The Tower of Babel by Pieter Breugel - courtesy
Please click on pictures to enlarge.

The traditional representation of the Tower of Babel is that it depicts diverse nations, the multitude of races - in an apparently confused and futile attempt at cooperation to complete the tower itself.

he gigantic proportions of this construction always seem to hint at a degree of folly, the arrogance of the human race in trying to reach the heavens through any sort of achievement.

The generally accepted premise for the confusion being that all the nations of the world speak a different language.

Turris Babel by Athanasius Kircher - courtesy

I propose a subtle alternative - that the confusion is due to the constraints of language itself imposing a powerful influence upon the structuring of our thought patterns.

It will be obvious that language has developed from the ways in which we interact with our world, it is eminently human and is imprinted with our desire to communicate.

The faculty of language reveals the unconscious paradigm of ourselves and our world.

But this paradigm is an exclusively human view and is merely a layer, a purely mental construct, superimposed onto what is already there.

It is intrinsically the language of separation - subject and object.
Although language has room for words like "unity" & "holistic," they are nevertheless compartmentalised into merely being different concepts, alongside all the others.
Language confounds us even more with encyclopaedic lists of nouns - can you think of anything without a name?

Adjectives permit us to describe what we see or hear, allow us to attach shades of emotion to our experiences - and those emotions themselves come in such a wide variety of colours.

Verbs blinker our understanding into believing cause and effect, that actions actually occur involving subject and object.

As wonderful and necessary as the facility of language undoubtedly is, it is nevertheless only a tool.
A tool of creative, educational or habitual communication, but merely a tool.

In many ways it is not ideally equipped to communicate the absolute - having its roots and branches in the world of relativity, but as only a tool, we should not permit language to dictate to us how we think - inhabiting as often as we can, that other world, the world of silence, of the ineffable, the unspeakable - the miraculous world that simply speaks for itself, remembering that being is perhaps more profound than doing - and that the labels of Babel are useful, but not essential.

Tower of Babel by M.C.Escher - courtesy Jill Britton


Lucy Lopez said...

I could not agree more and I could agree to more of the realization that language is such an inadequate tool of communication. We assume its necessity for we have come to rely on it to communicate, hold and construct meaning!!! But should we return to the language of the ineffable, which is the language of Be-ing, how much more (powerfully and effectively) do we experience, communicate and create!!!

I believe the following observation might be of Zen origins - As soon as you give a child a name for something, it ceases to 'know' that thing.

Ellumbra said...

@ - Thank you for visiting Lucy & keeping the wheels of my mind whirring - that reminds me of a childhood memory I have very strongly - aged about 4 or 5 or 6 - not sure. But I was sat in an arm chair - when a dawning awareness, the very first association of what I was being, learned how to identify with my name - it crept into me like a rising sun. Up until that point in time I was "innocent" - flowing with an almost unconscious awareness - there was no prism, as it were, to deflect the beam.
I understand exactly what you mean by "know" - as in the deeply intimate "being alongside" - no separation, no barrier formed by thought. Yes - very Zen - the archer IS the target.

Carolina Z said...

Oh, yes... yes.. for our deepest, loudest colors, can as good as never be named.

The whole language scheme sounding pathetically futile...

Ellumbra said...

@ - Carolina Z - when the Grand Poet added alphabet bricks to our toybox, I expect he had hoped that we would retain His mastery when using them - little did He expect us to start building walls, or start using them as missiles.

Thank you for visiting, butterfly.

David Tamayo said...

I look at a dictionary attempting to define the world for me via the words contained within. It not having lived the life I have lived, walked the roads I have walked, won or lost the battles of experience afforded me by my intent. I have had many thought as to the impact of "Babel" and what it means for us and our future. I loved this post. Truly inspired thought. Take care. =0)

Ellumbra said...

@ David Tamayo - Thank you - it is truly thrilling to have struck such a resonance with your mind - and most generous of you to leave a comment.
Thanks again.