A startling introduction to communication and language

To be attentive in this moment would be to notice what is actually happening now. Are there familiar sounds or shapes that are recognized as words? If so, then right away we could pause to consider how language works.

First, why would we be interested in how language works? How is language important?

Language is used to communicate, so how is communicating important? What is the practical value of communication?

To find the answer, we can observe animals interacting with each other. When two animals see each other, do they stay still, approach the other, or move away?

When an eagle sees a rabbit, the eagle tends to approach and the rabbit tends to flee or at least freeze, right? Two dogs who do not recognize each other may bark at each other. The barking may express a variety of tones: a tone of aggression, of curiosity, of joy, or of distress.

So, why would a dog make any particular sound: growling, howling, whimpering, yelping, and so on? What is the basic function of those sounds?

We can define communication as any action that is intentionally designed to influence some other creature, especially in regard to their behavior. When a puppy squeals to attract the attention of its mother, that is an expression of distress and alarm. The puppy is calling for help. That is one instance of communication. Clearly, communication does not always involve language, though all language involves comunication.

When an eagle speeds toward a rabbit, is that communication? Is the eagle intending a particular response from the rabbit? Is the eagle exhibiting a preference as to whether the rabbit runs to the left or the right?

Generally speaking, most actions are not intended as communication. Communication is an action intended for the specific purpose of influence. With communication, there is typically a preference for a specific kind of response.

For example, if two people are playing a game of tennis, they may occasionally communicate without any speaking. How could they influence the other player without even using language?

Imagine that one player may act as if they were going to hit the tennis ball toward a particular area of the court, but then suddenly redirects their swing. If the whole process (of going one way and then suddenly switching directions) was planned from the start, then we can call that deception.

The initial movement was intended to produce a particular response form the opposing player (to mislead them). The perception of the other player was being misdirected (or that was the ideal).

What was the deception? The initial movement was intended to communicate a particular future swing. The opposing player would be out of position for the actual final swing. That possible outcome would increase the chances of winning for the deceptive player.

So, the deceptive player was attempting to influence the movement and positioning of the opposing player. They were faking one thing and then suddenly switching to something else. Further, the entire theatre may have been planned before the initial movement was made.

If the tennis player simply changed plans in the middle, then the first positioning would not be an act of communication. Maybe the player was just preparing to hit the ball and then suddenly they noticed what seemed like an even better angle for hitting the ball. That is just a sudden change of plans.

However, if the initial movement was always intended as an act of deception, then that movement was designed for the sole purpose of influencing the perceptions and behaviors of the opposing player. In that case, the initial movement would have been an act of communication.

The kind of communication that we just considered (involving a deceptive movement in a tennis game) is common to many species of animal. Even actions intended to promote secrecy (like physical camouflage) can be communication.

In the case of a lizard that changes color to match the nearby surroundings, there may be no intention or awareness behind the change of skin color. The eyes of the anole lizard perceive the nearby colors and then the body automatically shifts to match the color- apparently beyond the awareness of the lizard. So, we could say that their coloration is not communication because of the lack of awareness or intention.

Also, in the famous case of a chameleon lizard, they change color based on hormones. When terrified by a predator, they display stripes that make it diificult for a predator to see them. In contrast, when displaying submisssion to another chameleon (like after a contest for territory), the withdrawing chameleon signals their shift from combativeness to compliance by suddenly turning gray.

In the latter case, we could assert that by turning grey, one chameleon is specifically attempting to influence the behavior of another chameleon. But does a chameleon ever retreat without bothering to turn grey? If not, then we might consider the shift to grey to be at most an instance of unconscious communication.

So far, we have given a small variety of examples about communication. What we did not focus on yet explicitly is the actual use of words happening here. While words have been used for this entire presentation, we have only been demonstrating some concepts without specifically talking much about how the words are being used as we go.

These words are being used to direct your attention. By presenting a sequence of words that may be perceived as distinctive and intriguing, your attention is being led by these words. Of course, all instances of language involve the leading of attention.

In contrast, as you stop thinking about a brightly-colored chameleon, do not think of any kind of a lizard at all right now again. That previous sentence can produce confuson by making commands that are internally contradictory.

Because reverse psychology is impossible, we must invest more resources in preventing it faster. Do not think about a pink elephant because pink elephants are not the right color of elephant to think about covering with pink paint.

So, one thing that cannot be avoided when using words is the directing of attention. That is simply what sequences of words do. Consider the example of puns and linguistic irony.

