Scranton: All roads lead to…
We were discussing the implications of The World State (Brave New World) in class last week, and the students stumbled upon the consequence of a diminished vocabulary.
Two of the main characters in the book we are reading feel like something isn’t right but have no way to express their discontent because the government has managed to expunge most of the words they might use from the “official” vocabulary. I often explain to students that it is really difficult to figure out why you feel discontent or longing or even joy if you can’t accurately describe the feeling.
Using the “F word” as an all-purpose verb, pronoun, adjective and modifier will get your point across to most people, but when you really want to understand a particular problem, issue or experience and you can’t find the words, what do you do?
You could just check out, get drunk, get high or rationalize the whole situation as stupid and get on with your life. Sounds great until your collection of unattended concerns sends you reeling into some middle-age (or youthful) mental meltdown that exacts a toll unlike you’ve ever thought imaginable.
It’s perfectly fine to wallow away in a misery of our own making but not so acceptable when it affects those around you, close to you or perhaps even a whole society. Not being able to express our complex human nature can do terrible things to our psyche and the solutions are often not of our own choosing.
Try writing down what frustrates you most (that’s a challenge in itself) and begin collecting possible ideas for solving the problem. It’s more difficult than one would imagine or, for some, have the capacity to undertake. The fear of the unknown future is way more difficult to face than simply sliding into what we have always done over and over again (that’s the definition of insanity).
The road is windy, the distractions are plentiful, the obstacles are concerning, but you might eventually end up somewhere that helps you make sense of a world in which we have to try and operate while determining what is best for our own future contentment. Why bother? Well, as students so aptly point out in class, without the capacity to think and express our concerns and ideas about the world, we lose our humanity. Then we become much easier to control through emotions or some disjointed worship of something as benign as a popular figure, our planetary condition or a political belief.
All roads lead to somewhere and where you end up in life is wholly dependent on your ability to construct meaning about where you are and make adjustments when you aren’t happy or pursue strategies if you choose to retain the status quo (which isn’t always a bad thing). When the roads and paths in life get snow packed and the cleared out passages are piled high on each side, you may not be able to see as clearly as you might on a summer day, but you know that beneath all that white stuff lays a pretty predictable mode of getting where we need to go.
Our vocabulary is very much like the road and our future is very much determined by our ability to read the conditions and pay attention to the signs along the way. Knowing how to express ourselves is one of the most important aspects of our humanity and worth considering as we travel down this road of life!
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