A rose by any other name

As you well might have noticed, have you read my latest posts, my writing is a taking a turn for the philosophical and impossibly murky waters of my brain. Last night, brushing my teeth, yet another one of those things occurred to me; the power of the word. I have for quite some time now, considered words to be the most powerful tool mankind has ever created, to this day. We can make or break things with words, we can alter, we can correct, we can fix or tear asunder, we can do just about anything to anything with words. History is based on words, having been passed on from generation to generation, country to country. What we hold to be our own personal truth is based on words given to us by other people.

I think I’m not alone in the discovery that the way a word is expressed makes a lot of difference. Have you ever found that something as just a thought in your head can seem completely harmless or unimportant, but if you say it out loud, it becomes real? And what if you write it down? Terrifying! Yet the sort of importance we put into the spoken word making a thought reality is slightly exaggerated. Studies have shown that when we listen to someone else speak we listen mostly to their tone of voice, facial cues and body-language, and the actual words only hold a small percentage of the meaning we take from what has just been said.

So I still couldn’t quite grasp why words were so powerful. Beyond the point of mere manipulation, which you get from a combination of words, intelligence and intent, words held no power of their own. Or so it seemed to me. But standing there, swirling around the Colgate Micro-crystal paste in my mouth, it just popped into my head in a simple sentence. Without words, you only perceive, but with words, you can conceive.

It doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything there when there are no words. If we had no word for a bee, we could still hear its buzzing noise, and see it zoom on its happy way through the air. And like Mr. Shakespeare said, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. If we had no words for love, anger, sadness, we’d still feel them. But all these things we could only ever perceive without the words, and we would live in a constant sensory world, where everything would have to be understood and agreed upon, or assumed to be, because there would be no words to communicate disagreements or misunderstandings.

Yet as soon as we put a name on something, we have the ability to talk about it. We can find other words to describe it, and the more words, the more we would be able to conceive why this thing is at it is. See that mass on the ground? That is grass, it’s green, it’s soft, it’ll break and flatten under your feet, it’ll stain your skin, it’ll smell fresh and earthy and like summer. The words, the more we have of them, allows us to express to others exactly what and how we perceive, and so show them how we conceive everything.

A very good friend of mine reacted with a thought of his own when I shared this with him. That word and memory are very very closely related. That if there is no word, then there is no way to describe the memory, and so it fades, being just a “squiggle in the dark water”. This made perfect sense to me, and pushed the idea further in my head. When we love something, we seek to understand it better, and often vice versa. And in order to understand something better, we need more words for it. The Sami are said to have hundreds of words for snow. The understanding for the snow created a need for more words to describe it, and the new words made it easier to understand. Scientists, lawyers and doctors all have their own vocabulary used in their lines of work, often making it very difficult for people outside of the profession to understand them.

So the love of something makes it more important to understand it and the understanding requires more words. Without the words, everything turns into this hazy blur of images and sensory alerts, that we can see, and can react to, but never communicate about, never have a conscious thought about. Without the words, everything would still exist, sure, well maybe not our modern technology, probably not our society as we know it at all, but all things that have come from the Earth itself would still be just the same. But for us, it would be the tree falling in the forest scenario all over again. It will still fall, but we wouldn’t be there to hear the sound, and it would make absolutely no difference.

So to me, the power behind the word, spoken, written, heard, thought, does not lie in the power it gives us to manipulate or affect others, or the power it gives us to steer our own thoughts and emotions. The true power is that through a word, which two people understand to mean the same thing, they can communicate something which would otherwise be stuck inside their heads as a meaningless image, forever. With a word, we get the ability to not only perceive, but to conceive.

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In Motion

You know those days when you feel the need to write a blog-post simply because you haven’t in such a long time, and it doesn’t seem fair to keep your very small number of followers waiting any longer? This is one of those days. I don’t have any idea what this post is going to be about. It’ll have to be one of those famous rambles of mine. About nothing and everything. It might turn out all right in the end. But I doubt it.

