“In the beginning was the word…”
“…and the word was god.”
My youth was spent immersed in a form of neo-fundamentalist, conservative, evangelical Christianity. It would be difficult for me to estimate the number of bible readings, passages memorized, commentaries consumed, and sermons received during my first twenty-some years of life.
Twenty-some years later, libraries of world literature later, this particular phrase, passage, verbal construction remains like a haunting, a rule, a resonance and reverberation of the deepest sort – a kind of First Sentence that rises and echoes in me whenever I turn myself to writing. A statement some whole of me attached to in presumptive belief and passion that constitutes, in its way, the work of my adult life.
In what “beginning” was the word? And what was that word, are we to read this word as, literally, “god”? Or are words themselves divine, godlike in their creativity and actionable functions? In the full passage we read that the word is both “with” god and itself god…a quintessential meta-statement from whatever interpretive stance one selects.
“In the beginning was the word [in beginnings words become? In words become beginnings?],
and the word was with god [words that are with] and the word was god [words that are].”
Religiously: when humans spoke “god,” gods became. Conception creating realities. Referentiality – a term is attached to an object, idea, relation…and the object, idea, relation begins to become that term (and vice-versa, through public practice).
Words epitomize co-creation, collusion. I am a tiny human organism, an infant birthed into a community of persons. This community attaches a term to me: “Nathan.” I grow into that name, define and fill it with characteristics, behaviors, activities, experiences…and, for my communities (the others I relate to) that word “Nathan” comes to mean my specific organism in the world.
Words are beginnings, are like relational diagrams, invisible cross-hatchings and webbing throughout lived experience as humans – inceptions of internal and external possibilities and limitations via their activity as connective linkages, as references and realities. Every term is metaphor – symbol, signal, object – requiring its interpretant. The multi-sided act: language.
So what began with language? Language that joins with and is?
I suggest meaning. Conscious participation, co-mmunication, reflective relating.
Religiously: posit Supreme Being and it posits world. Speak reality and reality speaks. All a matter of relating, relation…communication…language.
World becomes via collaboration, interaction – made possible through efforts of mutuality and distinction: gestures, intelligible utterances, multilogues, dialogues – communication.
Possible interpretation: A god languages “god” into being. “Unicorn,” “fairy,” “truth,” “quark,” “molecule,” “consciousness,” – invisible, imperceptible “realities” language (WITH) and then become (ARE). Subsequently the commerce and exchange of the universe alters…
Each utterance brings new relations and thereby new “things/realities” into concourse.
I can believe that what begins in language (or, communication/relation/collusion) is MEANING (such a word as “god” itself).
I find, trundling through countless notebooks, pages, typescripts, letters and journals, that at the head of any larger work or endeavor I attempt is inscribed this personally indelible takeaway from my youth’s indoctrination:
In the beginning is the word
a thing that creates in being constructed
always co-constructed WITH something else/Other
and becoming something else/Other in its utterance and collusion
organism + environment = meaning
all reality resides in relation
all of these also words, beginnings, possibilities
In beginnings are words
and in words begins begins begins
ever forging relations into realities into relations
tying things one to another to another to another
en route as route