Word and World: The Ghostly God of Style

Though language appears to us as a perceptual phenomenon, it can be as transparent and understandable as thinking.  Language consists of acoustic or optic signs for our understanding.  Understanding (meaning) is the hidden part of language.  It does not appear in the perceptual world, but occurs — through intuition — in the human spirit.

Georg Kühlewind

The Logos-Structure of the World: Language as Model of Reality

Translated from the German by Freidemann-Eckart Schwarzkopf

This is the first of my blogs in this domain, and my intention is to start some in-depth dialogues centered around my three most virulent obsessions: Language, Consciousness, and Time.  Like the Holy Trinity, the mystery of these three subjects is that they are not three distinct fetishes at all, but only three aspects of something which I have come to think of as the “unseen referent,” that strange attractor which always remains imperceptible and inexplicable, but which nevertheless is the source of all that we perceive and all that we attempt to explain.  By presenting examples from fiction, poetry, scientific, didactic and other types of discourse, future entries will offer a wide variety of ways to experience this tripartite God.  But first things first.  Before we can think about all the different ways in which language, consciousness and time create our world, we have to think about the process of expression itself.  We have to think about “style.”

Psychologists have known for a long time that the content of words carries only a small part of their meaning, the rest is borne through an invisible medium consisting of such vague enigmas as intonation, insinuation, references to past experience, idiomatic conventions and the like.  The wife comes downstairs and greets her husband with the words “Good Morning,” and the husband, brooding, stares into his coffee, and thinks, ‘what does she mean by that?’  This is easy enough to discern, if not decipher, in spoken conversation, but in a written text, it is camouflaged by something that we sometimes refer to as “style.”  Style is the poetry behind the facts.  It carries by some estimates as much as 95% of the meaning of any given communication.  So why is it that in our books, blogs, emails, textings, and tweets, we keep busily killing off so many different varieties of the creature?  Out of jungles and oceans teeming with different life forms, in our linguistic expressions we are making a desert monoculture, where comprehensibility is enforced by an almost universal adherence to what is sometimes referred to as “a conversational style.”  And although there might be as many versions of this as there our ducks in duckland, still, in the end, it is all pretty much quacking.

Although I am an avid reader, I seldom now buy new books, because the printed page has become a commodity product, where editors, in order to sell to the widest audience possible, have enforced this conversational style on every form of human expression.  It does not matter if a book is a scholarly work, a scientific one, a work of fiction, of theology, of poetry, of history, or of social science, — it has to be cut down to fit this same procrustean bed.  So, why is this important?  Why can’t we all be friends, and just have a friendly chit-chat on any subject, without worrying about this ghostly thing called style?  It is important because The Word serves, not only as the mirror and model, but also as the creator of our world.  And if The Word is impoverished, so are we, so, in fact, is everything.  If we equate, as we have above, linguistics with ecology, this process of killing off different styles of communication amounts to a  persistent dumbing down and dimming of consciousness.  It is as if we looked out on a forest, and did not see pines, and spruce, and hemlocks, and oaks, and alders, and willows, and laurels, but only one thing: “tree,” and that a “virtual” tree.


           *Surface Truth                                                          

            How is it then that style came to be

Looked upon as subterfuge, an ornament

Disguising the authentic, an attribute

Hiding the truth, and not the truth itself?


In its externals, every culture makes

Fantastic references to the truth.  Icons

Come out of Churches, visit the sick,

Exude miraculous powers.  Soldiers march;


Chickens are eaten; dogs are kept as pets;      

Sticks are placed at the crossroads of the heart.

The sun comes up and lights this intricate skin.

Everything leaps to sight, nothing is hidden.


Style is not a disguise.  It is the

Authentic surface of an inward motion,                                     

The dance of things that swarms into the eye,                                

Bearing that part of deathlessness that dies.

The poem, Surface Truth, by Roy Dean Doughty excerpted from Camera 144, A Monument of Wonders.

   Watch for the next installment of “Word and World: New Ideas about the Fourth Dimension”

As a daily practice conducted in conjunction with his Kryia meditation, Roy Dean Doughty has written a poem every day for more than twenty years.  He is the creator of The Ten Thousand Poem Project and the author of  Fourteen Poems, Yodo International Press, 1987, Clear Mo(u)rning, and Spirit Chronologies. His work has been featured on “The Oneness Program” KEST Radio, San Francisco, VoiceAmerica Radio, Phoenix, Arizona, and Unity, FM radio.  He can also be read at www.doughtyspoetry.comwww.doughtyJamesJoyce, and www.doughtysbrainfood.com

Look for Roy Doughty's powerful online course, "Creativity" starting October 4th — Offered through The TAO Metaversity.

Featured Images copyright Jeff Clay / Clayhaus Photography

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Word and World: The Ghostly God of Style | TAO • The Arts Organization


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