Today signifies the beginning of the New Year for a very large number of the world’s population. It’s the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese horoscope. Incidentally, I happen to be a dragon-born. Yup, full-blown scales, fire-breathing, sheep eating and all that stuff. According to the Chinese, this is going to be an absolutely awesome year for me and my likes, especially in the career department. Dragon’s stand for luck, power, daring, they are guardians and protectors but also conquerors and warriors. Known for their giant ego’s, radiant charisma, vivacious and impulsive personalities and traits of that nature, I think just as much bad as good can be said for my reptilian pals and myself.

So far I’ve come across a ridiculous number of predictions for the upcoming year. On the one hand the stock-market should go up in the U.S and down everywhere else, there will be an abundance of natural disasters and lots of disruptions on the political and military front, with uprisings and protests and conflict between world-leaders. On the other, it is supposed to be a lucky year, one where you should proceed with caution but follow your gut-feel, where you should heed the advice of others yet make your own way. Basically, whatever you do this year, there is no way to tell if that is going to be the wise plan of action or not.

I do my best to live my life from tiny moment to tiny moment nowadays. For a very, very long time I’ve been stuck in the Then. The Then is a place where I have a career, where I have found a spot on earth that feels like home to me, when I have travelled all the places I want to go, know 4 languages, have been signed for a record-company, am a loving mother of 2 and sexy wife of 1 and still do my utmost to share all the good things in my life with the ones I love and the ones who need it the most. This Then that I have made up is such an awesome place that the me now wants to be there instead of here, and somewhere along the road the anticipation for the Then managed to kill off any of the enjoyment I could have felt in the present, and replaced it with impatience and a looming sense of failure. (The latter which is probably pretty much on the mark. Still trying to find a foundation which will cover that huge L on my forehead.)

Some part of my brain just forgot that even though some lucky people get all those things, they tend to get them in time, not right away. Certainly not at 23. Once I caught myself bashing my poor present with great stories of my made up future so many times, I realised it had to stop. Funnily enough, my school-work this past semester was very much all on the theme of choices, reality-check, wanting to be some place other than where you are and things of that nature. Writing a short paper on this topic, I came across a poem by one of my all-time favourite Swedish poets, someone whose poetry I have loved since a very early age indeed, and as a cryptic word of advice for the upcoming year, I have translated it for you, and will share it for you in these following lines. Because I discovered that as soon as you decide that the present is good enough for you, it becomes a lot more awesome. Enjoy, my dears!

In motion by Karin Boye, translated by me.

“The sated day, to me, never comes first.
The best day is a day of thirst.

Yes there’s a point and meaning to our road –
but it’s the way that makes it worth the load.

The best goal is to live from night to night,
where bread is shared in haste by warming light.

In places where you only stay so long,
the sleep is safe, the dream is full of song.

Rise up, rise up! A new day is at bay.
Unending is our adventurous way.”

Finding your way back to Neverland.

I’m reading yet another Bach book. This one so far appears to be about how he reconnected to his childhood from memories that he hadn’t as much suppressed as ignored, and what he learnt from them. It got me thinking about my memories. Because I realised in the hallway the other day just why I hated winter-clothes so much as a child. I always used to think it was because of the fuss of getting everything on and off, how wet it would be after coming inside, how you had to wear layer upon layer and get so overheated and drenched through despite its water-resistant qualities.

But as I struggled out of my thick jacket and practical boots yesterday morning, it struck me. It is because winter-clothes are so very restraining. A protective bubble of cloth and stuffing between you and the world, numbing your senses and perception. I was a summer-kid, running barefoot any place I could and often times places I shouldn’t, loving the feel of grass under my back as I gazed up into the endless blue. Or a fall-child, the wind tapering my clothes against me and ruffling my hair as I went in search for branches and pretty leaves in the crisp air. The heavy boots of winter, so very practical, shield your feet from the ground, making it impossible to quite grasp where you’re treading, and the thick coats, long scarves and downy jackets do their best to keep everything out, even sound.

