(Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind)

Joseph Gilbert


When we speak of the meanings of words, we are commonly referring to the things that they signify. When asked, for example, what the meaning of the word, 'water', is, we might turn on the tap and indicate the liquid coming out. Let us consider the meanings of the sounds of words. We are affected by the sounds of the words we speak/hear. The emotional effects of words' sounds of are the primary meanings of words.

It appears that most of us are not conscious of the emotional effects of word-sounds. However, in order for us to perceive a thing, we must be affected by it and it is that very effect that is the fundamental meaning of the thing. So, even if we do not know how we are affected by vocal sounds, we can assume that we are.

The subliminal effects upon us of the sounds of words inform us of the meanings of things named by them. We all recognize that we are affected by tone of voice, volume, cadence, etc.. We are also affected, mostly subliminally, by the articulated sounds of our speech. The spoken sounds, that are the building blocks of words, each affect us differently.

Because we are affected by the sounds of words, we are informed of the nature of the things named with words, simply by participating in language. In the evolution of our species,the informing function of vocalizations preceded their signifying function as words. This informing is done subliminally, and although we may be consciously unaware of how we are affected by the sounds of our words, we are nonetheless affected more certainly and consistently than if we were conscious of the effects upon us of those sounds. Effects upon us that we are conscious of, we can resist and influence with reason. Those effects that inform us without our knowing we are being informed, simply inform us with no judgment and modification possible. For example, if someone is subconsciously jealous of another, their behavior is affected accordingly. If they are conscious of being jealous, they can think about it and their behavior will be modified.

Why are we aware of the effects on us of tone of voice and volume and unaware of the effects on us of the articulate sounds of words? Is it because we use the words to refer to things and tone of voice to simply express what it itself expresses? Are we distracted by the referential function of words from their effects on us as sounds. Does nature 'think' we don1t need to know their effects on us. Maybe that would only serve to distract us from thinking about what we are talking about. What good would come from us knowing how we are being affected by the sounds of the words we speak? Would it only confuse us? This reminds me of the story-book caterpillar being unable to walk when its attention was brought to bear on the process of walking by the question of how it manages to coordinate the movements of all those legs. Nature is concerned only with getting things done, not with our being aware of how we go about doing them, unless we need to be, in order to survive. If the way we do what we do is not working, if we realize that we are not getting things done in a way that will foster our survival as a species, nature may bless us with understanding as to how to proceed.

Vocal expressions/exclamations, such as ugg, ahh, rrrr, eeee, mmmmm, arrgh, ooooo, etc., communicate feeling-states of vocalizers, to hearers. We need no explanation of their meanings; we intuitively feel/know their meanings. Their meanings are the feeling-states that they communicate. Why do we feel/know the emotive meanings of vocal sounds and not of words? The same sounds are used in both instances.

The meaning of anything is its effect upon us. Instead of asking, 'What does that word mean?', when wanting to know what it signifies, it would be more accurate to ask, 'What does that word signify?' Vocalizations express how we are affected by our world. Vocal sounds issue forth from emotional states in utterers and establish those states in hearers. Words arise from the intent to refer to things. The first meaning of words is our emotional reactions to their sounds. The second meaning of words, the things they signify, is commonly thought of as being their only meaning.

Before words, vocal sounds were solely expressive of internal goings-on. Sounds made in reaction to stimuli were expressive of the effects of the stimuli on the utterers.

When expressive vocal sounds were consciously associated with particular things, they became words. The meanings/effects of the vocal sounds remained the same after their metamorphosis from expressive sounds, to words as they were before.

What would cause our ancestors to associate particular vocal utterances with certain things? They may have observed the correlation between the presence of a thing and the utterance of a particular sound or they may have sensed the effect/meaning of their vocal utterances and chosen to use certain sounds to designate certain things, based on how they felt about those things. How far could the evolution of the ability to produce diverse distinguishable vocal utterances have progressed while our forebears were as yet in the stage of simply expressing their reactions to the things immediately present? What would have been the advantage of making the variety of sounds we now do vocally? Would it have been advantageous for the members of a group to be informed of the internal emotional happenings of each other? That is what primates do when they vocalize? It seems that the more intelligent the animal, the more they communicate with each other. The word, 'intelligence', refers to information, as well as to mental ability.

Vocal sounds, whether simply expressive, or verbal, cause feeling-states to take shape within all vocal/verbal participants, those states being as similar, person to person, as are the sounds that trigger them.

