Life as language

Language is an incredible device.

It has allowed us to share knowledge, to organize and clarify our world, to cooperate and collaborate, to be taxed by the man, and to think in abstract terms. It has formed the foundation for the discovery of all of our subsequent technologies. It even lets me pontificate like I know what I’m talking about.

What comes to mind when you read the word “language”? Probably English, if you’re a native English speaker. Or maybe the concept of verbal languages, generally.

A more open reading might include other languages we’re already familiar with:

Mathematics is a problem-solving language.
Physics is the foundational language of the universe.
Design is an abstract language to help us engage with and navigate the various abstractions within our world & society.
Music is a non-visual language that interfaces with our entire nervous system.
Biology & horticulture are languages to help us to communicate with & mold the natural world.
Photography is a language to help us see the invisible. It also lets us render the language of time.
What about time? It’s a language that allows us to perceive the apparently linear progression of events. It’s also a language of order.
Diplomacy is the official language of negotiation and Nation States.

I find rock climbing an interesting language: a combination of physics, biology, and engineering. Natural routes, defined over thousands or millions of years that are then mapped out and solved by climbers with a mix of their own physical strength and endurance, alongside various tools they bring with them.

Try redefining your work, skills, hobbies, beliefs, interactions, and information flows within the conceptual framework of language, and you open them up to some wonderful new characteristics:

Languages are inherently malleable. Letters and words can be placed in any order and combination you fancy. Hell, you can even throw a semicolon in there.

They have the flexibility to be translated into different languages. How can the characteristics of rock climbing be translated into plumbing? Or the characteristics of music into app design?

Language is fundamentally combinatorial. Symbols we call letters are combined into words into sentences into paragraphs into pages into books. How might you practice this combinatorial behavior in your own work?

A language’s foundation is its alphabet of symbols - its atomic units. What are the atomic units of your hobbies, or interests? How might you use this foundation to facilitate atomic actions in your projects?

Language has a symbolic structure, but it’s also formless. It exists within our minds, in the air, on paper, and on screens. It is visual and verbal. This formlessness grants it a wonderful adaptability. How can your interests transcend their forms?

Most importantly, it’s alive. An entity in constant evolution with its environment. The English, French or Portuguese of a century ago is out of place today, as was the popular culture, values & entertainment. How can you engineer your knowledge to evolve alongside you?

I think that utilizing the conceptual framework of language can make us more open-minded, more flexible, less defensive, and more creative.

This is currently an area of casual inquiry that I will update accordingly.


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