Yet the memories of many a childhood winter are fond ones, where the snow was always thick on the ground and the cocoa warming in front of the fire-place. I find it strange, that so many of the few memories we have from childhood are extraordinary ones; traumatic ones, happy and exciting ones, dark and gloomy with a sense of forbearing. Why is it that we filter out all the regular, “unimportant” memories, as if there’s nothing to learn from a regular, everyday situation? Do we do this now too, though we’re not as aware of it? And what could we learn from our earliest errors, could we remember them?

Up to a certain age, life is like a flight of stairs. You can move up or down, side to side, pass people or fall behind, you can stop in the middle and ponder, always a rail nearby to hold on to should the going get tough. But very soon, we stop considering these choices, stop considering the wonder of just remaining in the moment and watching as everyone else zigzags by, and only take the escalators. Here the movement becomes much more restrained; you have to decide whether you want to go up or down, usually you just stick to the right-hand side, unless you’re in a hurry and walk past people on the left-hand side, and even then there might be someone blocking your way. Go further still and we just take the elevator. No choice here. Up or down, you can’t pass people if you want to, and moving side to side is not going to make any difference, except people might give you strange looks. Why do we limit ourselves so much, decide that there is only one path for us and then stick to that path, unable to move back to the good old manual stairway of choice?

The pressure to make a choice goes further and further down into the younger ages. Even at 20, if you haven’t decided what you want to do with your life yet and if you haven’t gotten some place, you consider yourself a failure and a disappointment. But the only person you are letting down is yourself, and why make a choice early on in life that you either stick with for the rest of it, unhappy that you made the wrong one, or ditch after a few years, starting from square one and considering those past years a waste of your time? How can we waste time when it’s an abstract concept, and why do we let ourselves be governed by it in just about everything?

Something that has occurred to me so very often is how we relate to our childhood years. We look at it as through cracked and smeared mirrors, far off, hazy, impossible to interpret. We look at it through grown-up eyes and judge the actions we took, the ones we didn’t and on top of it all, rewrite the way events happened to our own liking. But why judge the actions of a child, someone with far less experience than you, and so a much poorer judgement? Is it possible that the child you were would look at who you are today and judge what they see? This distorted view of events and reality distances us from our pasts to the point of detachment. We simply do not feel like that was us. How often do we not hear the phrase “I was a different person then” or “I was just a kid”? There’s nothing “just” about being a “kid”, that five-year-old or nine-year-old was just as much you as you are today. Yet we don’t even see ourselves as them, and all of a sudden our childhood becomes a movie, we ourselves the actors and our current, grown-up state the spectators.

So is it so wrong to look at that child through their own eyes, as we were, and say “that was me at ten years of age” or “that was me on my sixth birthday” instead of “back when I was a kid” as if the child you were and the person you are now are in no way the same? Are we scared that that inner child,  if we let it loose, will be judged by other “grown-ups” as immature, naive, strange, unintelligent, instead of what it truly is; someone who sees the world not as they ought to, but for what it is to them, and acts accordingly? I say take off the grown-up, practical, shielding winter-clothes of your soul, and let the summer-child have a romp across the lawn every once in a while. You might enjoy it.

Fear and love in Sweden.

I have now finished the second out of several books written by Richard Bach. “The Bridge Across Forever” he wrote after he’d met his wife and soul-mate, “One” they wrote together, several years later, about their explorations into the unknown and to many, non-existent. In the books, many questions were raised, many options given, and one thing it had me do above all was think and rethink and evaluate. I started thinking more and more about the motivation we have in life, what we let push us forward and what we allow to stop us in our tracks.