Vocal sounds transmit emotional states. Words transmit emotional states and also point/refer to things. The referential function of words subliminally equates our emotional reactions to the sounds of words, to the things named with words.

We are informed of the meanings of things by the words for them, rather than by direct contact with them. Words enable us to consider things that are not immediately present. They are intimate, being produced and experienced by and with motions of parts of our bodies. Each word/sound represents/transmits particular emotional states. The sounds of words are much more intimate and intuitively understandable than are the things referred to with words.

Sounds are evanescent, here momentarily and then gone, leaving no trace, except for their residual effects on our emotional states, and our memories. The things referred to with words, consciously seem relatively concrete and substantial, more real than the words. We assume that the word acquires its meaning from the thing it labels. Let us consider that the sound of a word is created and perceived with movement of our bodies, is reproducible anywhere at any time, is consistent through time and common to all who speak, while, the signified thing is foreign to us, relatively distant and our experience of it is often unique to each of us and is changeable through time.

Language establishes stability. It enables the passing-on of experience and the ability to cogitate and to collaborate. It also, allows, with storytelling, the intentional creation of experience.

We live by and through language. Our language is our culture. It creates our world view and, but for grace, determines our behavior.

Both our language-based self image and our language-induced concept of the nature of our world exist in our subconscious minds. Subconscious thinking proceeds more quickly than does conscious thinking. The conscious mind is tentative and relatively easily changed. The harder-to-access, subconscious mind holds conclusions, processes thought automatically, is not under our scrutiny and is difficult to change. So, we are not often aware of the reasons why we do what we do. We have the stories, (rationalizations), we tell ourselves, as to the causes of our behavior. The actual, deeper causes of our actions reside within our subconscious. We can infer what may be in our subconscious by observing our behavior and asking what beliefs/values/assumptions would cause us to act in the ways we do.

The cultural program of our distant ancestors was an asset to them. If we understand that we are affected by our subconscious and instill in ourselves information that enhances our viability, our cultural program will be far more beneficial to us.

The members of social species relate intuitively with each other due to common instincts. Human relations are facilitated by common 'cultural instincts'. Our cultural instincts, our knowing the meanings of the things that exist in our world, result from our being informed of those meanings by the effects on us of the sounds of the words in our language.

Subconscious consensus determines the course of social events. Perceptions we hold in common create consensus. Our use of common words, establishes our common perceptions.

Things were named according to their effects upon the namers: The names expressed and communicated those effects/emotions.

Language makes common sense of the things that make up our world. We perceive things commonly by virtue of language.

Through evolution, the ability to produce sounds vocally arose. Vocalizing was advantageous because vocalizing communicated and communicating was advantageous. Vocalizing communicates by transmitting vibrational patterns from one organism to others. The audible sound made by the passage of air into and out of the body, (breathing), communicates conditions of the organism, by sympathetic resonation. The emotional condition of the utterer is transmitted by the vibrating of their vocal apparatus and the resultant analogous vibrating of the auditory apparatus of the hearer. This causes an emotional condition analogous to that of the utterer to be established in the hearer.

The evolution of lungs provided the opportunity for the somatic goings-on of one organism to be transmitted, (communicated), to others due to the sound vibrations caused by breathing. The flow of air into and out of the organism and hence, the sounds made, are modulated by the instant condition/state of the organism. Vocal cords evolved because they enabled organisms to produce sounds of greater frequency-range and volume.

Similar structures vibrate similarly. There is more receptivity to vocal communication among members of the same species than there is between members of different species. It was of great importance for the survival of social organisms to be informed of the somatic goings-on of the other members of their group. Vocal sounds express and transmit those emotional conditions between and among members of a species. By this means, each of the members of the group share an awareness that benefits from the input of the senses of all the other members within hearing range, from their own individual perspectives and a unity among the group members is created, much as if they were connected by flesh and blood nerve fibers.

It may be useful to examine how we typically conceive of meaning as it relates to vocal sounds. It seems that vocal sounds are largely regarded as being meaningless, and the relationships between the sounds and the meanings of words as being arbitrary. This is because we focus on the external things signified with words, when looking for the meanings of vocal sounds. The seat of the meaning of vocal sounds is internal. How is it that we overlook that words exist as expressive sounds first and secondly as symbols.

It seems that our attention is distracted form how we feel when uttering/hearing words, to what we think about the things that words signify. We need to be aware of how we feel about the sounds of words, of the emotions that these sounds generate/stimulate within our bodies. These emotional states are the meanings of vocal sounds and the primary meanings of words.

