I wanna tell you something. It’s probably the second-most important thing I’ll ever tell you.
I don’t really know how to have you get it, but I think it’s very important that you get it.
Many have tried before me, and failed. Heck, I’ve tried before and failed.
I hope I won’t fail this time.
I’m desperate to get this to you and I don’t know how. So I’m going to try to hit it from a million different angles in hope one lands. In reality eight, but you get what I meant.
If you get what I want to tell you, you got it. I’d be so happy. Get the message, drop the phone. Let’s do this:
A few days back I witnessed something that shook me.
Someone, I can’t remember who it was, was on the telly and they said ‘I don’t like using other people’s words but…’ and then they proceeded to use some idiomatic expression.
I found that preface so raw, rare, and refreshing.
What would happen if people did not use words that weren’t theirs?
This sounds like a fun thought experiment but it’s very serious.
We know that a few words are used with disproportionate frequency. I think the same is true of a few expressions.
We know that words can mean something other than what they say: the ‘How are you? Good, and you? Good. Well, see you later! See you!’ exchange is doing something other than what the words say. In the same way, when people use expressions they’re doing something else than what the words say. In fact I think they are painting over and glossing over what is truly happening for them. They are pointing in the general direction, but enough years of general pointing will have you forgetting where precisely you were pointing to in the first place.
The worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them. When you think of a material object, you do it wordlessly, perceiving your mental model with a sense that has no name. If you want to refer to it, only then do you render it in words.
Instead of looking at the world, you are relying on symbols that were given to you, and they make you feel smart. When you struggle to explain your beliefs about the world (even just in your head), the problem isn’t that you can’t express yourself, it’s that you did not see
New gear: Poetry.
Poetry, the idea of poetry, has always evoked in me both fascination and repugnation. I want to be distant from it and explore it from a safe distance.
Twenty years later from the time I first felt that way, something clicked and I realized it attracts and repulses me in the same way that anything that is relevant to my psychological setup does me: attraction because of the promise of transumation, but which also entails my destruction (and hence the fear, the distancing, the repulse)
Here is a fascinating bit about poetry that hits exactly the right place:
A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words. This may sound easy. It isn’t. A lot of people think or believe or know they feel — but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling — not knowing or believing or thinking. Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself. To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a poet can possibly imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time — and whenever we do it, we’re not poets. If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you’ve written one line of one poem, you’ll be very lucky indeed. And so my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world — unless you’re not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die. Does that sound dismal? It isn’t. It’s the most wonderful life on earth. Or so I feel.
Two themes stand out in this passage that I’ve seen other poets express as well: the importance of feeling over thinking, and the importance of finding one’s own words.
Gendlin, of course, Gendlin has these two themes as well: directly connecting you to your bodily knowledge (felt sense) of what is the true for you now, over intellectual speculation over what is or could be, and taking the time to find the very precise words that express that. And in that expression transformation.
The thing is that for you to speak new words you have to see new things and for you to see you need to move beyond or temporarily drop your ontology, your preconceived, socially-outside imported, conceptualisation of the space. (Gendlin calls this the unit model.)
You need to, and there is nothing harder than this, forget about what you know and just stare.
Val talked about this too: Kensho and the parable of the phone.
In the Predictive pProcessing model this is relaxing your top-down priors and moving a step ‘lower’ in the hierarchy. Another way of saying this is you’re relaxing the structure you’re imposing on the incoming perceptions. Or changing the quantity of perceptions to imaginations you’re attending to at or over time.
Plato also spoke about this, in his Allegory of the Cave.
DOING things will force you to confront this. Words are useful in that they allow fake magical connections between things. This is what allows the scientific method: you fiat via words that things are connected and then investigate to see whether or not is the case. The investigation is possible, the world bites back, because it does not admit fake magical connections.
It’s easy to think you have non-magical connections. This experiment is illustrative: Artist Asks People to Draw a Bicycle from Memory and Renders the Results
P.S.: Ofc it wouldn’t be a post of mine without telling you how to defend yourself. Because of anti-inductive adversariality I can never give you a straightforwardly articulated Defence Against The Dark Arts course I wish I could – maybe posthumously like von Clausewitz– and distrust all those that say they can but I can give you things with subtle readings so you can connect the dots yourself without losing my advantage. Yes, this way of being confused, of not seeing, 100% gets used against you. If you think via the concepts you have via the words you’re getting from the outside you’re easy to own. If you look with your own eyes, much harder. An example? The recent twitter thread on manipulating procedural outcomes It doesn’t even make sense until you start looking at things instead of looking at what they are called and the symbols for them.