Engagement via Literacy

And so this is Christmas …

John Lennon “Happy Xmas”

We may be mere mortals — but still we seem to feel confident enough to at least aim to grasp immortality.

… War is over …

John Lennon “Happy Xmas”

Immortality and eternity and time and space and energy and wisdom and such … seem to be far-fetched or even completely abstract concepts with little connection to the real world of the here and now, frought with Corona-virus and other diseases, or plagued with the Internet, addiction, technology, global warming, cancer, toxic masculinity, ….

Where does it all end? Let me get back to this later (don’t worry: it will also be sooner, or at least [hopefully] soon enough 😉 ).

Here I wish to stop abruptly and step out onto a tangential notion (which is actually the primary, front and central topic).

When we engage with the real word — or at least with other humans, we typically use language to do so. We can interpret language narrowly or broadly. Certainly, a smile or a frown are both expressions I can understand easily enough.

Let’s stick to a more traditional interpretation of language, with the added caveat that I am more concerned with written expressions (and “reading and writing”) than I am with spoken expressions (or speaking or listening).

That said (or written 😉 ), I wish to start off with examples of people who engage with large audiences — and here I wish to ignore whether their audiences are reading or listening or watching or whatever. Many Americans will be familier with some of these faces:

Joe Rogan, Bill Burr, Bridget Phetasy, Emily Morse

Perhaps one of these stands out as “not like the others”, and that is in fact not at all a problem but indeed it is very central to our topic of discussion.

When we engage with others via literacy (i.e. written language, literature and such), we do so via vocabularies. Your vocabulary and my vocabulary are different, simply because your experiences and my experiences are different. We articulate things differently (Albert Einstein had a great quote related to this — or rather “intelligence” [1]). We describe differently, we think differently, yet we still seem to manage an inkling of mutual understanding — otherwise it would almost seem futile to interact with one another at all.

Let’s focus on the English language, mainly because today it seems to be the most widely spoken language worldwide. I think most people will readily agree that it almost seems ludicrous to act as if there were indeed simply one language referred to as English. Every mother and father knows that the way they speak to (or with?) their small children is definitely not the same way they speak to / with their boss, their teachers or professors, their therapists, their law enforcement officers, or the vast plethora of their superiors (or “inferiors”?) or others — strangers across the street, across the aisle, across the oceans, the airports, the cyberspace, whatever.

We interact with each of these groups with different mindsets, different frames of mind, different vocabularies. Parts of these vocabularies overlap. Perhaps concepts such as “a”, “the”, “ah”, “um”, and such are almost universally understood. “Intelligence”, “immortality” and such are probably hardly understood by anyone — and even people who profess to be experts with respect to such concepts might be hard-pressed if we asked them to clearly and succinctly articulate them so that we might grasp them even if just a little bit.

The other day as I was listening to a business coach talk about long-term “life” goals, I smirked to myself… thinking that the ultimate life goal is death.

Yet before jumping to this absurd conclusion, let’s stick with the various vocabularies of English language we use on a daily basis to interact with each other, to understand each other, to help each other, to survive, to thrive, to go about our daily business, to engage in businesses, to do business activities, to participate either a little or a lot in life before we die.

Many people ask things like “what do you do in life?” They expect a short and simple answer, like “auto mechanic” or maybe “I’m a doctor”. They generally are less interesteed in such gory details as the intricacies of proctology, the implications of nuclear physics for humanity, the complexities of the more mundane topics such as “environment”, “mental health”, let alone “depression”, “anxiety” or anything at all related to “queer”. Please, just keep it simple: do you make enough money to put food on the table?

Yet in order to truly engage with others, we actually need more than just a few words. For example: take the word “depression”. It could refer to the way the term is used in the “branch of knowledge” known as “psychology” or it could refer to the way the word is used in the field referred to as “economics” (which is also historically related to “politics”). A long time ago, I noted that whereas psychological depression is probably the consequence of when an individual is treated poorly by society, economic depression is maybe the consequence of when society is treated poorly by society. I think I mentioned that on “Facebook” well over a decade ago — so the only people who might know anything about it are the data scientists employed by intelligence agencies.

It is probably easier for a camel to step through the eye of a needle than for an idea to spread through such brand names as “Facebook” or “Google”. If we restrict our interaction with each other to channels based on such brands (which are also known as privately owned “intellectual property”), then we will almost certainly lose sight of each other. In the world of “Google” and “Facebook” (and other brand names), we have no rights, no voice, no vote, nothing at all — we hardly even exist. These companies do not care about us in the slightest. Our existence only matters to them insofar as it enables them to make more money by duping us, misleading us, sending us on wild goose chases, imprisoning us in hell fires of never-ending arguments, fighting for or against anything as long as they are able to earn a pretty penny by enslaving us, getting us to click yet another link, yet another button, yet another ad for whatever dream scheme, dream job, dream offer, dream opportunity, dream dream dreamt up by some hacker in some far away land of dreams to be clicked on but never actually realized.

No, we do not need that sort of irrational behavior. What we want are rational media.

[1] Apparently, while a rose is certainly a rose, some people are not sure whether a quote is indeed a quote:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

“I’m just not confident that this is something Einstein would say. I Googled it and was unable to find the quote from a source that I feel is reliable. I was hoping someone could confirm or deny this attribution. Wikiquotes does not list it.” [ https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/6732/did-einstein-say-the-if-you-judge-a-fish-quote-that-many-are-attributing-to-hi ]

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