Because vocal sounds are used as signifiers in different ways in different languages, we erroneously conclude that the sounds of words are not universally or inherently meaningful. In order for this conclusion to be correct, it would need to be true that all of us feel the same way about the same things no matter what the circumstances may be. We do not all feel the same way about the same things, we feel the same way about the same vocal sounds we make and hear. If we assume that the primary meanings of vocal sounds, whether or not they are words, are those feelings/emotions that they express/transmit, a door leading to a new understanding opens, and the inner workings of language are revealed. If we look for the relationships between vocal sounds and their effects on us, we will learn about what our language instills in us regarding the meanings of named things. When we consider that the fundamental meaning of anything is how it affects us, it becomes apparent that everything perceived is meaningful.

Likewise, the notion of arbitrarily disappears when we realize that all things are related: There are reasons, perhaps unknown to us, for all things. We consciously feel/know the meanings of facial expressions. Their meanings are the emotions/feelings which they communicate. We usually do not consciously know the meanings of vocal sounds, because layered over and distracting us from their primary function as transmitters of emotions/feelings, is their secondary function as labels. When we talk about the meanings of facial expressions, we are thinking of emotions/feeling-states and when we talk about the meanings of vocal sounds, we are usually looking at the things that words signify/point to. Vocal sounds are meaningful in much the same way as are facial expressions, as transmitters of internal feeling-states.

Since words play a dual role, first as vocal sounds, and then as labels for the things that we focus on, they link our emotions/feelings, our primary sense of meaning, to the things that make up our environment.

Vocal sounds always communicate/mean the same emotional states/feelings. Whereas, those things themselves, that words refer to, effect us differently in different circumstances. The vocal symbol is more familiar than is the vocally-symbolized and is shared by all who speak the same language. Therefore, the inherent meaning/effect of the symbol tends to replace, in our minds, the inherent meaning/effect of the symbolized. When we name something, we imply an equation: 'The meaning/effect of the sound/s of the word for a thing=the meaning/effect, of the thing.' If two things are equal, in this case a word and the thing it labels and one of them is far more understandable intuitively than the other, we rely on the meaning of the more understandable one to inform us of the meaning of the less understandable one. Vocal sounds are subliminally experienced as being more meaningful than are the things they signify. And our experience of them is more consistent over time and more similar among us than is our experience of the things they signify.

The sounds we use to name things determine what they subconsciously mean to us. What they mean to us determines their value, and their value determines how we behave relative to them. If we would change how we behave, as a society, we should change the sounds we use to refer to things. I am herein advocating an understanding of the world, more associated with the feminine perspective than is the one our society operates according to; one in which our feelings and thoughts are given equal importance. At the present moment, our society seems to be biased toward a 'thinking-is-more-important-than-feeling' mode. Consequently, we are unaware of most of what motivates us. In actual living we are constantly influenced by values contained beneath the surface of our consciousness. Because we are conscious of only part of our mental workings, we tend to believe our motivation originates exclusively from that part of our minds. Actually, our primal experiential process, which is usually generated subconsciously, influences us constantly and without our awareness. The 'mother', (the matrix), affects us from our root. Our language/culture is our social and normally our personal matrix.

I define "culture" as, "the mind of society". Our cultural mind is our sense of meaning and is instilled in us by the words/names contained in our language.

Due to evolution, culture replaces instinct. Instincts, and conditioning inform languageless species of the meanings of whatever they encounter. Language informs us of the meanings of things, creating greater adaptability and also the potential for 'getting out on a limb'. Language creates individual and social stability by providing us with consistent meanings of things. It equips us to manipulate consciousness and consensus, however only within its parameters. We are both enabled and limited by our language.

Our minds function according to the meanings of things, supplied to us by our words, much as if those meanings were supplied by our own interactions with those things. We think instinctively with the tool that is our culture, our language. It gives us the feeling of knowing what is going on. It seems to inform us of the meanings of named things.

The effect/meaning of the sound for/name of a thing is not necessarily the meaning that we would, upon consideration, think of as being the meaning of the thing. What are the meanings of things? We must know how things effect us in order to know their meanings.

"In the beginning was the word." This well-known statement is about the beginning of consciousness, the beginning of knowing, the beginning of being able to manipulate reality, as God does. The genesis of our culturally-enhanced individual consciousness and of our collective consciousness occurred simultaneously with the emergence of language.

