Daily Archives: January 9, 2007

Language is not experience.

The second meeting of my art classes elaborates the notion “the map is not the territory.” An important part of seeing clearly involves not accepting our mental/ linguistic images of things as representing our experience of things in themselves. Simply put, the words we use to describe experience are not the same thing as experience itself. They are like numbers in relation to real things. A word is an abstraction – a brief mental shorthand for an actual experience, which operates by its own rules and takes on a life of its own inside the mind. Words have a tendency to replace the experiences they refer to because they are static. Reality is dynamic and difficult to grasp. Words are simple. They have a sort of hypnotic power in themselves. We become accustomed to things to the extent we become accustomed to our verbal explanations of them.A map is a piece of paper we accept as an (accurate) representation of miles of landscape. The map itself is nothing like the territory it attempts to represent.A drawing or painting of a tree is nothing like an actual living tree – with its tons of material, internal, and environmental complexities.. The word “tree” and a painting of a tree are remote imitations – generalized symbols for experiencing particular trees in their environments. Ultimately, the concepts we have in our minds replace much of what we experience as the world. And so the task is to understand that what we think of things is not the same as experiencing things. The directive is to attend to what is experienced and not what is thought to be experienced.Our interpretations are not the same as our experience.We can live in a world of symbols (basically inside our heads) or we can experience the world as it is in the present. Direct experience is unmediated.

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