Fear is the most common force. More often than we realise, we allow fear to guide us, to make us do things we usually wouldn’t and to stop us from doing things we’d love to. So many times we find ourselves saying “no” without stopping to wonder why. We’ll invite people we don’t really care for to our wedding, for fear of them getting angry or hurt, though a wedding is supposed to be all about you and the person you’re marrying. Get close to someone? Never! They might hurt you, and the fear of getting hurt is much larger than the potential for happiness that intimacy can bring. Letting people know who you truly are? No can do. What if they don’t like you, how horrifying is that?

Fear is also what creates hatred. “Fear and loathing”, there’s a reason why those two words come together. When you do not understand something, it becomes confusing, foreign, and above all, scary. So scary that we do not even give it a second chance and see if we’d like it. If a dish has weird ingredients, instead of saying “well, let’s see what it tastes like” we instantly go “no, that is gross, I don’t want to try it”. Not saying I’d eat monkey-brains if I was given the chance but more often than not I’ll just try that curious ingredient before I dismiss it as vile and impossible to like. Fear is what we feel for people we can’t comprehend, people who are “unpredictable” or “lack empathy”, fear is the instant reaction at people who are mentally unstable.

If fear is what stops us, what makes us turn our backs on people and opportunities, then understanding is what makes us move forward, take the chance and go with the flow. Understanding and love are so closely linked as to be almost indistinguishable. When we love someone, we attempt to understand them better, and when we understand someone, we love them more. Some people are really passionate about their work; it’s because they’ve reached a deep understanding of what they’re doing and the potential of their skills, and can’t get enough of it. In “The Education of Little Tree” the bond between understanding and loving is explained very simply by the word “ken”. To “ken” someone means both to love and understand. It’s common knowledge that people who seem to have a profound understanding for each other, because their minds are wired the same way, also love each other more.

Anger and sadness are the middle-grounds. You can get angry at something or someone you hate, because it’s incomprehensible for you, but you can also get angry at someone you love, because they are doing something unlike themselves and so very different from who you want them, expect them to be. Anger is merely frustration under a different name. Sadness is more of an acceptance, that things are the way they are and cannot be changed, but you can still mourn for the state of it all. Sadness always requires a small bit of understanding, where you have realised there is nothing that can be done, but you wish there was, meaning you understand the issue and you can see it even though you can’t alter it. Anger comes from believing there is still something that can be done, and that the catalyst of your emotions can make that change happen.

Fear and loathing, anger and sadness, love and understanding. All just emotions, a switch in our brains and hormones, yet they govern almost everything we do, every choice we make, every step we refuse to take. The only way to surpass fear is to try to understand, and the only way to get to love is through understanding. The more unknown and confusing something is to us, the greater the fear, and the greater the potential for hatred. So next time you are on that high ledge, or see that large spider, or talk to your mother-in-law, or get lumps in your porridge, try to step back for a second and be objective. Try to see the thing for what it truly is instead of what you’re used to seeing it as, try your very best to gain an understanding for why things are the way they are, and then you can still choose to be scared, to hate and loathe, or you can try slowly to move towards a sort of understanding, and thereby love, for whatever is in front of you.

The truth shall make things convenient for you.

First off, I’d like to apologise for my absence. My internet has been down since Thursday morning and I got it back just this evening. As I mentioned in my previous post, I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions and even if I had, posting more often would not have been one of them, but since I was hoping to write this post sooner, even if none of you knew about this intent, I’d still like to apologise, maybe to the post itself. Also, this post is sort of dedicated to Mr. Richard Bach and his wife Leslie Parrish-Bach, since their story and writings got me thinking about this topic a bit further than I usually do.

I have been thinking an awful lot about belief, truth, right and wrong, fact and fiction of late. More often than not do we humans think we have the answers to these questions, even if we’re not aware of it. Scientists often believe that what they have found is the truth, though they might – just so that no-one can question their answers – call them theories, and say that it has not been asserted. Is anything ever more than a theory? I don’t think we can say it is. Because in order to have a theory, we must use some basic guidelines, hold something for the ultimate truth, decide that something is pure fact and reality. Life would become horribly unstable if we did not have these common agreements.

