How would you pick just seven words to compose the entire universe of human language?
The poet Kahlil Gibran said that people will never understand each other unless language is reduced to seven words, and today’s prompt wants our input on that.
I don’t think he was being literal, for what it’s worth, but that he was making a statement about the complexity of human interaction and the difficulties we have in understanding each other to the fullest extent. Is it even possible to really understand someone else? Even if you comprehend the words, the meaning, and the context of what they say, I propose that it’s impossible to have a full understanding of why they say what they say.
I think that he was saying that human language itself is so complex – I say necessarily so – that it is impossible to understand one another, to penetrate the veil of language we use to interface. At the end of the post, with or without cheese every single one of us is an enigma wrapped in a riddle on a sesame seed bun. We often have to take for granted without even realizing so that the words of a generally truthful person are truth, and we find ourselves suspecting the words of a person who is untrustworthy or unproven. This is why people have the ability to surprise and betray us.
In that light, would we even want the ability to reduce language to seven words? Wouldn’t that remove some of the spontaneity and privacy of our inner natures? Think about it from the point of view of the person who uses language as a tool, rather than the person on whom it is used; we use the complexity of language as a utility to get things done – how primitive would we be if we only had seven words to do that? I mean, we could work it like machine language, have complex matrices of meaning that could turn seven words into a usable language, but that would make interaction long and cumbersome, and the creative and inventive nature of humanity would inevitably create more words to reduce the burden. That is why simplifying language would make it a jillion times more complex. Irony!!
In effect, if we shorten language to seven words, we would just undo it all over again.
But imagine for a moment that we could – what would my words be? First of all, if we take everything for granted as a positive statement, then we need a negation: the word meaning not, no, or none. Then we need a word to identify ourselves, and combined with the negation we get “not me”, which could mean you, they, he, or she. That’s two. Maybe a word for “it” and a word for “like” – that’s four. “Eat”, “sleep”, and “make”. That’s seven all told, and that would be scary – because how long would I be waiting in line at the Starbucks if the guy in front of me plans to order a venti quad skinny caramel macchiato with just those seven words at his disposal?
I’d rather just make coffee at home after that.
What do you think? How might we get around the seven word barrier? Is it possible? Would you even want it to be possible? Would you make reading War and Peace a lifelong project? Use your words in the comments!
This post was prompted by today’s Daily Post prompt.
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