Friday, December 21, 2007

There are no words

Brigham Young and Joseph Smith wrote a number of times about how our language limited our understanding. That when God spoke to us, we were limited by our words, our experiences and the tools we had to work with and that an important part of allowing God to speak to us was expanding the tools we had to hear the divine with.

We are often caught up in the struggle between denotation and connotation. Between indentity and meaning, and in grief, so limited by the things we do not know. There are no words that suffice sometimes.

So we struggle. When God says "worlds without number" does God mean infinite, or does God mean more than the current audience would count, or does God mean an indefinite number of worlds (the "I've lost count" number in the math joke) or is it a poetic reference? All, none, some, or does it really matter? Can the right words help when we are in pain? Can those without the right words do much but spread ignorance?

I was thinking about the concept on the plane to my in-laws, struggling with a way to put into words the way that words are not enough. Then, last night, I read another story of grief, where words failed the author and those who spoke to him revealed only their own lack of knowledge, their own failures of language. As I read, it came to mind that there was little I could say to the author or others right then, there are no words sometimes. There are no words.


Anonymous said...

This is good to ponder. I want to wish you and the family a Merry Christmas!--Barb

Stephen said...

Thanks Barb, hope all is well with you as well.

Anonymous said...

Stephen, I am doing pretty good at the moment. We had a lot of family here yesterday for Christmas. My family loves to celebrate by getting together for a long time and enjoying good food. We even sang 12 days of Christmas with people singing what was on their saucer when their turn came. Traditions!--Barb