One to three, for example, is a range of two. Zero to five is a range of more than two, as compared to a range of one to three. (“1, 2 ,3 ,4”) For me, too large of a range can be confusing for the pink elephants that you are not thinking about now. If seven pink elephants got so hungry that the seven ate nine hundred thousand pounds of food, wouldn’t that make a total of eight dozen elephants?

Is humor ever too deceptive? Or, is deception ever too humorous? If two actors are pretending for fun to be other people who are not even comedians, how hilarious could that be?

According to none other than the famous author Santa Claus, words can be used in a way that is confusing by accident or on purpose. In fact, the contrasting categories of “accidental or intentional” are not discrete categories with specific boundaries and a clear gap between the two extremes.

Also, words can be used in a way that resolves confusion and produces clarity either by accident or on purpose or somewhere in between. In contrast, if two trains are traveling from the east to the west at 40 miles per hour, how much earlier did the first one leave before it is too late?

In order to learn, are you willing to experience occasional confusion? If you say that you are not willing to either experience confusion or to experience learning, does making a statement like that alter the fact of at least occasional confusion and occasional learning?

Does resisting something make it less annoying? Does giving something a new label alter the thing itself in any way?

If I paint a word across the side of a pink elephant that says “lizard,” how is it even possible for an elephant to say that? Elephants cannot talk, right?

But doesn’t painting the word lizard across the side of a pink elephant instantly change the color of the word lizard? If the elephant walks from an open meadow in to a forest, then does the word lizard painted on the side of the elephant change color?

So, in language we can create presumptions as well as expectations. We can direct attention. We can direct it relatively consciously or relatively unconsciously.

We can presume that there are two opposing categories such as good and bad that are distant, isolated realms that are like islands that do not share a border. Or, we can speak in superlative terms like best or worst. We can speak in relative terms like better or worse. We can use rating scales from one to three or from one to ten. We could even use a scale ranging from one to three hundred thousand.

People who are not attentive to the nature of language may presume that good and bad are actual isolated realms. They may presume that there are two exclsuive groupings of phenomenon called reality and imagination. However, isn’t it obvious that there is really such a thing as the labels imagination and imaginary?

Reality does not exclude the imaginary. Imagine that two pink elephants were images on a photograph. If your attention is focused on the idea of a photograph of two elephants, then does your awareness really exist or is it only imaginary?

The category of “imaginary” is a category in language. It is not an isolated island far away from the rest of reality.

The category of pretending is not isolated from the rest of reality. We can subcategorize the realm of “pretending” by dividing that region in to smaller regions, such as the region of misleading someone with words or the region of misleading someone in a game of tennis through a sudden reversal of movement.

The word “pretending” implies awareness of the pretense, right? However, someone can mislead another person without awareness or alertness to the misdirection. A child may innocently and naively declare to another person that Santa Claus cannot possibly be fat because some chimneys are very narrow, so that proves that Santa must be slender enough to go through those chimneys.

After language focuses the attention of someone, can it focus their perceptions? Can language suggest the labels of how someone should relate to something else or someone else, such as if someone else is introduced to them as a very bad person?

If Santa has a profile picture on a dating website and the picture of Santa is several years old and shows a slender young man who can easily make it through narrow chimneys, is that deceptive? How deceptive is it? How is it deceptive?

What does it mean for something to be forbidden? When a powerful person or group says that there will be penalties for misleading other tennis players by making sudden movements, are they simply justifiying certain planned future actions? They identify some behavior that is somewhat rare and then claim the authority to assess when a violation of the rules has occurred.

They make up rules in order to enforce penalties for the breaking of the rules. If there were no rules, then how could there be any penalties? Further, if there were no accusations of a violation of a rule, how could there be any justification for the punitive action (which is now called “the proper punishment for the violation”)?

If an umpire in a tennis match blows a whistle and calls a penalty for intentional misdirection of the opposing player, then as long as the players continue to play (and continue to relate to the umpire as an authority over the score in their tennis match), then the umpire’s ruling stands. Can the umpire change the rules in the middle of the match? What are the rules about changing the rules and who enforces any of them? How do they enforce them?

Can the umpire enforce a penalty by mistake? Can an umpire enforce a penalty knowing that the accused player did not actually commit the alleged violation?

Can an umpire blow a whistle, throw a yellow flag on to the ground, and call a particular kind of foul, but then later declare that there was “no foul on the play.” Is that what is meant by a false flag operation?

Should language be used to direct the attention of others? Should language be used to direct the interpretations and perceptions of others? Should language be used to direct the behavior of others?

