zen of effective language

Among the foundations of intelligence is the recognition of cycles. Any misunderstanding of cycles produces confusion and frustration, while clarity regarding cycles produces effectiveness and fulfillment.

To begin simply, what are some common examples of cycles? There are the cycles of day and night as well as the cycles of the seasons. Those cycles have consistent durations (that is, each cycle of day and night has a consistent duration with other cycles of day and night).

Other cycles have variable durations. In the cycle of the formation and dissipating of a cloud, a distinct cloud may last for only a few hours or, in the case of a hurricane cloud, that cloud formation may last for days. Besides normal clouds, there could be a cloud of smoke or a mushroom cloud forming over where a bomb has been detonated. Further, “cloud” is just a category in language, so we might refer to a cloud of dirt in water, which might dissipate within a few seconds, or refer to a swarm of  bees as a cloud of insects. We can refer to a cluster of galaxies as a “star cloud,” or to a group of asteroids as a cloud of asteroids. Those clouds of interstellar formations may last much longer than a few days.

Now that we are clear on the meaning of cycles, including cycles of variable duration, such as clouds, and cycles of consistent duration, such as seasons, how is a recognition of cycles a foundation of intelligence? Intelligence refers to a recognition of how various phenomenon relate to each other. Intelligence is a recognition of the order of how various phenomenon relate.

Recognizing the order of a pattern in nature is clarity and allows for effectiveness. A vague recognition allows for some effectiveness, while a precise recognition allows for dramatic increases in effectiveness and productivity.

For instance, if you want to do some work outdoors in natural sunlight and you know that the work could take about 4 hours to complete, it can be very useful to know how many hours of daylight are left (assuming it is already daytime). So, being able to tell time and accurately estimate the number of hours before dusk allows for effectiveness. A very eager child might begin the project without considering how long it would take and how many hours of daylight are left. A more mature child might be more cautious and thoughtful before beginning.

Further, are there clouds on the horizon that might also block the sunlight and reduce visibility before the completion of the work? This might


clouds (Photo credit: Extra Medium)

be a natural consideration for anyone who has previously started a project requiring light, but then has been interrupted by dark clouds. They might even check a weather forecast or a satellite image of cloud formations currently in the nearby region.

So, intelligence involves knowing how various natural phenomenon relate, as well as knowing how much relevance or priority to give particular details or issues. Which details are most relevant to know before starting the outdoor work project? How much detail is needed regarding the number of hours of daylight and the possibility of clouds and so on?

Amongst the most relevant issue regarding cycles and practical effectiveness is the cyclic pattern of cause and effect. A vague recognition of cause and effect allows for some effectiveness, while a precise recognition of cause and effect allows for dramatic increases in effectiveness and productivity. Further, any misunderstanding of cycles of cause and effect produces confusion and frustration, while clarity regarding cycles of cause and effect produces effectiveness and fulfillment.

Now, with a simple foundation of clarity in place, let us examine the cause of misunderstanding and confusion. Consider the example above of the word “cloud.”

What is a cloud? Is a cloud a specific category of natural phenomenon? Or, is cloud actually just a word in language?

English: Little Feller I. Mushroom cloud. The ...

Image via Wikipedia

“Cloud” is a label for a category of natural phenomenon, and that category may be very general, like “all clouds in the sky,” or may be quite specific, like “that mushroom cloud in this photo,” which is not exactly the same cloud as in the next photo taken a few seconds later from a different angle.

Words give the appearance of consistency. Of course, some cycles are consistent in certain ways. Of course, a mushroom cloud may not change much in a few seconds, but the first few seconds of the formation of a cloud can have some rather dramatic changes in only a few seconds, like the cloud of exhaust from a launching rocket.

So, misunderstanding and confusion can arise when people think that cloud is a specific category of natural phenomenon that can never change and is inherent in nature. However, “cloud” is fundamentally just a sequence of letters representing a particular sound and idea.

Cloud can mean many different things. There is no one meaning of cloud that is inherently more cloudy than any other meaning. Cloudiness is a linguistic concept which symbolizes not so much a phenomenon in nature as a particular range of human experience.

This is a very important point. There is nothing inherently cloudy. Cloud is a linguistic reference to a relationship, and the relationship always includes the speaker of the word “cloud.”

A large bellows creates a mushroom cloud at th...

Image via Wikipedia

A classic question of the Zen tradition is this: “if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to see it fall, did a tree fall?” Perhaps the point of the question is to note that “a tree fell” is a construction in language. Someone must perform the activity of labeling something “the falling of a tree” for “the falling of a tree” to exist… as an instance of labeling.

