The limits of my language means the limits of my world.
We use language to refer to and describe our experience. In addition to allowing us to talk about our experience, it allows us to access more of our senses and perceive aspects of our experience.
The word “blue” allows us to reference the visual sensation blue. If it did not exist, could we talk about blue? African tribesman do not perceive the color blue, for they do not have a need for it. It is invisible to them. You cannot see what you cannot perceive, and words allow us to anchor our senses to perceptions within our experience. You can look at a painting a thousand times and not see a deer nestled in the woods. Only when someone mentions the deer do you perceive it. We perceive what we are primed and looking for, and if we don’t know what we’re looking for, it’s difficult to perceive it in our everyday experience. We are blind to it. In the same way, a person hears only what they understand.
The more expansive our vocabulary, the more expansive our perceived reality. If we lack a word for something, we cannot reference it, so we cannot talk about it. How do we talk about something we don’t have a word for? Each book we read contains language that allows us to access a reality beyond ourself.
Each book and the domain it refers to is unique. Psychology books use a specific language, as do physics, and sociology, and any other specific to a domain.
Language springs from a community of people referencing their shared experience. Language evolves with the experiences of the people, but it is directly limited to the world in which the people act and live. It does not go beyond.
People living in the arctic tundra don’t have a word for a desert. People living in a desert don’t have a word for snow. You cannot talk about what you cannot reference.
Only until you have a word for it can you imagine and entertain the idea of its existence, and even then, if you don’t have the experience, you’re left to use only your imagination. What does it feel like to experience space? To experience the moon’s gravity?
Books provide portals into experiences currently inaccessible to us.
Each book possesses a unique perspective and language to refer to the experience, and this allows us to use our imagination and conceive a reality beyond our self, beyond the limited experiences and language borne out of it.
I believe we should familiarize ourselves with every subject and every domain and every culture and every genre possible. In this way we will develop our vocabulary in a way that allows us to access the understanding of the most people possible, by traversing as many language boundaries as possible.
When people think of language, they typically think simplistically about it, like the English language, and Spanish, Chinese, French, Swahili, Farsi, Ordu, Romanian, Swedish, etc.
But within each of these “tongues” are vocabularies used by specific communities, particular vernaculars and patois.
Coal miners use one vocabulary, computer scientists use another, engineers have their own, biologists have their own, etc. The words they use are unique to the subject they are studying and the people they engage the study with. If you were to sit in on a group of physicist discussing quantum entanglement, you probably wouldn’t understand much. And if you were a farmer, and wanted to engage them, you probably wouldn’t have much to say to one another besides the colloquial pleasantries of every day speak.
Despite sharing the english language, the communities in which you reside, and the language you use to reference the world you engage with are vastly different. However, by reading, you can access these realities and arm yourself with language that allows you to communicate and understand and adapt to every community and environment where those people reside.
This selective attention test illustrates the power of being unable to perceive things even though we clearly can see them.