“We have said that consciousness is an operation rather than a thing, a repository, or a function. It operates by way of analogy, by way of constructing an analog space with an analog ‘I’ that can observe that space, and move metaphorically in it. It operates on any reactivity, excerpts relevant aspects, narratizes and conciliates them together in a metaphorical space where such meanings can be manipulated like things in space.” – Julian Jaynes
Language is not just a subtext to the visual or envisioned. It constructs ideas of itself. It permeates the mind and alters our modes of perception. Its semantic shapes reach in and shape us, move us, keep us still or hurry us along. The means of communication, the particular reasons particular ideas develop, how we take in, how we put out, what we refuse or allow to take in and put out, what this does to us… all of this is part and parcel of the true influence of language, which has become, after much bellowing, the ostensible a priori designator of identity, as well as the most basic means of deciphering that identity.
Person-hood signifies a relationship to the existential, which is only effective as an idea once it has been uttered. Identity, the divided self, the conscious ‘I’, all must be expressive or become lost in an incomprehensible universe. The only way to comprehend Creation is to join in on the act.
To whom do we speak? To whom do we present ourselves? How do we do it? How much control does the ‘I’ have over the ‘me’? In what ways are our isolated, relative selves effected by one another? These are the issues of myth and self-making. Whatever we consider to be an autonomous idea is really a path by which we get from here to there inside of ourselves, and thus through the world itself. We mark and are marked by the thoughts, words and deeds of ourselves and others. Obviously this is contingent on there being ‘others’. Self-consciousness is really other-consciousness.
The development of language has been the transformation of the gestured sign into the vocal sign, then into another, transcendent form of the gestured sign, the textural. Each transformation has had a profound impact on the physiognomy of the human body. Physical, psychological, emotional, intellectual bodies all have their points of impact. Each one effects the others. We are a constantly rearranged amalgam of all the various ways we can be and how we really are. That there are at all different and separate versions of ourselves points to a deeper divide between us and the world, between us ourselves, and reveals the inherent wounding nature of being in the world.
The history of language is that of naming our pains and of creating real and practical forms to assuage those pains. The history of language is that of creating myths which anesthetize and extend life. The cumulative effect creates a palimpsest on which expression is marked over, blurred or totally erased. The tool of this expression, the body itself, is stressed, contorted, abstracted and literally refigured. It becomes a visible metaphor for the psychological currents which shape it. But the body inevitably refuses our efforts to extend its use, and ultimately betray us.
Thus we move beyond our own bodies and turn to others, through which we can perhaps again gain time, lesson the pain, and extend life beyond our own. The true human discourse is procreation, which still is meaningless unless we pass along more than genetic information. We must also multiply the tools of culture by which we do all of these things, otherwise we will lose to the grave not just our bodies but the very spirit of what it is to be human.