Why are the letters of alphabets arranged in the orders that they are? Were those orders fully consciously created or caused by forces unknown to those who first put them in order? Much the same as we recognize familiar patterns in clouds and in ink blots, the originators of our alphabets subliminally felt familiarity with certain sequences of sounds. Those sequences are represented by our alphabets. This pattern recognition moves us to create things which resemble things familiar to us.

The order of the symbols of our alphabet represents the story of a person's life. I have discovered the meanings of the sounds of the letters of our alphabet and am able, to a degree, to represent them verbally.

  How can one convince others that vocal sounds are meaningful? How could one convince others that facial expressions are meaningful? Facial expressions convey/transmit information/emotional states and that information is their meaning? Most of us need no convincing of this. We do need convincing that vocal sounds are meaningful. Why? Vocal sounds are meaningful in much the same way as are facial expressions? However, we are not aware of their meanings because the meanings of vocal sounds are usually only sensed subconsciously. What is the meaning of 'meaning'? Is there such a thing as a meaningless thing? Can one thing be meaningful and another thing not be? We typically recognize meaningfulness only within a narrowed context. We consider the meaning of a symbol, 'A', to be that which it symbolizes, 'B'. Supposing what it symbolizes, 'B', were, in turn, used as a symbol for another thing, 'C', whose identity we did not know. Would 'B' then be meaningless? Does 'B' lose the meaning it had when it was the signified when it becomes the signifier? We think that the signified defines the signifier but the opposite is true. If we were in touch with our subconscious minds, we would see that the effect on us of the signifier becomes the commonly perceived meaning of the signified. Does a thing loose its own meaning if it becomes a symbol, and take on the meaning of the thing it signifies? To the contrary; the signified takes on the meaning of the signifier. What we consider to be the meaning of anything is dependent on context. We are the context. The meanings of things, including sounds used as symbols, are their effects on us.

If we do not see how an unfamiliar thing relates to any familiar thing, we consider that thing meaningless. How can a meaningless thing acquire meaning simply by being related to other things that would not be meaningful if we did not relate them to still other, known things? What is the keystone of the interconnected web of acquiring meaning by association? What must everything be related to in order to be meaningful?

Everything must be, in order to be meaningful, related to us. And, of course, it is. Words subliminally inform us, simply by the effects on us of their sounds, what every named thing means. We are at the center of the picture in the establishing of meaningfulness. Things become more meaningful as we feel more related to them. Words relate things to us. With vocalization, we express how we feel vis à vis what goes on. Verbalization is the bridge/link between how we feel and the external world that stimulates our emotions/feelings.

All things perceived are meaningful, in that they impinge upon, (cause an effect), within us. We could not perceive them if they did not, in some way, touch us. It is that very impingement, that change they cause in us, that is their meaning, subliminally. Names inform us, by their subliminal effects on us, of the meanings of named things. Relating them to other named things adds to their meaning. Which do you suppose influences our thinking processes more strongly, the meanings of words as per the effects on us of their sounds, or the meanings of words as per the effects on us of the objects which they refer to? The meaning of the sound of a word is the effect on us of the vocal symbol itself: The meaning of the thing the word signifies is indirectly and tentatively related to the sound of the word.

The non-language-derived meaning to us of a thing is determined by its inherent nature and what we can do with or about it. The meaning of a heavy hammer is different to different people depending on how strong they are. Some can wield it and some cannot. The meaning of the word-sound, 'hammer', or any other given word-sound, is the same for all of us. Naming things creates common meaning where there was individual meaning without names.

All things relate to us and their meanings are whatever their effects upon us are. Symbols, being things, independent of their roles as symbols, effect us as things. The effects on us of symbols are present, intimate, tangible and, in the case of words, generated by volitional acts using the body, (speaking). We may not know/feel the effects/meanings of things distant from us, but we do subliminally know/feel the effects/meanings of the vocal sounds used to signify those things. The effects/meanings of vocal symbols stand in place, subliminally, of the effects/meanings of the things they signify. We bestow meaning upon things, we order our world with words. WORD = We ORDain.

When we see something unfamiliar and unnamed, we ask, 'What is that?' When we are told its name, we get a feel for it, we subconsciously feel we know what it is.

When one thing, (a symbol), is used to equal another thing, (a signified), the one with the stronger meaning-pressure informs us of the meaning of the one with the weaker meaning-pressure. The meanings of symbols produced by our own bodies are stronger, in that they are more intimate, tangible and consistent than are the meanings of things external, that relate circumstantially to us. This is especially true when the things being verbally referred to are out of range of our senses. Life separates itself from its environment by tissue barriers, (membranes). This protects it from the disruptive goings on around it. However, in order to react adaptively, living organisms must be in contact with their surroundings. Sense organs serve this purpose. Language functions in a way analogous to sense organs, in that we connect with things remote to us, with words.