Should there be such a thing as reverse psychology? Should there be such a thing as a social taboo?

Should there be rules? Should there be accusations of violations? Should there be actual penalties as well as verbal justifications made of imaginary words?

Should we divide language so that there is only one right way to use language over here on this isolated island and then way over there are a few different ways to use language which are all wrong except for the only one that is the right one? Should language be used to regulate or rule the attention of the masses? Should language be used to regulate or rule perception and the behavioral responses to perception?

Should there be such a thing as propaganda? Should there be such a thing as indoctrination?

If a classroom of students are all rewarded by a teacher for repeating back the phrase “indoctrination is wrong,” is that right? Are rules ever used to justify rewarding some people but not others?

Are rules ever used to regulate attention, perception, and behavior? Are rules ever used to justify systematic patterns of discrimination, prejudice, and inequity? If there are no rewards or penalties relating to a particular set of rules, then are those rules even actually rules?

If a particular set of rules do not actually rule over or regulate anyone or anything, then how can those rules be honestly identified as rules? If two groups of people have two conflicting sets of regulations and both groups passionately identify one particular set of rules as the only right rules, then do they both behave as if they exclusively are justified and yet the opposition is quite insane?

Is there such a thing as delusional hysterias of panic and, if not, should there be? Hypothetically, if there was such a thing as a delusional hysteria of panic, would it be something that the rulers would be likely to promote or to attempt to prevent and reverse?

Would the masses be indoctrinated about terrifying demons to worship with their attention? Would the masses be programmed that the most embarrassing and dangerous thing ever was being confused or if not confused, then slightly imprecise?

What better mental illness could the rulers create than perfectionism? What could be more crippling to the well-being of the masses?

Which specific form of perfectionism is the best one? Is there only one right way to practice perfectionism and agonize about how other people perceive you?

Isn’t it wrong to be attentive to how other people perceive you? Isn’t it forbidden to intentionally communicate in ways that could influence the behaviors of other people in relation to you?

Isn’t that manipulative? Isn’t that breaking the rules and asking for punishment? Didn’t Santa Claus promise to reward you after you die with extra presents if (and only if) you behave exactly in the ways that your parents identify as good behaviors?

Perfectionism should not exist which is why anything that I do must not be called perfectionism or else I will launch in to a very sincere fit of hormonal distress as I insist that anyone who accuses me of perfectionism must be an insane person with an imaginary mental disorder of fantasy hysteria. That is why I had to kill them, bake them in a big oven for 50 minutes at 350 degrees, and then feed them to the word lizard written on the side of my pet elephants.

That is all because anyone who is agonizing over how to be a better perfectionist is going to be rewarded after they die with eternal punishments in heaven or hell. In the event that Santa misplaces the records of whether you have been good or bad, then your body posture and patterns of chronic physical tension will be assessed for the display of grey skin, which indicates submission, shame, and cynicism.

Of course, it should not be like this. However, because there is nothing that anyone can do about it, we can pretend that there is a brand new political salvation that suddenly can magically make everyone on the planet above average.

Inequality is wrong and must be prevented from being invented so that it continues to never have existed as a linguistic category of an ideal which is designed to distract the target audience from a precise perception of certain patterns of reality that are extremely obvious. These alleged patterns are so obvious that some deceptive actors pretending to be somoene else and just reading along with some script have passionately asserted that the obvious patterns can only be ignored if people are intensely programmed to ignore them and constantly focus on something else.

That is why language and logic should never be used the wrong way. We must forbid taboos because if I know anything, I know that telling someone that a particular behavior is wrong (without actually taking any action to coerce them in to compliance) will always result in them instantly dropping whatever form of perfectionism that they have been worshipping and suddenly convert to whatever form of perfectionism that I announce as the only right one. Also, if you do things the exact way that I say you should, then Santa will give you extra presents when you die.

Just imagine what you really want most as a fantasy to motivate you, then do whatever I tell you because doing what I tell you is the only way to avoid the guilt of failing to get what you really want because of breaking the rules the wrong way. My rules are the only right ones. In contrast to me, anyone else who says that their rules are somehow inherently right is clearly a mentally-insane retarded person suffering from delusional hysterias of panic (unless of course their rules agree with mine, in which case they are reasonably intelligent at least to the extent that they passionately agree with me). Also, if I ever for any reason change any of my rules, then anyone who previously had that rule and was called insane by me suddenly changes in to a very respectable and remarkably intelligent genius who just accidentally happens to have the word lizard written on the side of the pink elephant that probably should not even exist.

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