Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Words of Wisdom

Do you want to write? If you do, then establish oneness with the meaning of meanings. Do not get entangled with words alone. Word is only the medium. What you want to convey is its meaning. The smallest speck of meaning has the capacity to condense a sea of words. It is the power of meaning that has created words. Remember this truth and your writing will automatically become meaningful
- Acharya Mahaprajna

But what am I to do... its so easy for me to get seduced by the heady arrangements of words and the music they make. Whether they are meaningful or not, sincere or not, true or not as long as they are musical....
... the written word, my most exquisite weakness....


HollyGL said...

I'm the same way, Random. The love of my life (so far) was an amazing writer. It was so easy for him to eloquently engage the reader at such a deep, emotional level. It was moving, yet appeared effortless on his part. It never seemed contrived, just fluid and beautiful. It was a true gift.

Zakman said...

Hi Amber, maybe you have a point there. Take, for example:

"Beasts that love nights love not such nights as these." - King Lear

When I look at it carefully, I see the syllables stumbling over each other in undeniable style. To me, they're tantamount to a waterfall of words.

But then again, to really produce a heady feeling, I think the words must match the phonetics AND the meaning.

As in the title of a poem "Powdered Words"

Even if you read it aloud casually, you can't miss the p's and the w's and the d's and r's falling over each other. Almost like graphics.

And when a title like that matches the poem or the words that follow, that's the poetry--or the words-- of life.

Very down to Earth, very truthful. So much unlike me.

David said...

Sure, content is #1, but the way you present that content is, like, #0.5! If you can't play with the words and produce poetry then your content doesn't matter. Choose the wrong word and, well, as Mark Twain once wrote: "The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."

Random Magus said...

hollygl: You write so well yourself...

Zakman: Why 'unlike you'?

David:"The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."
What can I possibly say that would express it like that???

The Real Mother Hen said...

You hit the right note. For me, I don't pay much attention to English, but in Chinese, I get entangled with words all the time. A simple word can have so many meanings in Chinese, all depends on what you "mix" it with, oh a really beautiful language!

QUASAR9 said...

Indeed Random,
whether a handfull or a bookfull
the words must create some meaning
the music a melody, words the song

Random Magus said...

The Real Mother Hen: I am so fascinated by China...when everything else about it so exquisite too must be the language

Quasar9: You have quite a way with words yourself

Zakman said...

'Unlike me' because I really don't know what it means to be truthful.

I just use words.

Random Magus said...

...and yet you are being so honest about not being honest...

Josie Two Shoes said...

I have a love affair with the written word too, Amber, I think that's obvious! Once I get started, there is no stopping. :-)

the domestic minx said...

Oh I too love words, a delicious mellifluous tumble of words.
It is poetry, of course.
But words alone are only words because of the meaning, the power we have attached to them...
Still, what an art it is to convey deep meaning with both eloquence and beauty.

Mark Twain, however, saw beauty in simplicity, pruning and trimming his outpourings until the raw power of them remained.
Take the magnificent and powerfully emotive placement of these six words.


Greg said...

What we remember is meaning. This meaning is the sole reason we communicate. Words are a dressing. They are the clothes I wear to a party. They may make me look handsome, but if I'm a bum underneath, this is only an illusionary façade. Words may catch your attention as if I threw a dictionary at you, but the pain of reading them will amount to nothing. Substance is in the meaning they convey. Substance is in the nobility of the person, not from birth but from character. Words are noble not from their origin, but from the substance of what they convey. With a strong character the clothes don't matter. It is the person that makes the clothes as it is the meaning that makes the words.

tofubaby said...

Hi! Just passing by. I missed going to your blog (I was busy).

The words... the meaning... soon it will come into harmony.

They are already are. :)

Epimenides said...

"Words are a dressing. They are the clothes I wear to a party.", greg said, I MUST work on my wardrobe! ;)

Random Magus said...

Josie Two Shoes: It's amazing to be able to express yourself - you can share so much more through writing than speaking... at least for some of us

the domestic minx:
"Still, what an art it is to convey deep meaning with both eloquence and beauty"

Thank you...that's what I should have said...and how I should have said it.

Random Magus said...

Greg said...
What we understand and process when we read something that touches us, and cuts through all the clutter that we surround our heads would have to have meaning. I am not debating that... I know that but I still have a weakness.
We do get blinded by illusions don't we? Even when we know them to be illusions... we gasp!
Like 'The Myth of Sisyphus' my God... I don't care whether what he says can be critically evaluated and shred to pieces...reading just beyond exquisite for me. Not that it doesn't have meaning - it might not be the meaning I agree with but the words...the pictures they create...

tofubaby: Reading gives me such's difficult to put in words...