We commonly think that we derive our sense of the meanings of things from the nature of the things themselves. This seems reasonable enough. We have our conscious thoughts, based upon our own experiences, about whatever we come into contact with. These thoughts change with the changing circumstances of that contact. The nature of our personal interactions with things are constantly in flux, unique to each of us, and inform us of the meanings of things accordingly. Conversely, the constancy and commonality of language establishes our collective sense of the meaning of our world.

We commonly choose particular signs/icons to refer to things in order to purposefully influence other's perceptions of issues. This choosing of symbols, done within the parameters of existing language, depends upon the function of words as signifies. If we were to create new words, based upon their effects on us as sounds, we would be creating culture.

Things mean whatever they do only because of their effects on us. Their effect is their meaning. If there is no effect, there is no perception and no meaning. Everything perceived is meaningful, its meaning being the effect/change it causes within us. Things become more meaningful the more we can relate to them. A thing may mean anything depending upon its effect on us. By contrast, the sounds of names for things always affect us in the same way. The meaning of the sound of the name is stable through time. Without the intermediation of the name for the thing, the meaning/effect on us of the thing varies, depending on changing circumstances.

For those who share common language/naming, subliminal consensus regarding the meanings of things, exists.

We are summarily informed of the meanings of things by the labels/words for those things.

By, 'things', I mean anything we perceive as being separate from the background of sensation against which it is perceived. Words guide our thought process by providing a system of meaning of things in terms of the meanings of the sounds of words. Our thought processes take place according to the structure of our language. We represent things with words and manipulate those words until we feel we have an understanding of our relatedness with those things. We seem to be unable to think progressively without language and we do not realize that we are not thinking independently when we think with language. Can we really think independently with language, or are we merely going with the flow? Are we given the experience of virtual conscious intentionality simply by participating in language?

Thinking with words is different than thinking with images, in that words are created by our bodies and then perceived by us, whereas images are perceived as they come to us. There is no culturally-prefabricated structure to the pattern of images that we perceive. Language is of, by and for humans. Thinking with words is like traveling along a highway that is being laid out by ourselves just ahead of ourselves. That is why we can think so well with words, they are made of our own stuff. Using words, we are thinking with how we feel about things. Our words were derived from how those who originated them felt about the things that they named.

The fact that language was not created by us by conscious intent and is therefore thought of as being natural, does not make it an accurate representation of the nature of things named. There is history and wisdom in language, not necessarily infallibility regarding its function of attaching meaning to things.

It is a new idea for most of us that the commonly accepted meaning of anything is not determined by the thing itself, but by the word for the thing. We typically consider the meanings of words to be those things that they signify. I am referring to an entirely different kind of meaning. One may think of this meaning as being the effect/s that any word causes within us. Before words, vocalizations communicated somatic states of vocalizing organisms. Those vocalizations were in reaction to stimuli, such as the discovery of food or the appearance of danger or one1s intentions toward other members of one1s group. One might say that the danger cry, for example, was the pre-word for danger. In its most primitive form, the cry simply created a certain effect and this effect was the meaning of the cry. When the reactions of our forebears became more refined, there was a cry, for example, for the approach of a leopard and another for the presence of a snake. There was a time at which we became aware of our vocal expressions, as things themselves and started using them as words to talk about things, not merely to express our reactions to present dangers and/or opportunities.

Having a learned set of vocalizations is the inception of culture. Culture/language grows from the mind of humans. It would be helpful to see language as the natural phenomenon that it is and not as if our culture and ourselves were somehow outside of nature.

Biological evolution takes place very slowly relative to cultural evolution and especially to technological evolution. The rate at which biological evolution occurs is often fast enough for a species to adapt to a changing acultural, non-industrial-technology environment. We change our environment due to culture at a rate much too fast for us to adapt by natural biological evolution. And cultural evolution is much too slow for us to adapt culturally to the changes wrought by our evolving technology, unless we culturally evolve purposefully. If left to its own devices, our society would sooner or later be destroyed by the inadequacies of its culture. So, we ought to learn how culture works and design it for our survival.