Someone must perceive and interpret some experience for the words to form. Someone must have an experience. For there to be an activity of labeling, there has to already be someone there, right?

So, if a cloud forms in the sky or the water or outer space, but no one is there to see it, then is there even a cloud at all? Until someone labels a pattern in nature, how do we know if that phenomenon is a cloud or a cluster, a formation or a pattern, and is it puffy or merely fluffy? The labeling process in language is a distinctly human activity of relating experientially.

“Cloud” is not the same as “cluster.” Further, every cloud is a distinct cloud. So, if in language I say “the same cloud photographed a few seconds apart,” then I just created one cloud (I just created “cloud” once). However, if I say “these two cloud formations photographed at this time” and “that cloud formation photographed three minutes later, after the two other clouds had merged in to one cloud,” then how many clouds were there?

There simply aren’t any clouds until someone says so. How? Because “cloud” is fundamentally a behavior in language.

There is no cloud “out there.” Cloud is created and exists only “in here.”

The only thing that is “inherently” out there is “out there.” Further, there is no “out there” until there is a dividing activity in language to create an “out there” distinct from an “in here.” In other words, where did “here” come from? If there is an “in here” distinct from a forest, but no one is even here to see a forest “out there,” then maybe there is no out there, no forest to be out there, and no none in here to do all of that labeling.

Cloud is not inherent to some external process. Cloud refers to a relationship between a speaker and… a listener! The alleged phenomenon labeled “cloud” may be “incidental.”

So, what the word “cloud” means not only can change but must change. Cloud is just a word. It is a phenomenon in language. Yes, language

21 April 1990 eruptive column from Redoubt Vol...

Image via Wikipedia

is a phenomenon of nature, but cloud is not inherent to language. Recognize the order of cause and effect here: cloud is spoken into being, cloud is inherently language, there is no such thing (in language!) as “cloudiness” until someone says so, because language only exists when someone says something.

Without someone, there is no language. For instance, without someone, there is no cloud. Of course, one may notice the one who is always here and always has been.

That someone that may actually be more fundamental to nature than language? Who or what is that someone? Ultimately, that is what the zen question is… “creating.”

However, if something is created through language, then how could it be more fundamental than language? No, it is not more fundamental. It is language.

So, one of the things I had in mind when writing this piece was the common practice of contrasting humanity with the rest of nature. There are certainly many ways to contrast those two linguistic processes.

Remember, nature is not just out there. Nature is an event in language. It is created “in here,” like all language.

Nature is a word for creating or creation or creativity. Humanity is just a linguistic subcategory of nature, a specific kind of creativity, which is distinct, for instance, from “ants.”

Humanity and nature are not like day and night (“opposites”). Nature and humanity are no more opposite than “plant” and “cherry tree.” One is just a more specific instance of the other. The linguistic relationship of humanity and nature is analogous to “the cycle of the seasons” and “any cycle” or to “2010” and “some particular year.”

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Anyway, for some reason, noting that humanity and nature are just two cycles that go together seemed important enough to begin typing this to share with you. Ah, yes, the reason for mentioning that: God is nature.

God is not made by humans. The God of nature is the only god. There is no other God but the God of nature. For people to present a model of God distinct from the God of nature… may be a source of great confusion.

As I mentioned elsewhere recently, God is the process of declaring something into being through language. God creates life. God creates humans, by which I mean all of the ones “out there.”

By the way, you are never “out there.” That may be because you are God. Note that whatever you say about that, it is the word of God… so, for God’s sake, God, please be careful what you say.

(transitional comments in the video)

So, (continuing the prior metaphors…) the trees grew until soon the forest appeared and then the cloud arrived later and said “I am in control of the forest. In fact, I created it!”

Similarly, people did whatever they were going to do anyway then discernable patterns of free market activity developed and then eventually the media and public schools announced that it was the influence of the moral superiority of the holy US Government that gave rise to the commercial success of the British colonies. Therefore, we should give our lives to try to preserve the influence of the dominant force in the universe, the US Government, because it is so unsteady that it needs our participation or else it will collapse and then we will be fucked because without the fragile existence of the US government, we would immediately be unable to breathe, which is widely known to impair sexual function.

Also, the catastrophe of 9/11/2001, which was actually not a conspiracy but was clearly just a bunch of unrelated but totally random events, was announced by the media as being the cause of an event that started several years before the cause happened on 9/11/2001: the peaking and declining of the US stock market, beginning in early 2000.

These are a few things that I know to be true. The cloud over the forest taught me well, huh?

English: Animated atomic bomb explosion. Polsk...

Image via Wikipedia

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