Notes on a word

Submitted into Contest #43 in response to: Write a story about transformation.... view prompt



1. I’ve learned this past year to approach words carefully. To doubt their worn out meanings and usages and dissect what they hide behind their messy surfaces. Deceitful, for they are manufactured, unreal, but still make their way into the ordinariness of people’s lives, until one give’s them meaning, until one is so attached to them that they become one’s main form of expression. To be without them, is to be lost, unmoored, in a world where one is unable to understand its signs and significations.

2. As words lead to other words, which lead to sentences, and languages; they evolve, grow, change, into unexpected forms. How is a word born? Who or what delivers them into the world? How does one derive meaning from an apparently senseless sequence of letters? Isn’t it crazy that if a person says chair, one can think of an almost infinite possibilities of what this chair may look like. That when someone says love some people will think of other people, their dogs, or the drawing of a heart. More than deriving meaning, how does one share meaning? Isn’t it amazing that even though two people engaged in a conversation might suspect they are agreeing on the same things, talking about similar objects, or picturing the same sceneries- one can never be sure? That even if people are really listening to one another, the fact that that minds are unique and so are nervous systems, people will inevitably create different synapses thus giving life to disparate forms and significations?

3. When I talk about changing the way to approach words I mean restoring them of their historicity. Trace their heritages, seek their ancestors, question how they got here in the first place. Wherever here may be- a city, a country, a language. How much land did this word ravage in order to exist? How many cultures and livelihoods have been erased along the way? For words are keepers of traditions, to crack them open, to strip them down, is to reclaim the responsibility one has in jolting them around.

4. Language is too a place of struggle. To shift how one relates to words means altering how they perceive the world. It alters how people know what they know. How they remember. It means acknowledging locations- the multiplicity of. It means keeping alive the many a worlds that inhabits oneself. I’ve learnt that I need to remember. That remembering serves a ritualistic opening of past wounds, personal and collective. A process that ignites critical awareness- of the self and of the whole. As bell hooks puts it; it’s a politicization of memory that distinguishes nostalgia, that longing for something to be as it once was, a kind of useless act, from that remembering that serves to illuminate and transform the present. It means to transform the present.

5. At the root of transformation is perhaps knowledge. The one societies have been running away from, hiding under their rugs or ironically hanging in the walls of their overpriced museums. A type of knowing that leads to overdue acknowledgements. A type of knowing that does not hierarchize its parties into subject and object. A type of knowing that does not exercise the right to appropriate and exterminate. Words. People.

6. To speak of transformation, that is, actions that lead to a modification in form, is to grasp its collective quality. One thus, mustn’t speak of a transformation. The definite article individualizes and weakens the word. Its strength is exactly in the fact that transformation can never be experienced alone. Perhaps one might think they have lived some type of transformative process all by themselves. Although I see how it might seem that way, I would argue that unless the person lives in complete and utter isolation from human and other-than-human beings, it isn’t true. In a cosmology where people are necessarily interdependent, perhaps the most revolutionary and impactful bit of transformation is the affect it has on the whole. It’s action that changes the whole.

7. I’ve learnt to trust the humming in my ear when I get to close to the feeling that I’ve got it. The current entanglement of phenomena gashes the hand that chooses to hold too tight to anything. So, I ask again: how to transform without erasure?  How to transform without forgetting?  How to transform without the need of creating something new and pure and perfect but instead to transform and allow the unlocking of repressed power? 

8. To ask how to transform is perhaps to ask how to act. How do actions create forms- micro and macro? Does starting at the level of language seem impossible? Or insignificant? To say that to change the way one approaches words suggests a new take on history is simply asking: does your tongue free you or fence you?

9. To transform is to act unapologetically. To be without fear or shame or guilt or anger. For transformation happens with the radical opening of creative space. A place from which to articulate different points of view of the world. A locus- both physical and subjective- that is created once one abandons the need to react, to create boundaries, to limit, to hurt.

10. For, as Gloria Anzaldúa writes, all reaction is limited by, and dependent on, what it is reacting against. Because the counterstance stems from a problem with authority- outer as well as inner- it’s a step towards liberation from cultural domination. But it is not a way of life. At some point, on our way to a new consciousness, we will have to leave the opposite bank, the split between the two mortal combatants somehow healed so that we are on both shores at once and, at once, see through serpent and eagle eyes. The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.

11. To transform is perhaps a long and daily process of choosing other forms of action. Thus molding other forms of interactions. Other routes, since the pioneered ones have already shed enough blood. To change the present making emends with the echoes of the past.

May 29, 2020 15:20

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