There are two possibilities regarding the function of language. One is that words merely refer/point to objects of our attention. The other is that words impart information about what they point to. The first premise assumes that nothing is conveyed by the sounds of speech, that vocalizations have no effect on us, no meaning. The second premise assumes that the sounds of speech communicate information as sounds, whether those sounds are simply vocal or are constituents of words. Which view is consistent with what we know about the character of nature? Nature, in her interconnectedness, always accomplishes the most with the least.

Vocalizing originally was expressive and not referential.We recognize that emotive vocal sounds convey meaning. These are sounds that are not used as signifiers but only to transmit their own effects/meanings. We recognize that tone of voice, rhythm and volume convey information. We recognize that all those parameters express our emotional goings-on. All vocal sounds express our emotional goings-on, including the sounds of speech. Using vocal sounds to make up words does not cause them to lose their meanings as sounds. Much as we share much of the same genetics with related species, our vocal sounds mean the same to us now as they did before we began to use words.

Nature builds on existing structure.

The meanings of the sounds of the letters of the alphabet are as follows:

A= an awakening, seeing something for the first time.
B= being blocked, thwarted, meeting an insurmountable barrier.
C= caring, cradling, attempting to encircle, to corral.
D= a dull heaviness pressing upon one's chest.
E= an emerging of energy from the head, chest and sacrum as in an emergency.
F= a projecting of energy far away into the distance.
G= a getting, gulping, gobbling, grabbing.
H= an asking for help, as if one were drowning or in some other way unable to survive on one1s own.
I= a recognition of or referral to oneself, which can occur only after asking for help for oneself.
J= an attempt to take care of oneself by oneself.
K= a projecting of energy from the chest, a relating to the entire world from one's heart feelings.
L= primal, primitive mammalian love, as one feels as the result of sexual bonding.
M= the feeling of experiencing pleasure.
N= an internal focusing of energy to a vanishing point. A negating.
O= a perception of the wholeness of all things, of how the meaning of something is revealed by how it relates to the whole.
P= a projecting of energy from the head forward as one does in the expression of concentrated power.
Q= a breaking of the perception of wholeness, generating a question.
R= rage, the directing of power downward.
S= loosing energy.
T= the state of being tired, the undirected projecting of chi/energy from the head.
U= the giving up of one's energy to another/others, as one might do when one does not know how to use it oneself.
V= the outward flowing of energy to what seems like a vanishing point, as parallel lines appear to converge in the distance. This is similar to the 'N' but external rather than internal.
W= weness, being with another/others.
X= a mutual crossing out of two people each by the other.
Y= two seeing the same thing, as we do before we can agree with each other.
Z= means that one has seen all there is to see about oneself. It is used commonlyto represent sleeping.

Symbols are not content-free means by which we merely refer to things. Rather, the things we use as symbols are especially meaningful. We use them to represent other things because their effects on us, (meanings), as things, are relatively easily felt, and because they seem to embody the essence of the things they signify.

To reiterate; the symbol/sign stands in for, and takes the place of the signified. To hold that one thing, (the sign), means another thing, (the signified), is to hold that the fundamental effect/meaning of the sign is the fundamental effect/meaning of the signified. We participate in this obviously-flawed process because of the handiness of using icons/symbols.

Visual icons signify things external to us by similarity of appearance to their signifieds and sometimes, as it is in the case of words, they represent our emotional reactions to things that are external to us. By having words for things, we externalize them; we externalize their effects on us. This is because we can volitionally create their effects by speaking. That which we create is external. That which we only experience is mysterious and exists within us, like a ghost wandering in a labyrinth. We talk about things to 'work them out', (of ourselves), so we can bring them out in the open to see them to gain understanding.

Of course, we can go out of our way in selecting things at random to stand as signs for other things but that is not how it happens in every-day life.

Name-calling is an example of the meaning of the sign transferring to the signified. If we call someone a fox, or a pig, or a rat, or an angel, the way we feel about them is accordingly affected. What does it do to call the small canine creature known as a fox, a fox? The animal is not its name. The name, the sound of the name, is an icon for the flesh and blood animal. We use the animal, 'fox', as an icon for a particular type of person and we use the sound of the word, 'fox', as an icon for the animal itself.

This tendency to associate an unknown entity with a known entity is done to gain an understanding of that with which we have no experience. We define the distant, the remote, the out of hand, with the instant, the familiar. For example, if someone asks what some exotic fruit tastes like, we typically compare it to some common fruit. We use the known as an icon for the unknown.

