Thinking About Thinking - 2019


Dancing in the Dark

By Balaji Prasad

“And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance." - Khalil Gibran

The power of speech, using language, is powerful indeed. We weave a web of illusion, lies and truths, creating a layer around ourselves, calling it all “life". Do we do our power, and ourselves, justice?

Why we speak

Languages exist so that we can communicate with others, and get them to “see" things that they otherwise would have no access to. How can someone know what I plan to do, for instance, if I have no way to communicate my thoughts to them? It goes deeper than that, though. Language allows us to reach into the dark recesses of someone's mind, setting off triggers that lie beyond the conscious mind. Advertisers, politicians and others with a desire to “capture" minds are well aware of the potential to direct minds toward paths that yield benefit to the parties engaged in language-based exchanges.

But it is not just others who aim language toward us. Each of us rolls language around inside our minds, “mixing it up" along with preexisting notions inside our heads. Where language-based constructs end, and where more formless thoughts begin is hard to say. Regardless, such swilling around of this concoction inside our minds may both deepen our understanding of things as well as corrupt our sense of the way things really are. The deepening comes from the attention to parts that are real, the corruption, from the parts that are abstract linguistic fabrications that may point only to the void.

So, speak we must; that is our fate. Maybe all we can do is to learn to speak better to others, and, perhaps, even more importantly, to our own selves.

Speaking our way to the peak

To speak better, we need to first get a grasp of what “better" is. Anything that helps us attain value would be better, would it not? That raises more questions than it answers. Value often seems to lie in the eyes of the beholder – we find different people valuing different things differently, at different times. So it would seem that we can attain different kinds of “value" by deploying our ability to speak. If we are agnostic to different kinds of value, making a sale to someone would sit side by side, as an equal citizen, with attaining a sense of “all is well with the world and with me". But there is something a little hollow with some kinds of attainments when compared with deeper realizations that can be felt but cannot quite be articulated with ease.

Would we not want to target the deeper, more satisfying aspects of our life, and use one of our ever-present and foundational tools – speech – to attain those peaks? How do we do this?

Speak a little less?

Our ease with language allows us to speak a lot. Perhaps, much more than is desirable in many circumstances. We can fabricate things out of thin air with words that mean little more than the letters used to form them, we can prevaricate and deploy our words to create and spin an alternate universe, or … we can dedicate our words to paying homage to the way things are. We can work to integrate ourselves better with the reality that we are a part of. If nothing else, this would reduce the cognitive dissonance that comes from having one leg in one universe, and the other in another.

While most of us attain the ability to perform impressive linguistic gymnastics, could we be better off restraining and taming these skills so that we deploy them in line with a desire to live a better life?

There are times when we may be better off not speaking at all, for we may know far less than what is needed to make sense out of something. It may be better to wait and watch, while things unfold around us. We absorb the bits and pieces as they come toward us, assimilating them, letting them swirl around in amorphous clouds, mixing in with things that are already there, eventually forming more stable patterns that resonate with reality more than their precursor patterns did. Sometimes there is a pleasing click that we hear, as intransigent pieces of the puzzle suddenly, and inexplicably, lock into place. An Aha arises – so that is what it was!

Speak a little more?

Less is not always more though. Sometimes, our external reality could use a little “assist" much like the rockets we send into space gain a gravity-assist from planets that are on the path to some greater destination. We are also part of reality after all, and there is no reason that we should always relegate our role in the overall scheme of things to simply watching the wheel go round and round.

But how much more than nothing should we speak? We can go well beyond reality, using our power of language to transcend it to the point of making it irrelevant in its current form. Or, we can attempt to partner with it, leading when we can, being led when we must, in a nuanced dance where it and I waltz together in rhythmic cadence, almost as if we are one.

Speaking in rhythm

Whether we are speaking less, or are being more articulate, the important realization is that there is something else besides us that exists. Something outside us, we might say, but that could be a little too simplistic because “outside" and “inside" may not really exist in the way our language has misdirected us into thinking. Also, the thing that exists may not be quite the thing that we have thought about whenever we have been able to stretch and think beyond ourselves.

In any case, silence is sometimes golden, and we play yang to the yin that is there. At other times, we play on the yin-side and lead the dance. It is only the dance that matters. Not the yin, not the bold yang. Nor the in, or the outside clang. Perhaps it is a cosmic trance in which all the particles dance. In the dark.

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Balaji Prasad is an IIT/IIM graduate, a published author, SAT/ACT Online and Offline Coach, interview, resume, and career coach at NewCranium. Contact: 704.746.9779 or balaji.prasad@newcranium.com