Epimenides: ... you've left me speechless...

Dream catcher said...

a very right point u made..

sometimes in the words the image gets lost..which was the soul of those words imbibed

I agree totally with Zakman

Geno Petro said...

RM...thanks for visiting my Chicago blog and for your comments. My Haloscan Comment sidebar has limited space so I usually respond directly back to the commentor's blog. It's weird but if I plug in Haloscan, the Blogger Comment section (like you have here) goes away. Anyway, thank you.

As far as words in the head, I find that the letters get in the way...


Greg said...

Random Magus:

Did you read the English translation by Justin O'Brien (Or maybe another translation)? Or did you read the original French, whose words were chosen by Albert Camus? Those are each a different set of words, right?

Can two people, each who read a different translation regardless of language ever agree that the essay moved them? And can they agree about why it moved them. If this is possible even only with two people, then the words must not be so important.

"it might not be the meaning I agree with but the words...the pictures they create..."

As soon as you move away from the words, as you have by saying "the pictures they create" you are talking about something beyond words themselves. It is the common factor of all art. There is something beyond the word in writing, beyond the colors in painting, beyond the sounds in music. All of these would be chaotic without meaning to tie them together.

Lewis Carroll attempted to illustrate this in his poem Jabberwocky from Through the Looking Glass.

The first stanza is as follows:

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Wikipedia does a decent job at describing it:

Jabberwocky was meant by Carroll as a parody designed to show how not to write a poem [12]. The poem has since transcended Carroll's purpose, becoming now the subject of serious study. This transformation of perception was in a large part predicted by Gilbert K. Chesterton [13]. According to Chesterton and Green, among others, the original purpose of Jabberwocky was to satirize pretentious poetry and ignorant literary critics, but has itself been the subject of pedestrian translations and explanations as well as being incorporated into classroom learning.

What makes words powerful, or have the ability to evoke images or other sensations is the context in which they are used, the meaning that they convey. If this were not true then more people would be famous simply because they string together beautiful words, or beautiful colors, or beautiful sounds. Everyone would be an artist. But this is not the case because the artist knows it is the meaning that is important; words, or colors, or sounds are simply the bread crumbs they leave behind in hopes that others might find that meaning.

Random Magus said...

I had not thought about the translation aspect of it at all...:( are you saying that anything that has meaning will automatically constitute great writing? Wouldn't there still be the element of 'craft'... aren't creative writing classes all about that?.

All of us can't be writers but all of us can be thinkers... but some are lucky enough to be able to convey that with beautifully chosen words.

What I mean to say is that isn't meaning made even more powerful couched in the right words...the right vehicle so to speak???

..and there are people who are very good at playing with words...

anyway I do get your point though...

Random Magus said...

Dream catcher: also seem to love words though...don't you??

Geno Petro: Originally that's exactly what I would do... even now I go the blogs of people who comment

meleah rebeccah said...

writing like that is a GIFT. and you have it dear.

Greg said...

" are you saying that anything that has meaning will automatically constitute great writing?"

Here we have to distinguish between philosophy or philology and fine writing. The former is concerned with expanding thought, the latter with building a bridge to thought. But this is a special kind of bridge because we only need to use it once.

A given sample of writing may contain great ideas, but if there is no bridge, people will not find those ideas, so those ideas will be overlooked. All of us have great meaning in our lives, the very same meaning that Shakespeare most likely had in his life. But when we write them down, if we want others to be able to reach that meaning, we need to build a proper bridge. In writing, words are the bridge.

I didn't say words are worthless. They serve a specific purpose, to help the reader find the writer. Once the meaning is conveyed, then the words or bridge can be discarded. Without that bridge, great meaning will be lost with very few noticing.

But words also serve as pneumonic devices because we sometimes forget and need to find our way back so they also help us return to that meaning. Poetry is based on this method of an easy way to remember something.

