Saturday, April 9, 2011

Word-Crime

Word-Crime
by Scott Bradley


I recently re-read Orwell's 1984, a very chilling novel about absolute totalitarianism. One of the many crimes one could commit was thought-crime. All thought-crime would eventually be eliminated through the introduction of Newspeak, a language so stripped of subtleties that it would be impossible for anyone to think outside the prescribed box.

Since I began ruminating on Daoist/Zen concepts, I have been likewise developing my own special categories of thought-crime, which I will here call word-crime. There is a growing list of words which I try to avoid using. Among these are:

Pronouns: I, me, myself, mine.
Verbs: Believe, think, like, dislike, hope.
Adjectives: Good, bad, right, wrong, correct.
Nouns: God, truth, purpose.
Moods: Imperative.

This is just a sampling but should give an idea of what I mean. I use these words all the time, of course. It's unavoidable. Words are by their very nature both necessary to and incompatible with our attempts to communicate the aforementioned concepts (oops!). So, I am trying to loosen up a bit and stop tyrannizing myself with my own little version of word-police. This may also help me to not find fault with the writings of others who use these words, though there is a difference between a word (purpose, for instance) and the concept it might wish to convey (your purpose is...). I guess I need to work on the tyranny of thought-crime as well as word-crime.

In a previous post, I wrote something like this: What is special about Zen is the teaching that nothing is special. I hesitated at this, knowing that its obvious contradiction would provide an avenue of criticism to those so inclined. And let's face it, a predisposition to find fault is a very human attribute, and words provide a wonderful way to exercise it. They also provide us with an opportunity to better understand what makes us tick. It’s curious how we often define ourselves more by what we are not, rather than what we are.

In closing, I am going to commit a crime and say: I hope you are well.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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