Do we “know” what we’re talking about?
What can we (are we) know(ing) in words?
“that we cannot know the essence of language (that we cannot escape language in order to view it cognitively) – know it according to the traditional concept of knowledge defined in terms of
cognition as representation – is not a defect, however, but rather an advantage through which
we are drawn forth in a distinctive realm, that realm where we, who are needed and used
to speak language, dwell as mortals.”
“the human engagement with language in usage engages us in our mortality; second, our relation
to language, our dwelling as mortals with(in) language, can only be thought from our
‘linguistic’ usage, that is, from the way we are used and engaged in usage for the speaking
of language…in other words, we must speak the relation in order to begin to think it.”
“the ‘relation of relations’ (is now the relation in which language itself unfolds)
thereby our saying remains, as an answering, always relational”
So what happens in our palatizing of the palette of language, our utilizing and being-used-by the fund of signs and gestures we appropriate toward communication? Do we “know” what we’re talking (writing, translating) with, through and about? If we can never quite adequate our signs to individual or universal experience, if we line and limn the threshold of entity/not-entity with this matter of language(s), ever seeking to approximate the “all” of our experience into available sounds and gestures that might be sensed and understood, but incompletely, what do we actually result with(in)?
Samuel Beckett has written that the conditions of our experiencing are the “ill-seen, ill-said,” ever striving for the “well-seen, well-said” that would stop it all, silence us, allow us to rest…completely…comprehensibly.
We are limited, finite. Our eyes perceiving always from their particular point of view, their stance in relation to the world, turning, deleting, comparing, choosing, focusing, blurring out, etc…millions of things in order to see anything at all – “ill-seen.” Our languages and vocabularies, grammars and knowledge and palates are also distinct and finite, our experience (no matter how broad or deep) an excruciatingly microscopic fraction of the happenings of the world – “ill-said.”
In seeking to express the happenings specific to us into a world specifically various and multiplicitous incalculably, we encounter an inconceivable expanse, breach, rift between our microcosm and the macrocosms of microcosms that might possibly acknowledge us, share or join with our experiences.
Given all that…for what might we hope? What content, substance, matters might be communicable? Might we “know” anything together? What is the nature of the signs?
Here, Heidegger, Fynsk, Bakhtin, Wittgenstein, Jakobsen, Halliday and their likes redirect us…joyously. They point out that what is being known in languaging are systems of relations – our very connectedness – interconnectedness – in fact, utter mutual dependence, absolute co-dependence with our world and others. In examining HOW language is used, what occurs in the actions of signing and saying, they help us see perhaps further than the apparently impossible struggle or lost battle of adequate communication.
Our own using of language(s) already immerses us in relatedness, whether it is “incommunicable,” “private” (questionable possibilities) systems of marks, movements or sounds, or efforts at comprehensive lucidity to the widest possible audience. To “make language” means as much to be “made by languages,” as an abstract painter whom we find it difficult to “understand” is still using materials and movements theoretically available to all.
In other words, in languaging, we are always already communicating –with even as we strive to communicate. There is always a prior relatedness before we seek to relate. Therefore, every ill-seen, ill-said attempt functions as both a pointing out of the enormous rift between each and all, and as the suturing that cleaves the gap.
Signs are relation, whether “successful” “comprehensible” or not. This is where, again, Derridean deconstructionist mythologizings of differance comes handily into play.
Along the vast scale of gradations of comprehensibility – each understanding, correlation, comprehension, or connection is only possible because it can be apprehended, shared, insofar as it is different, that is knowable, identifiable, recognizable, perceptible.
So whether speaking to ourselves (teasing out our worries, fears, feelings, hopes and so on) or shouting for someone to get out of the way – the miscommunications, disjunctions, incompletions, multipossibles of languaging forge us together via incomprehension.
“Ill seen, ill said” means necessary relatedness…that knowing, communicating, saying, thinking, feeling, doing at all, requires a world and others, a world of others, even to be conceivable, perceptible, possible.
Singing (even signing “poorly”) might be said to be the “relation of relations,” relations exemplar in the very rudimentary awareness that a sign does not exist except as a human utilizes it, nor a human identifiable apart from signs and gestures (even isolated, or “to-oneself”). No self occurs until we make a rift, invent a sign that might refer, imaginatively separate it enough to treat as something capable of being investigated or related to…like all things for the human.
What we “know” languaging…what is experienced languaging, then, is RELATION – an ill-seen ill-said asking and answering toward….