The only things known certainly are those which we take for granted. The meaning of things is uncertain, except for that which resides in the subconscious, that which we simply accept as given. Anything questioned becomes tentative, uncertain. That which is unquestioned, simply exists. Accepting something as given is the only way we ever seem to know anything, and the only information we do not question is that which resides beyond scrutiny.

There are things more known and things less known. Nothing is completely known and nothing is totally unknown, in as much as everything effects us and by that effect, we know it. There are only things with which we are more or less familiar. Our confusion resides primarily, in our conscious minds, where we question our familiarity with things. Commonly, our consensus-familiarity with external things is by means of the icons we use to refer to them. We are most familiar, certainly subconsciously and somewhat consciously, with our own emotions. Vocal sounds represent and transmit these emotions. Therefore, with words, we are using the most familiar, (our given, our own emotions), to describe/define everything else.

It makes sense that nature would have it this way; using the fundamental units of meaning, (our own emotional reactions), to represent the meanings of all other things.

We can alter our outer reality simply by manipulating objects. Our inner world, the emotions that course through and among us, seem just as wild and uncontrollable as the weather. It seems that, for most of us, our emotions are our given.

Anything means something only in how it affects us. The vibrations that emanate from our emotions cause resonant reactions in the receivers of those vibrations and, thereby communicate our emotional states.

Can we perceive the meanings of things from the icons for them, or must we have first-hand experience with them in order to know their meanings? If we use icons, we should use ones that convey the meanings we wish to associate with the things represented by those icons. Otherwise we would be misleading ourselves.

We intuitively know the meanings of vocal sounds: How can/do we know the meanings of those things we name?

In times of emergency, we tend to revert to more basic behavioral patterns, our most deeply worn grooves. The tried and true, the conventional, seems more reliable, less risky than the new, the individual. That which is sanctioned by society seems safer and is more basic to our conditioned responses than that which derives from our own separate experience.

Words are what we collectively feel about things. We learn the words for things before we have our own extensive experience with the things they signify. During emergencies and by habit, we slip out of our own easy-direct perceptual mode and into our default mode and rely upon our language/culture to supply us with the meanings of things. If the cultural default mode fails us, we return, as a last resort and desperately, to the mode of our own direct perception.

Language/culture is the intermediary perceptual default mode of each of us and much of the time, we are functioning in that mode.

If not for language, we would be informed of the meanings of things only by our individual experiences with them. One may ask why we would be informed by the sign/word rather than by the signified. The word is more intimate. Being created by a person by the intentional vibrating of a part of the body and being perceived by the hearer as a motion of a part of the body, the experience of the word is far more tangible, more constant, more familiar, assimilable and informative than is the experience of the thing it signifies. The messenger, (word), is often the only connection to the event. In the mind of the recipient of the message, the message becomes the event. Original happenings are replaced, in our minds, by stories, told in terms of the meanings of the sounds of the words we speak.

The mind deals with the world using icons. Could there be a conscious mind without icons? Supposing we can directly perceive the existence of whatever is without the intervention of icons; nonetheless, we cannot manipulate, in a seemingly-controlled manner, our perceptions, without creating icons for the things manipulated. Icons, like cartoon characters, can be made to do anything we would have them do. With icons, we can create new relationships between things and build structures not previously existing.

The analogy of a topographical map is useful to describe how language functions. Maps are made by those directly familiar with the territory to be used by those not. Those who operate by map are relying on established perception for information. Supposing the map does not get us to where we want to be? How do we replace it if we are not consciously aware of how it was made or even of what it says to us regarding the lay of the land? The map, (language), creates consciousness, that enables us to premeditatedly communicate with other humans. That communicating takes place with and as permitted by the tools available to us, the words in our language.

By nature, that which influences us subconsciously is not under our purview. We can be aware of these influences with our knowledge of the mind. Our culture is the repository of our stress and we receive an infusion of the seeds of that stress from it when we learn our language. People talk about survival-related issues. We are problem solvers. Speaking takes energy and, as it is with every other species, we expend energy only when it serves our survival purposes.

When we vocalize, we are reacting to stress caused by threat. It wouldn1t make sense to waste energy vocalizing about anything that did not impinge on our survivability. Words like, 'beauty', and 'love', are about solutions to problems. We selectively remember that which may threaten us and this focus creates cultures filled with apprehension.

We must be wary of that which negatively impacts us and much less aware of that which supports us. We only need so much support, so much food, water, warmth, attention from others, etc., but just one major negative event can kill us. One slip along the mountain trail could mean disaster but we can go on all day smelling flowers and listening to birds, eating berries and drinking spring water and none of these things would guarantee our survival. Culture is an attempt, by nature, to secure our survival. Our ability to understand the workings of culture is also an attempt by nature to secure our survival.

