Alex's notes

Idea Limit of language

This is an unfinished idea or question, so it is probably even less fleshed out than normal notes.

On the continuum from abstract & conceptual to concrete & experiential, language generally rests on the conceptual side. But of course language can be more or less abstract depending on how you use it. Language like “so much depends upon a red wheel barrow, glazed with rain water, beside the white chickens,” expresses a concrete image. On the other hand, a meta-analysis of language, such as this very note itself (if you’ll forgive the cheesy self reference) leans more to the abstract.

This brings me to a funny paradox of language that I’ve noticed. Although language can express concrete images and even induce strong direct experience (via poetry, fiction novels, etc.), the moment language tries to talk about direct experience as a concept, you veer way off into the weeds of abstraction. It’s as if any attempt for language to touch direct experience results in a repulsive force which shoots them apart, like trying to hold the positive sides of two magnets together.

This makes it challenging to communicate about direct experience. I imagine this becomes a barrier to conceptual maps of meditation, my understanding being that a goal of meditation is pure direct experience. Any linguistic attempt to map a path to that goal paradoxically results in extremely abstract language. The abstraction of language is proportional its attempt to talk about direct experience.

Maybe the truest map is the red wheel barrow?

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