On the variety of words

I like to think about the world around me. Tools and machines, professions and institutions, cultures and people- much of which I have very little knowledge and experience of. It is astonishing the amount of knowledge preserved in words. Much can be learned about any field of human-knowledge by simply understanding its vocabulary. It is not surprising then, how easy it was to restrict knowledge in the past. Shunning people not from your craft and guild.

I’m sure a harmless activity like gardening hides much in its terms. In fact, much of the secrets of gardening can perhaps be completely explained through its dictionary. There are sowing seasons and blooming seasons, types of shrubs, herbs and trees, arrangement of leaves, shears and loppers and rakes and hoes. You get the idea. As long as you know what constitutes “gardening” and its elements, you essentially know the entire field.

Garden at the Schultenhof in MettingenNorth Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

This is, of course, not true for all fields for human knowledge. Much of research is premised on discovering the unknown so it can be put in words and dictionaries to be passed to the next generation. Words then, become the aggregate of all human knowledge. Any man that “quickly” wants to get involved with the world, just needs to pick up the giant encyclopedia and look for the right words. In fact, that is what the schooling system and much of the higher education system geared for. It’s no mystery I am discovering.

Mahatma Gandhi, known for keeping maun-vrat every Monday, would finish off much of his week’s work that day.

Which brings me to the bitter side of language- the one that makes it too easy to sound smart at best and kills creativity at its worst. When powerful words are spoken without their value weighed out in the mind, they trivialize discussions. Impactful- on occasions- but exaggerated more often. When used in self-talk, they have the power to calm the restless and aggrieved self. Misused though, as words often are, we are pulled further into the misery of emotions. An addict summoned by his addiction, one last time to calm a thirst that won’t end. He will search for more powerful words- maybe to hurt us further, push us deeper into misery.

Humans have been smart for much long now. They documented in their stories and tales a lot of what they learnt. We are powered with much of our ancestors’ treasure trove of knowledge- condensed, at times, in single, crisp words. Very often, from across cultures and vast distances. I wish to pay homage to words and their power. They control our inner and outer lives more than what we give them credit for.

The Blind Leading the Blind by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

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