My son asked me how humans thought before the invention of words. I told him that’s a valuable question. I asked, “What do you think their internal voice sounded like, since they didn’t have a language?”
Sounds and symbols and lines and grunts. There is zero inherent power to any written or spoken word. We gift power to an inanimate collection of angles and inflections.
Only by great assumption and expectation does a message grow out of a phrase. But it could always just as easily be the opposite of what we take it to mean. A person’s words may be received as if to shake the world. But the same words could be received no differently than the creaks and crackles of an old tree rocking in the wind. In fact, the waves of sound coming from the cellulose shifting in the foundations of a tree may mean far more than the most profound words we’ve ever felt.
I’ve heard and seen people respond to another person’s words, saying, “it can’t be taken any other way.” But what a sad, small response. Any words can be taken all other ways. That is their beauty. Because they are nothing but what we take them to mean. We gift them the power of light or darkness. We can make a mountain out of a molehill. We can a molehill out of a mountain.
To my son’s question, what would you think or do without language? Would you take the sounds of nature as threat or as art or as peace or as motivation? Think long and deep on it, since the complexity of language is just another view and sound of nature. And it can all be taken however we find it to be productive or not. We can burn up energy on indignation. Or we can draw energy from inspiration.
We make meaning.