But did you ever look at what you hold to be the irrefutable truth, a fact so basic and simple that a child with the most undeveloped of vocabularies could express it, and ask yourself if it in fact is? When someone says “just as the sky is blue and the grass is green”, is that the truth? Because “sky” is simply what we call the stretch of atmosphere and space for as far as our own very limited vision can reach, and not an actual physical place. And in so many cases, the sky can be black, grey, red, yellow… are any of those colours blue? And the grass is indeed not green, in fact it’s the only colour it isn’t, since it cannot absorb green, thus reflects it back and just appears to be green. And even these two explanations are just based on yet more explanations for something that science itself has found to be true.

“As sure as you and I are standing here”. How can we ever know we are? How do we know we’re not just dreaming, or hallucinating, or that we have bipolar disorder or our brains feel like going all “A Beautiful Mind” on us? It can sure feel and seem like we’re standing here, but what if we’re not? What if we, as limited creatures, simply cannot see the whole picture, or even part of the picture, as it actually is?

Science and religion are often looked at and spoken of as polar opposites. On the one hand we have fact, on the other blind faith. But to any person who truly believes in a certain scripture, deity or faith, religion is fact, and whatever tries to dispute that fact is lies, confusion, fear and evil. Many people have their children believe in Santa Claus even though they do not for a second believe in this jolly, bearded old man themselves. To them, Santa Claus is a lie, something to make Christmas more exciting because apparently it’s not exciting enough to get to spend time with your loved ones, get free stuff and eat a disgusting amount of food. To me, Santa Claus is a possibility, because since no-one can truly, actually prove that he does not exist, how do we know he doesn’t? “Oh sweetie, they’ve been all over the North Pole, there are no flying reindeer or little gnomes making Buzz Lightyears anywhere, trust me”, you might say. But how do we know he lives on the North Pole, or if he does, that he hasn’t managed to create a good enough cover-up that we can’t find him? Because if we did, he would not be able to work in peace, that’s for sure, and a lot of polar bears would have to be removed in order to fit a mail-box big enough up there.

My point is, that whenever we say something is the truth or a lie, we can never go further than to say that to me it is. To me, as I see it, according to my own personal believes, this is how the world works, this is what this person is like, this is what you should be wearing or how you should raise your child. But considering how infinitely enormous the universe is, and how often we’ve discovered we’ve been wrong about something  very fundamental and basic like the general shape of the planet we’re on or if that big, bright ball in the sky is circling around us or we around it, or how often we find new species or places or historical relics or ways to cure diseases we didn’t even know were diseases hundreds of years ago, considering all of this, how can what we know ever be the truth, or even part of the truth?

In a world where technology has reached such a great importance within just the past few decades, and is now moving forward faster than an oiled penguin in a stream-lined water-slide, the answers to what we believe to be true are also changing ever fast, from one moment to the next. Who knows what we’ll believe to be the ultimate truth in ten or twenty years from now, or even a few weeks? It is my personal belief, and what I hold to be true, that we with our own perception shape our own individual truths, which can never be forced upon or applied to others. They say “before you judge someone walk a mile in their shoes”, or “let him without sin cast the first stone”. Well, the shoe-thing, I don’t think that works in the real world since a mile isn’t very long and walking it in fluffy slippers might change your ideas about foot-wear a bit but in the long run it probably won’t give you that much of an insight into the previous shoe-wearer’s life. The stone-thing, however, I happen to think is pretty smart, and kind of works to this day. Who can ever be without sin when every single person has a different definition of what is truly sinful? So no, maybe I don’t think that “the truth shall set you free”. Because I believe that the only thing that will – and boy, now we’re getting into the definition of the word “freedom” and I don’t even want to go there right now –  is the realisation that truth does not exist as more than a frame of reference, a basic tool of measurement and value that we need to apply to every choice we make in order to have this world look like anything other than a Picasso-painting inside a kaleidoscope inside a Möbius-band turned inside out.

