Sunday, October 19, 2008

Words

“Come, let us… confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” ~ Genesis 11:7

I was recently reading a book on advertising in which the author noted that words do not have meaning until we invest them with meaning. That is, words do not have meaning in themselves, but are just a shell that the hearer fills with meaning.

This idea immediately intrigued me for a couple reasons. First, because it explains why sometimes we say things and other people don’t know where we are coming from. Try describing New York City skyscrapers to people in New Guinea who have never seen a two story hut. And what does love look like to people who today for whom the word is only a sex act.

We say a word, and people hear something different than what we mean. The word Conservative is highly loaded these days. For some it means “family values” whereas for others it means narrow-minded bigots who (if they had their way) would become jack-booted, freedom-stealing fascists. To some the word Liberal means compassionate people who care for the less fortunate, and to others the word means anti-American, anti-business, tree-hugging communist or idealistic airhead.

The point is, we say a word, and it is invested with lots of different meanings by the hearer. Words are like triggers that awaken meanings in the mind.

Take the word God, for example. For many people of faith this is far more than a word. It is the Almighty Creator, Yahweh, the high and holy one, awesome in power, who humbled Himself to die in shame to conquer death and make a way for us to be part of His great family, for eternity. But if you say “God” in some circles, it means “a concept by which weak people comfort themselves.”

How are we to communicate in this world where words have become so divested of meaning? Think about it. What do you do when words no longer have any meaning? How do we reach people? How do we help meet needs or make a difference if we can’t use words?

One way we can be understood is by our behavior. Our lives are a book read by all. Our deeds communicate, even when words fail. And if we are kind, friendly, open-armed, show interest when others speak, it will say things that are important.

On this topic, the problem of communication, much more could be said. But rather than digress, let's save those discussions for another time.

2 comments:

LEWagner said...

>>>>>>>>>>The word Conservative is highly loaded these days. For some it means “family values” whereas for others it means narrow-minded bigots who (if they had their way) would become jack-booted, freedom-stealing fascists.

Well, I'm an English major, so I guess I can comment on "Words".

On "family values": There is a certain group of weirdos who seem to be obsessed with what goes on in other people's bedrooms. And, oddly, they tie their obsession to Christianity and to "morals". In reality, their behavior is much more like the Pharisees, than like Jesus, who they supposedly worship. They like to throw the first stone, but as so many have proven, in so many perverted cases, they are NOT without "sin", either.
On the "narrow-minded bigots who (if they had their way) would become jack-booted, freedom-stealing fascists": They're already out there, and it's not even Election Day, yet.
http://thinkprogress.org/2008/10/20/mccain-heckle/#comments
The original post is about one such incident, but in the comments mentioned, there are several more cases mentioned.
A couple of the comments from that link:

"#
zuch Says:

#10 fletc3her:
What’s the point anyway? These people are honestly protesting people voting?! There’s nothing more American than voting! I guess the goal is just to hassle people since there’s no chance the heckling is going to change anybody’s vote.

The point is intimidation. To scare off people from voting. Keep in mind that it was in my lifetime that they did the same damn thing to keep newly enfranchised blacks from voting all across the South (they had gained the franchise in the 19th century, but until the Voting Rights Act, the striking down of “poll taxes” and “literacy tests” and such, blacks had been effectively disenfranchised). And the RW has been doing it ever since, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Rehnquist in Arizona as a young Republicaqn, and the stuff in Florida in 2000, just as examples….
Many blacks still remember the physical attacks, and most of the rfest have heard about “strange fruit” and such.
Don’t think for a moment that an angry, screaming mob across the street will not be on the mind of a single mother, perhaps with her children, walking to the polling station….
Cheers,
October 20th, 2008 at 7:33 pm Add Karma Recommend (0) | Report Abuse"

"#
NeoII Says:
What would happen if large groups of non-white protesters went into voting sites in white neighborhoods and behaved like these goons?
I do not think that the police would passively observe as they surely would forcibly disperse.
October 20th, 2008 at 7:34 pm Add Karma Recommend (0) | Report Abuse"


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>To some the word Liberal means compassionate people who care for the less fortunate, and to others the word means anti-American, anti-business, tree-hugging communist or idealistic airhead.

The first is right on with the dictionary definition of the word "liberal".
As far as "anti-American", that's a label that people like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann like to try to pin on people who anti-greed, anti-bigotry, and anti-preemptive-war. In actuality, the greedy, the bigots, and the warmongers are only a small part of the American population. Being against those anti-Christian policies is not being "anti-American", any more than protecting a German Jew or being against Germany's aggressive wars was being "anti-German".
As far as "anti-business" -- Why on earth would anybody be "anti-business"? Is promoting laws to enforce business ethics and consumer protection beyond "Let the buyer beware" somehow "anti-business"? Are the anti-regulatory people trying to say that businesses can't be successful unless they're allowed to exploit their workers, gouge their customers, and sell bad credit and rotten meat (for a couple of examples)?
"Tree-hugging"? I guess I've never actually seen anyone hug a tree. Maybe in a movie, or something, but never in actual life. It's another ridiculous label. I do think governments should be responsible about the environment; pass laws that discourage, instead of encourage, wasteful use of energy; and cut emissions that are known to be poisonous and harmful in other ways.
"Communist"? In what way? Is a progressive tax system "communistic"? Social security? (By the way, Otto Von Bismarck was the first to implement a tax-financed social-security plan, during the Second Reich, in Germany, and he most certainly was no Communist.) Is the liberal effort to get out the vote "communistic"? Are liberals pushing for a one-party system, or are they intimidating people who go out to vote, the way the communists did? Are liberals pushing for nationalization of major industries and collectivization of farms? There's no collectivization of farms, here in Laos, but they're all small and privately owned, as are the shops where people buy things. Most of the small farms and shops in the US were forced out of business years ago, and now it's mostly the mega-farms, corporate plants, and big-box stores, in the US. For the most part, those are not owned by liberals.
"Idealistic airhead"? I'm sure there are some liberals of that stripe. However, a liberal Internet friend forecast the housing and credit bust at least as far back as 2003, long before "financial guru" Alan Greenspan did. My friend has never studied economics, he's a research chemist, and a liberal. Alan Greenspan turned out to be the airhead on that one, and oh, boy!, the consequences. Greenspan of course is not a liberal, but was spouting the old anti-regulatory, trickle-down economic theories that hopefully, at long last, have been discredited.

LEWagner said...

Another comment on the word "liberal", from a self-proclaimed liberal (from ThinkProgress):

"# FaireMaiden Says:

LIBERALS ARE REAL AMERICANS!!! Real Americans who aren’t infected with the putrifying stench of GREED! Who are not only honour-bound, but priviliged!, to help their fellowman, whether American or not, whether White or not, whether Christian or not.

WE ARE THE HUMANE HUMAN BEINGS! who believe there is PLENTY to go around… who not only believe in, BUT ACTUALLY PRACTICE!, the moral imperative of NOBLESSE OBLIGE: ‘A chicken in every pot, a home for every family, an education for every child, a doctor for every patient, a helping-hand for those in need, and a helping-heart for the elders of our society.

WE ARE THE UNSTOPPABLE STREAM OF FORCE! that embraces equality, decency, forthrightness, honesty, justice, and mercy.

I AM A LIBERAL! and damn proud of it!!!
October 20th, 2008 at 8:28 pm Add Karma Recommend (1) | Report Abuse

Link:
http://thinkprogress.org/2008/10/20/hayes-liberals-hate/#comments