A bit of caution and wariness is beneficial but huge amounts of them most of the time wears a person down and makes us desperate. We are steeped in the worry-soup that is our culture and it makes us neurotic, anxious and dysfunctional. That which originally, (before technology), enhanced our survivability, (our language/culture), now, if not understood, will bring about our demise.

The fact that we can represent vocal sounds with writing does not remove them from our primal emotional roots. If we had a system of writing in which icons were used for representing the various postural and facial forms that express our emotions non-verbally and used those forms to refer to other things, would we be distanced from the underlying emotions expressed with the forms?

The stage magician focuses our attention on what he wishes us to be aware of and we do not notice other things he is doing. When we speak or listen to speech, we pay attention to what the words are labeling, not to the meanings of the sounds that make them up. There is no time or manifest purpose, for concentrating on the emotional reactions to/meanings of, the vocal sounds we hear when someone speaks. We know, subconsciously, what the vocal sounds mean, having experienced those emotions/meanings as infants, in reaction to vocalizations. The positioning and movement of the body is what we call, 'body language'. Vocal and verbal activity is also body language. Vocal sounds affect us by stimulating our nervous systems via vibrations of our auditory apparatuses. The emotional meanings of things referred to verbally are conveyed to us through our subconscious minds by the meanings of the vocal sounds that make up our words.

The given, the taken-for-granted, forms the basis for understanding the meaning of the deliberated-upon. Our fundamental assumptions provide us with this basis. Language instills in us these basic assumptions regarding the meanings of named things. With the number of different vocal sounds that we are capable of producing, we can create a great number of different sound combinations, each one potentially being a word. With the rules of sound combining imposed by physiology, how many different combinations are possible? Each sequence of vocal sounds, (word), relates a particular story about the thing named by that sequence. These stories inform us of the given meanings of the named things.

We try to 'be Good' but always seem to fail. This is because our notion of goodness is precisely that, a notion, an abstraction, a construction of our imagination, not an integrated working component of our organic being.

Marxist ideology, for example, was just such an abstraction. The attempt to transplant the Marxist world-view into the body-politic of the Soviet Union and elsewhere, failed because those bodies rejected the transplant much as our physical bodies reject incompatible substances. The underlying premises of Marxism were incompatible with the host cultures. Marx erroneously assumed that economic structure is the defining force in society. Culture is the defining force and economic manifestations grow from the cultural givens. If people were motivated by the values that derive from the premises which are the philosophical underpinnings of Marxism, we would already enjoy the world envisioned by Marx.

Before that vision can be realized, we need to have in place the culture to create within us the ability to participate in such a way of life. The original Russian revolutionaries knew, from personal pre-revolution experience and intellectual understanding, the reasons for and the desirability of embracing the values that drove their struggle. The next generation, lacking first-hand experience with the preexisting status quo, began slipping back into the culturally-driven attitudinal default mode. Eventually, the new players became much the same as the old players, in the unexamined and unchanged script of their culture. In its formative stage, language/culture changes relatively quickly. After it is more mature and established, it is resistant to change. Once consensus is established among a large group, inertia tends to preclude innovation. A new culture is needed. The radical approach is to reconstruct the root. Language is the root.

Some are loath to tinker with the established order. They feel that that would be disrespectful of nature. Humans, by nature, remake their environment. The plants we eat are bred to be more useful; the houses we live in are an artifice; the clothing we wear enables us to survive in diverse climes. We should have faith in our own ability to discern what is of value and what is to be rejected? Our situation justifies and demands taking the risk of creating a culture worse than the obviously-dysfunctional ones with and by which we currently live.

I was told years ago, by an established linguist, that, if I could show that vocal sounds are meaningful, I was, 'onto something very big'.

Is there anything at all in our experience that is not meaningful? Moreover, is there any way of communicating, more meaningfully than by vocalizing? That which touches us is meaningful; the more strongly it touches us, the more meaningful it is. One can claim to be untouched, unaffected by the various sounds made with the human voice and how can it to be proven otherwise? Hopefully, we will consciously sense and acknowledge what every child knows intuitively, that we are deeply moved by the sounds we make with our voice.

Please contact me at

or at 1037 N. Rice Road
Ojai, Ca., 93023, USA
(805) 646-7686.


Yours truly,
Joseph Gilbert