Monday, 27 April 2015

Experiences and words

Rhiannon in Brigid, Fox, and Buddha asks :
Are some words or phrases irreplaceable in our language, in that it is impossible to express the same sense – or convey the same picture of the world – without using that specific expression?
It depends where you start from. If you start in your head wanting an explanation for your experience, you will get hung up with words.
On the other hand, if you start with the experience, and hold fast to that, words are like the bars of a prison that hold us to only one interpretation of  our story. This is what happened to me when I first experienced that which is not me in a personal or relational way – not as an object to be studied  by my pure intellect from the distance of the isolated subject – but rather to be known intimately. But the evangelical Christians who came along close by said that my experience meant something very specific, and told me which words to use to describe it, and thus the prison door slammed in my face. But my ego delighted in the explanation and soon I was pretending that the bars were not keeping me in, but keeping 'them' out. 'Them' – the 'world'; the others not like us; the sinners; the damned. And so my world was divided into them and us, heaven and hell, good and evil.
And then years later another experience, as the other broke down the bars and showed me love, and so the world was intimate again, and then I entered the Quaker Meeting, and there were no bars and no words, only loving relationships. I no longer had to pretend to love the sinner and not the sin, but was able to love whole persons in a whole world.

The transcendent other, revealed in the immanence of personal relationships.

None of this is 'reasonable', for reason demands objectivity, and love refuses to play along. Wittgenstein was right – it is not 'unreasonable' either, but different from reasonable. Reason demands an explanation, but explanations tie us to certain words and phrases, and so we come to believe that some words are 'irreplaceable'.
Instead we must tell our stories, As CS Lewis said
'There is, then, a particular kind of [fiction] which has a value in itself - a value independent of its embodiment in any literary work....The story of Orpheus strikes and strikes very deep, of itself; the fact that Virgil and others have told it in good poetry is irrelevant ' (C.S. Lewis, 'An Experiment In Criticism' 1961, p41)
So we must tell our stories 'well' that is in everyday language, seeking an intimate relationship with the hearer, and changing the words as we go along. For our story is not formed of words but of relationships.
And whatever we do, we must never ever add an explanation, for there lies the prison bars which shut us out of love – those who have ears will hear.