What is writing? It’s a 26 letter alphabet.
That’s language. All we do everyday when we think through problems in diaries or blogs or wherever, is deal with those 26 letters. Seems pretty silly. They’re just letters, little graphics which supposedly contain data and convey meaning to us.
Where, though, is this meaning? The alphabet is everywhere and yet meaning seems to be nowhere. There is no meaning in The New York Times. There is no meaning in Immanuel Kant. There is no meaning in the advertising copy draped across a billboard. Those 26 letters are as prevalent as air. And yet meaning can’t seem to plant itself in the ground and grow anywhere.
Language, what is your secret? What sequence of letters, of words, of paragraphs contains what we all desire so deeply? Answers to these questions: Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going?
In the Hebrew tradition, the Jewish people couldn’t say the name of their God aloud. God was too sacred for human language. As the Lord says in Isaiah 55:8: “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts. And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” However unfashionable this way of thinking is today, it’s an interesting consideration: If there were Gods or ultimate meaning, why would either submit to the restrictions of a 26 letter alphabet? Maybe God is outside of our reach?
Think about Koko. Think about your dog. Think about their language: inflections, body movements, barks. Try to explain the English language to your dog. What happens? You hit a wall. Now, consider yourself trying to talk to God. (In this context, God can be an advanced cyborg alien, a beam of light, anything.) Are you trying to talk to and understand God in the same position as your dog when it tries to communicate with you? Are you a dog to God?
This is the seduction of unreason: the allure of choosing light over logic, metaphysics over math, Jerusalem before Athens. This is the triumph of romance over science: faith over knowledge. This is an old idea that what is most important can never be communicated, nor bounded by hieroglyphics. That meaning is a vocation, a calling from a transcendental source whose ID can’t be traced by the tools of science.
Knowledge is never neutral… Knowledge has to struggle to reduce reality to the knowable, which entails producing a discursive construct whose arbitrariness and inadequacy are disguised as far as possible.