand what it entailed. And therein I found the horrific duality of living without a morality.

The man with no convictions cannot be moved by the most vile words, but neither can he find meaningful pleasure in the praise of a teacher, adoration of a friend, or love of a significant other. Conversely, the man who believes that all convictions are equal will find himself strangled by competing emotions and consumed by every whim of his subconscious. Unable to discern which "offense" or "pleasure" takes precedence, he follows them all--blindly and without the comfort of certainty.

The number one criticism leveled against me--when I try to explain to people how I've decided to live my life--is that I'm "emotionless," a "robot," "without feeling." I can't help but smile even writing these words. It's impossible to show them the vast difference from where I was to where I am. No physical distance metaphor accurately describes how far I've come in terms of emotions. I find myself moved not only to anger by offensive words--described previously--but to tears by what seemed liked trivial matters to me before: song lyrics, 80s cartoon plots, quotes from books, art, etc.

It's a misunderstanding to think that my goal is to suppress my emotions. An emotionless life is a contradiction in terms. Stillness is the antithesis of life. If you cannot move, you cannot live--physically or "symbolically."

Understanding something does not destroy it--like Phaedrus claims in Zen. Understanding emotion allowed me to experience it in a way that I never thought possible--in a way that allows me movement and excitement and happiness.

And so I've moved through the day with a heightened sense of awareness and pleasure, taking to each task a remarkable attitude--one of exhilarated pride--and a feeling of being just slightly taller than I was yesterday. Some people might think my actions--physical and verbal--an overreaction to something as inconsequential as text, expression, "words." Hark! When you understand your emotions, you realize that there can be no such thing as an overreaction.



All of this--from five words at 6:53 a.m.

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