Animals of Language

What are we? I’ve been thinking about this rather abstract question for quite a while, and now, hopefully, one answer – this is my answer, obviously – comes to me: We are animals of language. Language is the thing that seperates us – human beings – from other animals. That is what biologists tell us. I tend to call it “one of many reasonable speculations.” Look around and you’ll find a lot of other things that will also perfectly serve the purpose of telling apart humans from other living beings. For example, abstract thinking.

But language is more than thinking itself. Language includes telling or expressing as well. We think, and almost inevitably, we tell other humans what we think (is right), right? That may explain why I set up and publish this site. I think I have got something to tell you.

However, as a curious reader you are, there seems to be somthing important lacking in the equation of Language = Thinking + Telling: Where is the role of “Acting?” Aren’t we acting out what we think is right and making something for real? Yes, we think and we tell and we act. But at least for me, what we act out is exactly our language, no more or no less. Put it into other words, our language is the upper limit of our action. Not imagination. Not capability. Not resourse, wealth or social status. It is the language that determines how well we can act (and probably, interact with others). Bear with me for a minute.

I see languages everywhere, in every form. A designer will tell you design is everywhere. A mathematician will tell you everything is made of numbers. A computer scientist will tell you the ultimate god is algorithm and we are merely data providers. Well, these ideas could all be true, at the same time, in my honest opinion. Designs, numbers, algorithms are just different forms of language. As a proof, we hear all the time about design language, math language, programming language, so on and so forth. Why are there so many languages around? The answer is, according to my abstract thinking, we need languages to guide actions. Period. We need languages to think, to tell others what we think, and to act by the conclusions we arrive at with the help of language.

But I don’t want to be too abstract. I think over abstraction has led to so many disasters, doing nothing but thinking and telling real hard, trying to find some ultimate truth (maybe I should capitalize the first letter) and then we can act upon it. This will lead to even larger and more disasters. I know I might be hinting at old Greek philosophers of great importance to our modern civilisation. But that’s just my language, so forgive me please.

What I try to tell you is rather plain and simple: We’re not abstract thinking machines or automatic story tellers. We’re animals with blood and flesh. We see. We listen. We smell. We taste. We touch. And maybe most importantly but not that apparently, we feel. We feel joy, pain, loneliness and excitement. These feelings are so fundemental that sometimes we just take them for granted and forget about them. Like breathing. We breathe all the time, and we ignore it all the time. We think highly of, well, thinking. Often, we choose to forget that we’re still animals, not that much different from other animals like dogs or cats. There is nothing much we can do about loneliness – I mean real loneliness, not “being alone for five minutes with your phone having run out of power” loneliness -, and we can see and hear the dog is barking as well as the dog can see and hear we are calling its name. We smile when we smell the flowers and we cry while witnessing other animals – humans and non-humans alike – suffering. We are animals. Period.

Unfortunately, I know the sad fact that this website is nothing but a limited vessel for thinking and telling on a rather limited scale. A lot of forms of language can not be showed or used here, like a buiding with the architecture language or a live show with the scents, sounds, and atmosphere on the spot. This sad truth reminds me of the limitation of the Internet or the Digital Age. Powerful as the Internet can be (and it is still growing), we as animals of language, are still doomed to be lonely and hurt and despair and helpless.

But fortunately, even after realising the sad truth of our indelible limitation, we can still make ourselves and this world better, much better. Our language can be so powerful, much more powerful than the Internet or artificial intelligence, that there’s still hope for us to change the world we live in, through changing our language at first.

This is my speculation. Let’s make it real.