language

An Economy of...Something

A friend sent me this story about an recently-invented language built on the simplicity of expression, relying on 123 words and good ol' nonverbal communication to carry the tricky thing that is having contact with another human.

I dig this idea. I'm not surprised, as I've always gravitated toward the idea that we can simplify. It's a marvel then, that I somehow ended up studying theology, a field which thrives on complexity and nuance. Still, I can remember doing an architecture project in the 4th grade. We were to study different styles and draw up plans for our own house. I went minimalist, naturally, and scoffed (I was a 4th grader who scoffed, which is why you would have rightfully hated me) at the overwrought, decadent displays my classmates came up. "Why do you want so much stuff in your house?" I'd ask.

I have too much stuff now. I'm still in pursuit of a simpler life. Not just simpler in the new-age, self-help sense. Not in the "let's appropriate Zen Buddhism but where we get to keep capitalism" kind of simple. A real kind of simple. Where I have an economy of language, of thought, of action. Where I'm intentional about each waking moment, but I don't even think about it as it's so fluid and natural. Sounds like a dream. I doubt I'll ever get there.

This is why I find the current political circus infuriating and damaging. It's not new, but we're definitely experiencing a heightened flavor. The rhetoric is bombastic, manic, stark-raving...so many words saying so very little. Not only is it unnecessary, it's damaging, dangerous, menacing. In not seeking together a simpler road forward, we've opened the bag wide to every form of insanity and called it liberty.

Which isn't to say that I don't want a diversity of thought, expression, players and thinkers; I do. I just want that very diverse group to be able to sit together, quietly, and think before they speak. I'd love to hand them 123 words and have them try to communicate their hate or their ignorance or their indifference. And when that became too hard, I'd like them to use 123 words to find a way to be in the presence of the other and marvel at the fact that we can exist together. Ideally, they could get that down without words at all.

Theologically, I drift toward the apophatic and, if I'm being honest, the mystical. In this way, words don't get to the heart of who or what the divine is. But we have to get through all the words before we can realize that we need less of them. Perhaps this is a model for our pursuit of communal life.

This is my dream of the economy of words, deeds, language, thought, and spirit. I'm not naive enough to believe it's how we can conduct ourselves on global, wide stages. It's also important to say that I love words. I love language. I write on a blog, for heaven's sake. Jokes, wordplay, and exposition are my daily tools. I don't want our ability to express to diminish in any way. But I would love some added value on silence and simplicity. I would love us to seek such things out, in any little corner where they might live. Maybe I'll shut up now and listen for how I might do that best.