Take Zakman's Shakespeare example of "Things that love night / Love not such nights as these" (spoken by Kent, f. King Lear 3.2:42-3). The repetition helps us remember the bridge to the meaning, but the words themselves don't have much meaning. We can figure out that he is talking about nocturnal animals and equating their nocturnal life or need with love. To love to the extent of needing it. Then he implies that the particular night he is referring to is so bad that even the greatest love of night, that of need, is victim to it. That's kind of a nice thought, but it's hollow because there is nothing to attach it to. Only when we know the specific details of the horrid night that Shakespeare refers to do we find the actual meaning. We realize that Shakespeare is using the stormy night as a metaphor to the state of affairs that King Lear has gotten himself into. We also see this as a parallel to Kent, who spoke these words, because he loves his king, was banished by him, and then returned in disguise to serve him still. So he is the thing that loves night, or perhaps politics, or perhaps his king, yet he loves not the state of affairs they are in. This concept is quite different than the banal sentimentality that the words alone can convey. Shakespeare uses the familiarity of night and a violent storm to carry the audience over to understand the character of Kent and the current situation his country is in.

So yeah, I guess I could say that anything with meaning can be great, but this does not mean it will be recognized as great. For recognition it needs that bridge.

"Wouldn't there still be the element of 'craft'... aren't creative writing classes all about that?"

Yes the craft is the bridge. Creative writing classes are not about that. They are about giving a job to a failing or yet to be successful writer so that person can collect devotee's money, pat them on the back, and then spit them back into the world so their souls get crushed.

"All of us can't be writers but all of us can be thinkers... but some are lucky enough to be able to convey that with beautifully chosen words."

All of us can be anything we commit ourselves to being. Luck has nothing to do with it. It's all hard work.

Is a banker lucky for making a bunch of money? Is a doctor lucky for being able to fix somebody up? Calling an artist lucky is kind of insulting because it diminishes all the hard work they also put into what they do. It diminishes the sacrifices they make in their lives in order to be able to do what they do. Some sacrifice early in life (like Mozart), so it gives the appearance that they were just "born with it". That's crazy talk.

Random Magus said...

...and here we differ. I do feel that some things come easier to some. Like numbers for example
That said.. I totally believe that with due application anyone can achieve greatness.
But some have to try less hard to reach the same level that others have to work much harder for. I remember while doing my bachelors... my friend and I had the same subjects and she would study far more than I would and we'd end up getting the same grades...

Greg said...

"I remember while doing my bachelors... my friend and I had the same subjects and she would study far more than I would and we'd end up getting the same grades..."

This is the observational mistake many are prone to making. You are analyzing this situation from this point in time/history only.

Have you considered the history of both you and your friend prior to starting your bachelor's program?

If I go to Moscow and strike up a conversation with someone in Russian with a native. Who will have an easier time with the language? Me who’s Russian extends so far as asking for a beer, the bathroom, and sex, or a native speaker of Russian?

The same goes for numbers. My six-year-old is fantastic with numbers, but he has been working with numbers since before he could talk. I'm sure that if he challenged a mathematics professor in a numbers contest he would lose. Does this mean the mathematics professor has a natural talent? A gift for numbers because he beat out my six year old?

Mozart was born to a talented musician father and probably practiced music most of his waking hours. Because he was a child he had very little inhibitions to distract him from music. So of course he quickly became a prodigy, through hard work and a brilliant teacher.

Now going back to you and your friend. My guess is that you knew more about the subject matter than your friend did when you both started the program. I'm sure you weren't born with the knowledge; you probably read more about it prior to the start of the program.

Now you might come back and say well the program was (fill-in-the-blank) and neither of us knew one thing about it before starting the program.

Well my answer to this is that some people learn how to learn more efficiently. This is one of my annoyances with American schools; they don't teach kids how to learn efficiently, they just try to get them to memorize stuff.

So I would guess that it is possible that you have acquired the ability to absorb knowledge in a more efficient manner than your friend. You see patterns easier than your friend. You can identify the stuff that matters quicker than your friend. And maybe you've developed a better memory than your friend through using that memory and relying on that memory more. Or just maybe, you are a better listener than your friend.

You are special not because you were born that way, regardless of what your parent told you. You are special because of the work you put into yourself. And that goes for everyone else.

Random Magus said...

unfortunately...I'm one of those people who never apply themselves so therein lies my hatred for annoyance with myself........we were in the same school had the same background....... she was just a more hard worker than I was

Zubli Zainordin said...

I agree to a point, with this beautiful lady. In our language, there are tones to exacting words, yeah it can be musical. Thus I agree. Let's take a few examples: "High", "Low". "Up", "Down". When we say "High" the tone is up. When we say "Up" the tone is high. While "Low" and "Down", well, yes, you are right, the tone is down and low. More, please ponder, reflect, and practice. Then we can write lyrics together. Once the song is ready, allow me to sing it, in any platform in the US of A.