The medium is the message. It always has been. It always will be. There is no escape from the medium.
Someone pointed out that we must ask the question “are we free?” first before we can even ask “do we have free will?” I agree. To be truly free would be to be able to flit in and out of material existence. We do not and can not. Secondly, the will is not independent of the body. It is always a decision of or motivation from the body. That is to say, we are not free to will, but we are only free to imagine being free to will.
Love. Love is a verb. Love is a doing word. […]Teardrop by Massive Attack
The opening lyrics of Teardrop by Massive Attack points to the verbal quality of ‘love’. What we call lemma or headwords in linguistics brings together meaning under one heading.
(1) He loves her.
make ‘love’ a verb. And the sentence
(2) ‘His love for her.’
turns ‘love’ into a noun.
Let me point out here that love “begins life” as a noun and, in fact, is turned into a verb in an act I call shall verbalisation. Pat Benatar famously sang
(3) Love is a Battlefield.
Clearly is talk of love as a thing in this usage.
But we can talk of love as an action as in
We love you. We love you. We love you. We’re going to do whatever it take to make you love me.We Love You! by Regurgitator
I am not saying anything unusual. We do this so often that we almost do not notice it … almost. But let us take ‘run’. Run, like love, is both a verb and noun. But run is used more as a verb than love is (even though the strong collocation for love is as a verb ‘I love you’). Easiest is to look at example usages.
(4) He runs six miles everyday.
(5) The dog ran away again.
For (4) is a clearly a verb. In (5) run is part of the phrasal verb run away. But in
(6) The run is tomorrow.
it is a noun. And unlike love as a noun it can be specified by a determiner. When we try with
(7) The love of a mother for her child is unparalleled in the universe.
we must specify much more clearly. That is, love is a universal and a thing. So when Massive Attack sings love is a verb they want to highlight the fact that we sometimes forget that it has a verbal form, just as I am highlighting the fact run also has a nominal form, and that these forms tell us something about conceptualisation, and language.
Love and run are nouns (and they are verbs). But they are not things. My point is, conceptualisation is a tricky business that requires serious and careful study. As a child I was taught a noun is a person, place or thing. Later I was retaught to add ‘idea’ to the list definition. Much time was spent believing love and run were things. Often I must remind myself that ideas are not things even though they can both be nouns. Just because ‘run’ in
(8) The run was fun.
is given the determiner ‘the’ it does not make it a thing as ‘the’ in
(9) The car is in the driveway.
specifies a thing. That is the difference.
Words are not things but semi-things. Their age matters not. The size of the fonts changes nothing of their meaning. And whether it is serif or san-serif will not make a single difference (apart from functional sustained legibility).
In other words, words have little to no properties. The font’s colour means nothing, unless it is an art t-shirt from that now-defunct Oxford Street shop in Sydney that read “blue” in red letters. Read the word out loud and the colour no longer has any meaning. This is word play in written form. The medium is the message as someone once said.
In Japan more people say the name King&Prince more than any other name right now (my daughter included). But nothing changes about the group. The group is still made up of six people no matter how many times one invokes the name. ‘Popularity’ means something else other than physical quantity. We may count the number of times in it is mentioned in the media or searched for on Google. Nothing changes the fact that they are ordinary people that bleed when pricked or cry when they are emotionally down.
My point is, words are not the same thing as the things or non-things they represent. Not only are they separate to the things/non-things they represent, their characteristics (if they can be characteristics at all) are different as well.
What does it mean when we say “we are free to do anything we want”?
It means we are deluded into thinking we are isolated individuals outside of an interconnect world. Everything I do affects everything else around me, so long as I related to it in some way.
So the question is is there any thing, space or time from which we are not related to all else? Experience tells me no. Some may argue that freedom is in the mind. But if the mind is located in the body, in the brain, then it is itself a relational operation. There is no thing which operates outside of things, space and time. Every action has real consequences. To think that even your thoughts do not have consequences is to be sorely mistaken. For although they do not have immediate “outer” consequences they have “inner” ones. They affect the body that thinks. To think is in itself an action.
I remember 9/11.
But I don’t remember it as 9/11 but 9/12. I was in Sydney that day. Woke up to the images on the screen, my mother was staring in disbelief. Not much can silence my mother but this did.
Yes, I am a somewhat intelligent guy (been to university, even did postgraduate studies), but I still think of it as 9/12. I do this because it says something about time and our perception of it, especially in this day and age where real-time means I see 9/11 in 9/12.
Philosophically, that is important or not trivial to me. If this event had occurred before my birth or outside of my awareness of it I would learn and remember it as 9/11, that is, I would not pair the event with my time and place.
20210107 is another event I would remember as thus. The day American democracy was no longer such. That for years to come they will spend time repairing what had occurred in the four up until that moment. That the next administration will have a fight on their hands with something that was covert but now open. The ugly side of America has been exposed.
There is a beautiful side to America, to its values and culture. That, I will never forget. Those who stormed Capitol Hill are not representative — thankfully — of the majority as this last election has pointed out. But rather, America has a lot of soul searching to do for decades to come. And this comes from someone who does not believe in a soul.
“This house was built in 1788.”
Although most people will see this statement is a factual one, I will argue that it is, in fact, imbued with value and judgment.
We choose to highlight something by stating it, by making it the subject of a statement. Something must be focused upon (apart from “dummy” statements like ‘it’s raining’ or ‘it’s me’ but I will argue these are not empty subjects) when we say anything. To choose to focus upon the house is something consciously done by a speaker. And to choose to highlight its age is another choice. Both are given importance by stating them as facts. Value is thus given to them. They – the house and its age – are judged to be important facts.
Poets and songwriters are masters of value making. A good example is PJ Harvey’s Chain of Keys.
Fifteen keys hang on a chain
The chain is joint
The chain is joint and forms a ring
The ring is in
The ring is in a woman’s hand
She’s walking on
She’s walking on the dusty ground
The dusty ground’s a dead-end track
The neighbours won’t be coming back
Fifteen gardens overgrown
Fifteen houses falling down
The woman’s old
The woman’s old and dressed in black
She keeps her hands
She keeps her hands behind her back
Imagine what her eyes have seen
We ask but she
We ask but she won’t let us in
A key so simple and so small
How can it mean no chance at all?
A key, a promise, or a wish
How can it mean such hopelessness
“The circle is broken”, she says
“The circle is broken”, she says
Out of the void of the music comes fifteen keys on a chain. We send time wondering, imagining, what kind of keys and chain they are. We are told, next, chain is not a like a strand but is joined to form a loop (ring). But where is this ring of keys? It is in the hands of a woman. What is she like? How are we to imagine her? We don’t know, but we are told she is walking on the dusty ground. Why is she walking on here? So many questions. So many images. The sparse repetitive sax and drum line gives us an image of her walk walking among the fifteen empty falling down houses with their overgrown gardens. The story goes on.
I hope you can see how the words have created the image for you. It may well be based on an actual place with actual persons with actual things and actual dialogues but it no longer belongs to the event, only belonging to the memory (or thought) and (or) to the song.
To take statements as facts of reality is to not understand that statements are acts in reality. They are acts within the reality. They do not stand outside of reality. This is what, I believe, Derrida had meant by there is no outside text (alternate translations ‘there is nothing outside of the text’; ‘there is no outside context’). The largest most inclusive category – as tiring as this approach physically and mentally is – must be taken in order for anything to be make complete sense. And we must forget that rational sense itself is an act within this reality not separate from it in any way.