This was going to be a brief post, because it’s really just meant to be an apology. As I’ve said before, I intend to write at least one post—preferably one of some substance, if not necessarily any great depth—every week for this, the second and more free-form of my blogs. However, as I’ve already revealed on my main, eponymous blog*, I had a very nasty GI bug earlier this week that took the metaphorical wind out of my sails…as well as taking quite a bit more out of me in a rather literal sense. I’ll spare you the details, though I’m sure you can imagine them with a fair amount of accuracy if you’re so inclined. I’ll simply say that I didn’t have the energy to spare from my struggles to accomplish my daily work to think clearly enough to compose an involved blog post.
This is most distressing because I’ve only recently recommitted myself to writing at least something on this blog every week, for my sake, if for no one else’s benefit. It seemed unseemly for me simply to seem to let that plan come apart at the seams without saying anything. At worst, potential followers might decide that it wasn’t worth checking up on this blog on a regular basis, and though I can’t claim yet to have earned a loyal readership, I do want to earn such loyalty and such readers.
Actually, there’s an exaggeration in that last sentence. “At worst” my failure to write a blog might lead to the destruction of the cosmos and the consignment of all conscious creatures to eternal, maximal torment…Sam Harris’s “the worst possible misery for everyone”. That seems vanishingly unlikely, though, so I hopefully can be excused for considering—from my perspective—the worst likely outcome as the “worst” outcome.
Probably I’m the only person here who really cares about such pedantry, but I do care about it. One of the reasons mathematics is so fruitful and so powerful is that it is truly pedantic, absolutely rigorous, and logically defined. But everything in mathematics can be translated into ordinary language—this must be so, contrary to the statements of some mathematicians and physicists, or else no one would ever be able to be taught how to use it—and ordinary language can, therefore, be used to convey thoughts and ideas with precision and clarity that lend themselves to true logical induction, deduction, abduction, and so on. And yet, because we use language so loosely and imprecisely—and, of course, because unlike the formalism of mathematics, most languages weren’t invented but merely happened—we arrive at many misunderstandings that contribute to the problems of the world. I won’t say that perfect communication would obviate all conflicts that exist, but it would help to avoid a great many unnecessary ones, perhaps sparing us more time and energy to deal with issues of greater depth.
Language is crystallized thought. The sloppy use of language, especially when one really is trying to make a point, is not merely indicative of sloppy thought; the habit of sloppy language can engender sloppy thought.
It’s rather analogous to deciding that you don’t need to use your turn signal every time you turn because sometimes it’s obvious that you’re turning, and sometimes there’s no one else around. Such slacking tends to become habitual. People lose their conditioned habits of care—if they had such habits in the first place—and on some occasions, it really matters whether or not a person uses his or her turn signal. Statistics make it almost inescapably true that this dereliction sometimes leads to property damage, injury, and premature death.
It’s a similar notion to something almost anyone who’s ever been trained in gun safety has been told: Treat every gun as if it is loaded, even if you just personally unloaded it and ensured that it was empty, so that you’ll never accidentally to treat a loaded gun as if it were not loaded. Also, never point a gun at anything you wouldn’t be willing to shoot, for similar reasons.
Language may not be quite so immediately perilous as a gun or an automobile, but its power is far greater, and we should treat it with respect…even those of us who can’t help but play with it at times. We should try to keep the flaws in our personal thought crystals to a minimum, or at least to keep them only where their presence adds to the overall beauty of the structure.
I’m probably stretching that metaphor a bit.
Well, this has been quite a peculiar apology, and I ended up saying more than I expected, but hopefully next week I’ll produce something a little less meandering. In the meantime, thank you, my readers, for your patience. And do be careful what you eat.
*Not to be confused with Hieronymus Bosch, though hopefully it is a garden of at least the occasional earthly delight.