This is love [Saturday, Aug. 27, 2005, 12:17 pm]
Now that school is finished until September 7th, and I have nothing to do but work and play, I've been meaning to talk about something I was taught in Interpersonal Communications class. It sounds great in my mind, but the transition from there to here may not be as smooth.
Obviously language is a vital part of communications, and I thought the brief parts of the lecture that discussed language made me think about it in ways I never have before.
Here's how it got translated into my notes: "We are at the mercy of language. Language is a filter by which reality is created. Linguistic relativity: languages differ to some extent and not all concepts are 100% equal. Much of English deals with the form of something... We can call the same thing different names in other languages, with completely different meanings. Some say that language creates culture. Language to some extent determines how we think about the world around us. Language is the shaper of ideas."
For example: some cultures do not know how to "make believe." An American researcher once journeyed to a "primitive" village to test the villagers' IQ's. One of the questions he asked them began, "Mr. Smith has 4 pounds of clay for his hut, and needs blah blah blah..." you know, some typical IQ question. And the villager being asked responded, "I don't know Mr. Smith, so I cannot tell you what he would do in that situation." At first the researcher thought he was having trouble understanding, but it wasn't that the villager had no sense of logic - he simply didn't know how to "pretend" that certain people existed, or that things were different than the way they were, because that wasn't how his culture worked. There were no hypothetical situations to them.
I found that very interesting. But back to language. Another thing my professor said about it was this: "We are limited by our language." Could it be that whatever language we grew up speaking puts limitations on us that we don't even realize? I'm reminded of the fact that the Greek language has 3 words that are all translated "love" in English. I probably won't spell these right, but the first is "fileo," which means friendship, or brotherly love. Then there's "eros," which is sexual love, and then "agape," which is unconditional love - loving someone without expecting anything in return.
Could it be that we as English-speakers are limited in our understanding of love by the fact that we only have one word for it? Perhaps we too often think of "love" to mean only "eros." Maybe that's why we seem so unwilling to love each other unconditionally. I don't think I could say that not having a word for love like "agape" has made us selfish - obviously there are other factors involved besides just language. But it is interesting to think about what we are actually saying about certain ideas and concepts by what we call them, or don't call them.
Vitality - Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009