A word of caution.

It seems to be somewhat of a trend here on WordPress to write about the past year, the way one of my favourite fellow bloggers did, regarding the lessons you learned and the things you experienced. Though in most cases when I attempt to keep myself up to date with trends, I fail miserably, I figured I’d give this one a shot. 

Tips for future me to remember

  • Yes, kittens are just as cute as you remember them to be. They are also vicious, selfish, loud, destructive and never asleep when you want them to be. And though they might be warm, fuzzy, soft, with adorable eyes and purrs and smell like summer-rain and honey a lot of the time, they can also be a tornado of claws smelling like litter-box and bad fish-breath
    Friend or foe?

    .

  • Attempting to recall, in detail, the worst nightmare you ever had, especially when alone in your home at 4 in the morning, is an absolutely horrible idea. Yes, you may be on the phone with a person who makes you feel reasonably safe and there may or may not be a katana standing next to your bed, but it doesn’t mean the panicky mess that is your brain and racing heart will listen to the voice of reason. So just don’t do that again.
  • Remember how you dyed your hair red, then dark brown, then something that was almost blonde, then dark-brown, then more red, then black and then how you tried for ages to get back to normal again? Look away from the Hazel Gold 601 missus. You are not dyeing your hair again!
  • Apparently, you can get more muscles and stamina from working out in your own home than you did when you went to the gym all the time. But without the high expense and the public humiliation. So just keep at that, it’s not so bad.
  • If you get the chance, invent a time-machine, go back to August of 2009 and stop the idiot on the back-porch from lighting that first cigarette. She doesn’t realise the gravity of her actions. Please inform her of how that puff will lead to many nights of freezing in the snow just so she can kill herself a bit more, and even more moments and guiltily moving as far away as possible from her non-smoking friends so she won’t blow second hand smoke in their faces. It’s not going to be worth it. Also, slap her for me.
  • The more you worry about your grades and doing well in them, the better you’ll do. It’s when you relax and get over-confident that you’re screwed. Also, keep double-checking with teachers when it comes to assignments and what they require of you. They’re bad at telling you that.
  • It is possible to miss people every single day. Now go get really rich so you can fly all over the world and see the people you love on a regular basis instead of sitting here missing them.
  • The end of the world will come and go many times, but the only thing that constitutes the end of the world is your own, personal end of the world. (Even if we all die, the world is pretty damn likely to go on. I don’t think it’s a big fan of us and won’t mourn our loss a whole lot, anyway.) My end of the world is the same day that books are no longer read or used. If you find me with one of those internet-book-pads in my hand, that is probably a sign of our upcoming demise.
  • Allie Brosh probably won’t write another blog-post in a long while. Don’t cry yourself to sleep over it, but rather treasure the rare times that she does.
  • Your friends are still the best part of your life and they will probably always be. So just take good care of them, and get better at keeping in touch. It’s not that f-ing hard.
  • Watching countless episodes of “House”, “How I Met Your Mother”, “The Office”, “Glee”, “Sex and the City” and “Black Books” does not count as being productive. Not even if you’re knitting while you’re watching them.
  • The blogging world is ridiculously exciting. Once you click a new post or check out a new writer, there’s no telling where you’ll end up. Be careful, be safe, but keep exploring.
  • Remember that dream you had where you had a bunch of cavities in your teeth? Go get a dental check-up.
  • You’ll turn out ok. At least if you keep thinking that you don’t have to worry so much about it.

New Year, New Look, Old stats.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 30 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Sweet of them huh? I would write something for you guys today but I’m still too hung over so I’m just going to sit around in my dressing-gown, eat candy and watch tv-series on the internet. Yes. It sounds like the sort of sluggish day I require at the moment.

Ok, love you guys, see you tomorrow.