I love to use the dictionary.
We talk and write all the time, but how often do we remember not only does unspoken communication have different meanings… Words have more than one meaning as well. Even more than the definition I’d love to look up in the dictionary. Each word also has a meaning as we’ve come to understand it or, how we interpret its meaning in the context used.
Over time, we may even forget what the literal meaning of a word actually is.
This is why I love to use the dictionary.
I look up words I thought I understood, get distracted by meanings of adjacent words old and new, and feel compelled to find new meaning in unanticipated places.
We should always be open to explore, deconstruct and even re-learn.
Particularly the things we think we know.
Our primal urge to communicate in complex and ever-changing ways is one of the things that sets human beings apart from other mammals.
Our presence, absence, voice, silence, song, painting, poem, note, look… Our movement, dance, sermon, posture, play, and whispered promise… Each communicates using one or more of the few languages humans understand: Feeling, spirit, music, gesture or word.
We are born doing this.
Whether you’re an artist, writer, singer, leader or not, you are born with the need to communicate, and pretty quickly figure out the most effective means to do so.
We are also born with natural biological urges. We need to eat, drink, sleep etc. and figure that out pretty quickly.
But as we age, how often do we check back to determine what’s driving those urges, or the urge to communicate? How often do we check whether the ways we learned to satisfy such urges or to communicate still work?
I’m pretty sure when we see a scrumptious, juicy piece of chilled fruit on a fork we’re more inclined to eat it than ask ourselves whether we’re hungry, whether we need to eat the fruit right now, or whether we’re even prepared to answer that question.
I’m pretty sure when some wonderful idea, question or comment sears itself into our brain we’re more inclined to communicate it than ask ourselves whether we need to be communicating it, whether it needs to be said right now, or whether we’re capable of making that assessment honestly.
Like most things we are born with, we can easily become so accustomed to them, their purpose, utility, power, and meaning get obscured.
If you eat too much of the wrong foods you will get sick, possibly fatally so.
If you say the wrong thing at the wrong time you will get hurt, possibly fatally so.
What we forget with age is, the longer we go without resetting, reevaluating, rediscovering for ourselves the true meaning and power of what we’re driven to do… The greater the danger our words, our urges, our actions become grey and blurred by a lifetime of implication, suggestion and the precedent of experience.
Instead of seeing fatty red meat as a danger food we think nothing of eating it… Or even begin to crave it. Instead of seeing curse words as off-limits we think nothing of using them… Or even begin to ache to vent.
Pretty soon, we’re misusing and abusing ourselves or others in the murky, ill-defined realm of hazy meaning and purposeless communication.
I love using the dictionary.
Because every time I open it I’m reminded of how different things might be from what I thought they were.
Every time I see a new word I’m reminded of how little I know and how knowledge rests at our fingertips, ready to be uncovered when we seek it.
What in your life, your ways, your urges do you think you know, that maybe has a different meaning, waiting to be uncovered?