WHEN VAGUE WORDS ARE MORE PRECISE THAN ANALYSIS

Forest-sunlight

Sometimes, when I silently contemplate on a philosophical text, an inspired thought rises in my mind, like a bubble from the depths of a lake. It whispers in me a precious idea, pregnant with meaning, often vague, its words elusive as music, but full of promises about hidden horizons. The tender intensity tells me that something of significance is being voiced now. A contemplative idea is not a piece of data, it is not a precise statement.

 

And afterwards, when I try to define this contemplative idea, I can’t find the proper words. If I try summarizing it, the result is a shadow of the original, sometimes an empty cliché. If I try to explain it –the central concept, the basic assumption, the logical structure – the result is a simplistic formula. Under the microscope of analysis, the precious idea has lost its preciousness.

 

I contemplate, for example, my words: “I am a wave, resonating with the big ocean”; or perhaps on Emerson’s beautiful essay “The Over-soul”: Man is a stream whose source is hidden… The sentences resonate in me powerfully yet tenderly, breathing inspiration into me. I savor the words, and quietly re-read them again and again, “I am a stream whose source is hidden.” Something then responds within me, a new contemplative idea.

 

But afterwards, when I look back at the contemplative session, I ask myself: Do those words mean anything? What does “my source” mean? In what sense am I “a wave”? And if “the big ocean” is a metaphor, then a metaphor of what?

 

I fall silent. I don’t know how to answer. Then I try to analyze the words “my source” – is it my ancestors? The unconscious? A divine creator? No, these are baseless speculations. Does this mean that my contemplation was an illusion?

 

But wait, why should I analyze the inspired movement that touched me? Why assume that precious words can be translated into a list of statements? When you break down a poem into components, its power is destroyed. When you analyze a symphony into separate sounds, the beauty disappears. Sometimes what is vague, obscure, hidden, is more precise than logical formulations. And sometimes what is formulated in the straight lines of logic is too constricted to view the broad horizons, too fixed rigid to notice evolving movements, too sharp to recognize unfinished realities. If you demand complete clarity, you cannot see in the darkness.

 

Of course, analysis is important – as a starting point for the contemplative movement. Before contemplating a text, you may first study the theory behind it, the concepts, the logical structure, the network of ideas. But this is a first step, a preparation. Once you plunge into philosophical contemplation, a theoretical statement is no longer a theoretical statement, it no longer tries to capture reality with precise formulations. The text is now a movement in the ocean, a call to move towards unknown horizons, transforming any finished statement into an unfinished beginning.

 

If you contemplate philosophically, then you respond to this call. You follow it into new lands, where ideas are no longer “things” but the powers of movement, the fountains of inspiration, hints of still-hidden meanings. Philosophy, after all, investigates the depths of human existence, but depth is not a finished thing, and it cannot be captured with a finished theory.

 

Comments

Guest - Carmen Zavala on Sunday, 18 June 2017 16:29
Translating thoughts into vague words

The huge task of dealing with the translation of our thoughts of image associations and thought connections into language has been neglected by contemporary philosophers after the dogma spread, that stated that we can only think in our own language, we can not think beyond our language and similar statements.
If we state that language comes before thought (against all evidence) then we stop analyzing thoughts.
It is only when we accept that thoughts are prior to language (as human individual evolution and the evolution of our species shows) that we deal with what really matters: our thoughts.
Contemplation is of huge value in itself and because it takes up again the task of observing and reflecting on the rich life of our inner thoughts.

The huge task of dealing with the translation of our thoughts of image associations and thought connections into language has been neglected by contemporary philosophers after the dogma spread, that stated that we can only think in our own language, we can not think beyond our language and similar statements. If we state that language comes before thought (against all evidence) then we stop analyzing thoughts. It is only when we accept that thoughts are prior to language (as human individual evolution and the evolution of our species shows) that we deal with what really matters: our thoughts. Contemplation is of huge value in itself and because it takes up again the task of observing and reflecting on the rich life of our inner thoughts.
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Ran Lahav
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