Meaning is a very abstract idea. Meaning is an idea that exists in your head, and is not a constituent element of experience. Meaning, like the ego, exists only as a psychological concept. Concepts like this are pervasive, and they have infiltrated every piece of our society, for concepts are endemic to thinking, and are therefore necessary for a society to exist. That is to say that concepts are the most common building block of which complex thought is made out of.
As a result, we have ended up in a conceptualized world — a world without much time or space to experience the raw nature of being — and this is a rather unfortunate thing. It’s also dangerous, because a world without the anchor of felt experience can become rapidly disentangled from reality, at which point it is free to contort itself into all sorts of nonsensical formations and arrangements. This is precisely what we see happening today in the arenas of media, culture, politics, and so on. We have been lured into a system of non-experientially-grounded thinking by the abuse of our dopamine regulated systems. Those who have done this have ulterior motives, and seek to profit from our unawareness. As a result, the world has begun to plunge into a more and more “matrix-like” existence.
Of course it’s possible that no one is overseeing this grand plan, in fact that’s rather more likely. I’m of the belief that every society will naturally veer towards dysregulation, as society itself is an amorphous force. Society is an idea that exists in people’s heads. The idea of society is very powerful, more than most of us realize, because it is what molds us into the arrangements we’re in. Our houses, our food supply, our families, our education, our jobs, our livelihoods — these have all become more abstract notions as society has grown more powerful, but this is inevitable. As a culture advances, reality moves from the physical realm of felt experience to an abstract one of linguistically-empowered models of thought — memes.
Our societies prioritize memetic thinking by leading us out of the woods of felt experience and into the woods of linguistically encoded information. Information, at some point in the development of a society, will evolve to the point where it is no longer encoded in the surrounding world, but in the heads of the societal participants. Society and culture is moved moved inside the skull, into the heads of your compatriots. This makes manipulation of the world simultaneously more complex and more simple. If you don’t have the key, you are radically disempowered, but if you have the proper key manipulation becomes incredibly easy. The key is language. More specifically, memes.
Using the right linguistically-encoded memes, nations can be led forward, people can be persuaded for the better, and things can begin to change. The problem is that the structure of our language has been corrupted. Language has been systemically molded to fit the needs of its users — those at the upper echelons of society, who have been able to afford education which led to literacy — and therefore language is an undemocratically constructed enterprise. The very nature of our thought has been bent and twisted to prevent us from finding out our true nature.
Nonetheless, we are where we are, and our language is all we have to work with. It is true, in a way, that the postmodernist view of the world is correct insofar as it applies to the linguistic realm, but from then on, there is a definite nature to reality. The realm of unspeakable mysteries is vast, and the unspeakable non-mysterious may be infinite. Unfortunately, because we have been so preoccupied with the project of language, the expansion of consciousness has been dramatically constrained, mostly on account of our failure to look beyond the confines of our language and innovate new ways of conceptualizing the world. Or rather, of going beyond conceptualizing the world.
The real point of this thought experiment is to try to picture a world beyond conception. A world where experience is no longer reduced into concepts, but is rather explored as it arises. It seems the Buddhists have a head start on this, for the Buddhist philosophy is quite close to what I am aiming at. You’ll notice that we are here again falling in the trap of using language to conceptualize something inherently beyond conception, but this I one area where language can be exploited. This is because language is something which arose out of the primordial mind, from the state of pure observation which the Buddhist enters through meditation. Humans are not creatures who want to be at peace with things — we are tinkerers and discoverers and explorers — so our evolution of language came, so to say, out of a frustration with simply being at peace with things.
The point is that language can lead us back to its origins. Whether this is through the study of etymology, or through examination of the basic words ascribed to rough aspects of raw experience, which were the first pieces of existence to be taxonified, classified, and categorized. If we look now to these words, they are words which describe our most simple activities. To drink, to eat, to breathe, to sit, to stand, etc. All these words are clues of what we must do to reenter this primordial state — we must slowly strip ourselves of distraction and complex thought, and re-enter the peace of simple being.
Once we have entered this primordial state by acting upon the clues which language has given us, we can begin to meditate — to observe plainly and with little judgement all that goes on — and in this way we can begin to experience an unlanguaged world. But this is only the first step.
It is in our nature to want to change reality. We, as a piece of nature, are agents of change, and it is important that we fulfill our purpose by changing reality further, and finding ways to tinker with it more openly. This tinkering can only come through the further evolution of language. We must escape the middle-ground of stale, boring, and inadequate language we are presented with now, and find a way to merge the primordial state of pure observation with a more perfected form of language and complex abstraction.
This would make language something which could be observed, and at this point language would require no translation or compression to understand. You see, when we talk with one another, we emit small mouth noises, and the listener will translate those sounds into the abstraction of meaning by comparing the words perceived against their internal dictionary. This is problematic. Our internal dictionaries are inherently judgmental, but we are not the judge. Our culture is the judge. Phonaesthetics gives us a fascinating example of this — certain words sound “good” to us, while others sound “bad”. But this subjective aestheticism of “goodness” or “badness” often has little to do with the greater abstraction which the speaker is trying to convey.
This means that language — and all knowledge — is culturally dependent. All the information which we have as a species encoded to date is culturally dependent, aside from perhaps the hieroglyphically encoded languages of Egypt or paintings and photographs. After all, most of us are tacitly aware of the inadequacy of language — ”a picture speaks a thousand words”, we say. And although we have advanced our technology and science and society to an astounding degree, language remains an imperfect and unfinished medium of exchange, yet we are all dependent on it.
The ultimate solution to this would be to create a kind of language that can be “sculpted”, so as to be presentable to a Buddhist-like observer, and understood, without requiring them to re-enter the human game of society, cultural models, and internal dictionaries. This would also potentially present a universal medium of exchange which would transcend linguistic boundaries. Even further down the line, a “sculptable” language could allow us to modify the source code of reality directly, and bear fruit which is human made in the form of something apparent in the baseline reality.
If you are a software developer, you could think of language like a git branch which has allowed us to heavily modify the source code of reality, but which has not yet been merged back into it. If this project were successful, it would entail merging this project of language back into the “master” branch of reality, so that we — the humans — will have a way to tinker with our reality directly. This would enable us to circumvent situations like the one we are in now, where our political and societal reality is all but completely disconnected from the inner and outer reality. This would allow us to be one with the raw, felt nature of simple experience once again, without sacrificing the progress we’ve made.
But where should we begin with this, you might ask? The first step we can take is to begin to take conscious control of language, to begin to build the building blocks for explaining what we are to do and get to the next stage. This will be an incremental process, but the more we begin to take hold of our language, and the more we begin to be able to explain the psychedelic experience and other such enlightened experiences without defaulting to religious language (which is what we must resort to now - it seems the religious are the only ones zealous enough to develop a vocabulary to explain the greatness of their respective paths to enlightenment) is crucial.
I am proposing something called the Radical Vocabulary Extension Project as a solution which may offer the first steps towards merging language back into reality. I will expand more on this in an upcoming post.