Philosophers of “the problem” of human existence…
Seemingly, This is a Problem
…assure us that thought happens when we engage with language, and within society, because that’s the deal with language: it’s an edge effect — not one thing or another but both at once. It’s like saying “we are where we are.”
Mullein, aka “Both at Once”
They’re clever, those guys. They look at words, then look at the world through a lens of remembered words and words cast up while remembering words, then look back at words remembering looking at the world remembering words as the haze of social meanings cast up by words when they sit beside each other …
Collapsing Fence Collecting Rain among Weeds
…and dream of nailing them to one particular definition. As it’s a hazy process, they then comment that “objects” all include this haze and the words that generate it.
Yarrow and Grass in Late Summer Light
Of course they do! This approach doesn’t solve the “problem of human existence,” though, because it can’t step outside of individual-social relationships, which it would have to do to get outside of individual-social awareness, so it says that the “solution” to this problem is in the total of these edge effects, because, well, it’s all there is. We are where we are. Here are two images of my city, Vernon. The first…
… is thus the same as the second:
When language is communication between members of a human social group words are a haze of meanings scattered around elementary cores. How could it be otherwise? Thing is, it’s not the only use of language in this valley, let alone wherever people are, so we might as well say: “how we use language determines how we use space; how we use space determines how we use language.”
Home Sweet Home
Seemingly, if one stays within words, engages with language outside of words, and relates the experience by saying, oh I dunno, “trees”…
Douglas Fir Trees, Some Crisped
… one is still addressing someone in society, because for someone to share your “thought” or “observation,” these “trees” are an abstraction from all the trees we (and our ancestors) have seen, and, besides, they’re not really trees but a way people have of standing between trees and society and making them real, making them “be,” by making them human, by witnessing and naming them, because before that whatever they were wasn’t “trees.” “Trees” is a human thing. This image does not show a tree:
Don’t let the waxwing fool you, either. It’s not a “bird.” Taking this a little further, there’s no difference between the mountain ash above and the fuzzy outline of the ridge below.
Or this fir, closer in.
The edge between the last two images is fire. It came last summer and burnt fast and hot. We could say that this fir (just below the black ridge in the image above) has survived the fire (because of thick, insulating bark) or we could say that this fir’s environment is fire (which it expresses as thick, insulating bark). In that moment between the two possibilities, when the fire flashes over us, we see ourselves: the ones who see as two possibilities what are neither “two” nor “possibilities”, except to us. They are not even “one.” They just are. It’s not really very hard to grasp, and is certainly not a problem. The being in the image above is likely old enough to be a pre-Canadian inhabitant of this place, one that grew up in the syilx homeland and was made a property of Canada along with the use of language that made it into a “tree”, the syilx into “people”, and their environment into “land” — all three of which are considered resources at the disposal of “Canada”, as it “develops” into “its” future. Yeah, sure.
If you buy that, you’ll see a mountain in the image above, instead of a story and a place of rising that joins you with it across space. Even as you cross the lake by boat to get closer to the rising, you are still in story, and can’t say you have arrived because “you” were already there. What is left behind is more than words can say and they shouldn’t, because it is there.