“People have a very firm conviction, or belief, that they speak the same language, that they understand one another.
Actually this conviction has no foundation whatever. The language which they speak is adapted to practical life only. People communicate to one another information of a practical character, but as soon as they pass to a slightly more complex sphere they are immediately lost, and the cease to understand one another, although they are unconscious of it.”
— G I Gurdjieff
Language is a tricky business. People talk at each other and seldom realize that they are using the same words to mean two or more different things. Words like war or freedom or love or concepts like free will, acceptable losses, faith, religion, or meme. The words that people use in conversation with each other without sharing meaning is nigh endless. What’s even stranger is how often we use these words without having a full understanding of what we ourselves mean when we use it and how for many of these ambiguous terms, our meaning changes from day to day, conversation to conversation or hour to hour. When we say God do we mean an all-knowing guy in a white beard strolling through the sky? Do we mean an archetype, one of several that is part of the shared unconscious of mankind, an all-loving compassionate being, an angry vengeful parent. Is he internal or external? Then we can talk about love. I love you. Do I mean by that that I feel affection towards you and am trying to elicit whether you feel affection back? Do I mean it in a general sense that I love all of mankind and since you are part of that you share in my love? Does it mean I want to make love to you? Does it mean I would lay down my life for you or put your needs above my own? What if I’m not sure and it just seems like a good thing to say at the time? It always seems somewhat miraculous that any of us are able to communicate with each other at all. I guess we should thank god (or gods or goddess) for small miracles.
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