A Philosophical Perspective on Words

I come back to notebooks, from time to time, because therein lie truths and other scraps sometimes forgotten. If there are things we lose in the fire, these must not be the books. They line the shelves and accumulate. Buried on page dot dot dot (un-numbered) of one such notebook in a series, I read the correspondence of my editorial eye in this literary world. Sonam wrote, once:

‘It’s difficult, if not impossible, to find someone who is willing to listen and, indeed, able to grasp our spiritual (you call it ‘love’ or perhaps ‘art’) dream and aspiration. Therefore, the themes we address at the expense of our private spiritual/creative dreams — political, economic, and environmental — are jarring and discordant.’

I come back to this time and again. I dig down and see how we all coat our world-views in otherly-honeyed words: we treat our common experiences with differing words. Your spirit is my love. My dream is your ‘any other word’ for this. The writer and the reader are divided by the same language: words of written intention and words of read interpretation.

Can we ever truly connect our words? If my theme happens — one book, one story, one scene, once — to be love fallen away, will you ever read the words as anything like they were intended?

Of course, you’ll read them differently. You will colour them. You may even heighten them from the intention, which may have failed, to more than this. Perhaps then the themes we do address, which are more universal, are not the themes we might need to address: those themes that cannot be fully expressed because it may just be impossible for another to read/interpret just as the words were written/intended.

Drawing from phenomenological thinking, and in particular from intentionality (that is, whatever the object of consciousness is), words written/read are experienced in certain ways. I think of the words of this book, and that is my experience of them; you think of the words of this book, and that is your experience of them. We see them from different sides, say, as we see a cube each from our own side.

All we can do, as writers, is let this be. We cannot change the way the words are read. How do other writers view their words?

I come back to my notebook, and I think of yours.