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Language, Qualms, and Toki Pona

By Billy | March 21, 2010

So I have been considering systematically eliminating words from my daily conversations.  I don’t know the way I’d do it, but something like a random number generator that selects a word from a list, perhaps starting with a list of nouns, and not using that word.  Anyway, I don’t think I’m going to actually follow through with it, but during my brainstorming about the frustration I have with language, I came across something called Toki Pona.
The whole debacle started in my head (as if it had a distinct start. As if a starting point could be identified) as I read a list of the 100 most common English words.  For the most part, they are all very divisive.  Many of them seem to imply separateness and necessary comparison.  Than, as an example, almost implies an absolute good/bad scale.  Closer than, taller than, better than.
I have experienced in different ways the power of language.  A small change in language can, at times, prompt a large change in train of thought.  Though it seems like ridiculous political correctness, I stress person-first language to my friends and for my self, for example.  Rather than saying, “I am a vegan,” I prefer, “I practice veganism.”  The latter implies humanity first, and a choice and practice that comes as a secondary piece.  There is a big difference between working with “autistic children” and “children with autism.”  Children with autism are human beings, and so we automatically have to think of them as children first.  Saying, “I know an autistic kid,” implies you know all “autistic kids.”    My veganism is far more complicated than a simple dogmatic diet, so I hope you don’t lump me into the same category as any other human you’ve me who practices veganism.
I will probably not be destroying the English language.  Maybe.  That said, I may speak only German this summer.  German, Hebrew, and Toki Pona.  I am thinking very seriously about learning Toki Pona.
Let me explain a little bit about my qualms with language in general.
Let me explain.
Who is the me to whom I am referring?
ME.  I am…  Well I am the person writing this blog post, but I’m different now that I’ve written it.  I am cleaner and smoother having had this cathartic experience of writing down my frustrations.  I am different today and will be different tomorrow.  I am made up by my surroundings and my friends, my experiences and my DNA.  Is the air in my lungs part of me?  Is the contents of my stomach me?  Am I simply the sum of my parts + my thoughts + my history?  These questions are hidden beneath words like, “me,” “myself,” and “I.”
My Qualms.
My qualms?  What is a QUALM?  I only use that word because my dad uses it.  It could be completely the wrong context to use that word.  A Google search for Define Qualm comes to, “a scruple.  uneasiness about the fitness of an action.”  Great.  That’s about right.  But when I say uneasy, what does that mean?  We all define discomfort in different ways and in different contexts.  I’m 100% positive you don’t know what it’s like for me to be uneasy about the fitness of using the word, “qualm.”
Language?  What is language, actually?  Does that include smiles?  Does that include laughter?  Is spoken language ok but written not?  When I say I am uneasy about language, you can’t know what language represents in my mind, and to pretend you actually understand is foolish.  To accept that you are limited absolutely, but very capable conventionally is to understand and transcend the blockage… That is wisdom.
Toki Pona has a lot of limitations to discourse.  It is difficult to speak of nonessential things, which… Why do we speak on nonessential things?  Hm.  I think I might start destroying my English vocabulary today.
So the first word I got was here ( was Bicycle.  God is testing me.   As long as this experiment lasts, I wont use that word.

Topics: Philosophy, This is my life | Comments Off on Language, Qualms, and Toki Pona

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