The question of how the tools shape us was addressed at the outset in the previous post; In What We Become What We Owe; and in that post we examined the primary means by which this happens. Here, we will examine another of the tools used to shape us, our minds and our emotions. And, as was noted in that previous post, our very conception is determined by the tool which we most ourselves to be. For instance, were it not determinism that created us as physical beings? If it were not determinism that created us to act in a certain way, would we still be free to do otherwise? And if so, does the very use of language, or the very conception of words, help to shape who we are?
This brings us to another of the essential ways in which we become what we behold. This is a concept which has been explained in the previous post when we looked at how the tools we have help to shape us. And, it is related to the issue of identity; for instance, how we become what we are by means of a name which we adopt and by means of the clothes we wear. However, there is more to it than this.
It seems to me, that all the answers to these questions can be derived from an examination of the way in which Language works. Consider if you will, the definition of Time as used in the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Tenth Addition: “A period of time measured according to intervals of twenty seconds.” Now, what is an interval? Can you think of one?
When we use Time we tend to consider it to be a series of beats within a single beat. That is, there are beats within each beat. But this is only one definition of time, and indeed this concept can be applied to all periods of time measured in any possible ways. We can use time and each of its aspects, like duration and rate of change, to describe anything and everything.
So, as it so happens with Language, our concepts about time also cease to be meaningful once we manage to transform them into meaningful words – into words which really do convey some meaning. Take, for example, this common English idiom: “To be is to have.” This idiom can be given a new meaning by means of transformation, by way of co-ordination between the two: “To be is to have as its meaning is, in addition, to have as its essence (or substance) is” – and so on. Once we combine these two definitions of what being is with regard to language, we get: “to be whatever one becomes through becoming (as the Latin verb means to become)”.
So now we know what the concepts of being and becoming are, and we are able to see that identity too, being, and existence are also relative terms. Identity then comes to mean a concrete thing, and it becomes: “identity” (as distinguished from mere identity, and it’s more difficult to define). In this sense identity is a real entity existing apart from things that are not. It’s a reality that is beyond time and matter, beyond life itself, and beyond personality. It’s the definition of person, property, and government. It is the source of all that we are.
But what is this substance that this identity is? This substance is Language. This identity is therefore necessarily connected with human consciousness. The very concepts of man and his identity – what he is, who he is, how he thinks, feels, and is – are inseparable, and their separation is a fiction that was born out of the history of post-human existence. This fiction of the history of mankind is the history of language.
Language, when it becomes the consciousness of a person, ceases to be a mere abstract concept, but becomes a specific and particular reality. Language, when it becomes human language, ceases to be abstract and meaningless, but becomes a precise and specific means of communication. The very process of communication, when it reaches beyond the physical and becomes subjective, ceases to be subject to laws of chance and contingency, but becomes instead something that is predictable and already established as a logical and natural part of all interaction.