the ugliest duckling- on language and the reality of labels

Once upon a time there was a young goose who had been trained to be a duck. The goose was trained to be a duck by a bunch of other geese who believed that they were not geese, but ducks. So, it was natural for them to tell any other goose that it was also a duck just like they believed they were.

“First of all, your feathers should be black like ours, because you are a duck,” they said. Of course, none of them had black feathers, though.

“Should I say anything,” the young goose wondered, hoping that no one could hear it talking to itself. After thinking silently for a while, the young goose said to one other goose “what color are your feathers?”

“Oh, I do not have any feathers,” said that other goose, sounding rather annoyed. “I used to have white feathers, but since my feathers should have been black like any good duck’s, all of my white feathers were pulled out and no feathers have grown back since then.”

The young goose could clearly see the white feathers on that goose, so the goose thought that perhaps being annoyed is a sign of being presented with a possibility that does not fit with one’s presumptions or experience. Maybe annoyance is a way of defending against a lesson for which one is not currently ripe to learn.

“Isn’t it great to be a duck,” someone else said proudly to the young goose. “I sure am glad that I am not a cloud or a rock or a tree or a goose, aren’t you?”

“Uh,” said the young goose, thinking for a moment of what to do or say next, “yes, I am also very grateful for what I am. Thank you for reminding me.”

The young goose thought quietly that perhaps pride is also a way of announcing that a particular subject is not currently one about which one is ripe to learn. Indeed, the same things that geese may be proud about can be things that some geese are annoyed about. If one goose is proud of it’s allegedly black feathers, then that goose might be very annoyed by mirrors that reveal that one’s black feathers are unusually white, considering that they have been publicized as being black feathers.

“Well, I am really sad for geese,” said another goose to the young goose. “Can you even imagine what it must be like to be so amazingly ugly? And those geese are also not just ugly but unbelievably naive, truly. I simply can’t believe how naive they are! I mean, many of them do not even seem to know that they are geese. Plus, they can get so annoyed when people call them geese. Isn’t that annoying? Plus, some of them are so proud of being birds when being a bird is obviously nothing special. After all, you and I are birds, too!”

The young goose stared blankly at the goose who had just explained how it could be sad. Perhaps being sad or annoyed or proud requires a good explanation, an entire story, an attachment to some particular language for interpreting reality in a way that then produces sadness or annoyance or pride. In other words, perhaps being sad is a behavior that takes practice and discipline.

Certainly, being proud involves telling stories about which one gets to be proud. Could being annoyed also be a behavior that one cannot do without language? Is language the source of emotional states like sadness and pride and annoyance, wondered the young goose?

For no reason in particular, the young goose then said to the sad goose, “I am so sad about you being so sad.” To proud goose, the young goose said, “I am so proud of you being so proud.” “Finally, I am so annoyed, too, that you are so annoyed,” said the young goose to the annoyed goose. “Really, it is just mind-boggling, isn’t it, that anyone could focus on anything else besides the one thing that is so annoying that I keep focusing on it over and over and over, you know what I mean? How is it that anyone could miss the obviousness of the importance of that one particular annoying thing, huh, why, like can anyone give me even just one good reason, PLEASE?”

The other geese stared blankly at the young goose, blinking like they had just woke up from a dream, momentarily astonished. Finally, one of the geese said, “Thank you for opening my eyes. I don’t really know how it is that I am here talking with you, because you obviously you are just some crazy duck! How would you know anything about what it is like for me to be a goose? Plus, everyone knows that ducks can’t talk.”

Then, the other geese began talking with themselves, apparently about the weather. Soon, they turned south and flew away.

Now, which is an excellent time for something very interesting to either actually happen or to almost happen, the young goose suddenly noticed that it was looking at a flat surface, scanning across it noticing a sequence of shapes, (or maybe listening to some sounds) and making sense of them into words and phrases and a ridiculous story about an ugly duckling. Of course, this is not that story. This is a different story. That one is that one and this one is this one.

See, obviously those two stories must be entirely different. Which one this one is exactly… well that would probably depend on whether you are producing sadness or pride or annoyance or perhaps something else, if it could be a lie that those are the only three types of consciousness and there just cannot be another other type of consciousness, no matter what.

Anyway, in conclusion, I’d like to review the main points of this story. First, all geese are sad. Next, all ducks are annoyed. Finally, all birds are proud. However, all words are not really words at all, but are in fact reality.

Of course, all of this is something that you absolutely must keep completely secret, or else you would have to tell other people about it, and that could be very dangerous, right? Also, since no one already knows exactly how much fun that could be, and uncertainty is clearly the most frightening thing in the world, well, I think it might be at least- okay actually I admit that I do not really know as much about uncertainty as I used to pretend to know, but, anyway, wait, what were you saying the other day about how the only thing we are afraid to fear is fear itself?

That was just about the most hilarious thing I have ever heard. Tell it to me again, okay?

While the ugliest duckling is based on a true story, any resemblance to any other story, fictitious or factual, is clearly due to an entirely random series of keystrokes pounded by an entirely random primate on an entirely random device called a computer which just accidentally appeared out of nowhere for no particular reason. By the way, did I mention yet that I invented the internet, you know, quite accidentally?

Copyright 2010 by Jeffrey Robert Hunn

Published on: Jun 20, 2010

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One Response to “the ugliest duckling- on language and the reality of labels”

  1. Sad Sack Bullied By Area Goose | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source « Ye Olde Soapbox Says:

    […] the ugliest duckling- on language and the reality of labels ( […]

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