This post is for the February Carnival of Aces on the topic of Language and Communication.
“The truth that can be told,
is not the whole truth.”
The above quote is a translation from the Tao te Ching (probably the most Western one I’ve seen and used more in self help style books but still doesn’t lose the meaning). The simplest way to look at this is that the truth contains many components not all of which can be expressed.
So why do I use this quote when looking at language and communication, well ultimately as I believe it is futile that to believe we can fully communicate what we want to (sometimes even understanding it yourself is impossible) simply as we can say convey everything we want to. We use many ways to communicate from language to body language but what is conveyed depends on the how the recipient interprets what is being said. As this is the internet I’m going to focus solely on looking at how language is used to communicate within and beyond the asexual and aromatic communities.
Much of the focus within these communities is trying to explain their experiences. Yet how many times do we see people trying to work out what they’re feeling, it is not uncommon to see the question of What is Sexual Attraction? or Am I Feeling Sexual Attraction? This is despite many attempts to define what sexual attraction is, using many analogies from food to bizarre alternate realities. These attempts continue to constantly be made though mainly as despite all of this they don’t get to the truth of it, often due to what seems to be overlap with other types of attraction so more attempts continue to be made.
If we take a look at relationships we see the same issues with defining romance and labelling of different types of relationships. What is seen as romance varies from one person to the next. I’ve also seen many examples of people attempting to label their (or desired) relationships but unable to find a suitable label as they feel it gives off the wrong impression. The efforts to try to explain these feelings has resulted in an expansion of language, for the purposes of this post both wtfromantic and zucchini deserve a mention. The former is has been born out of confusion of trying to work out understand and convey romantic feelings whilst the later has been born out of the frustration of not being able to find an adequate term to describe a type of relationship without it being confused with something else (though the actual use of it will leave anybody unfamiliar confused and with no idea of why you are referring to a vegetable).
So what am I trying to say with these ramblings? Well ultimately we can’t explain the whole truth of what we want to. This is due to the fact that we are dealing with emotions and elements so subtle that they can’t be expressed accurately if understood at all. It also relies on other people being able to receive and correctly interpret what we are trying to say. Language itself is a limitation in this effort, as saying one thing will give somebody an impression that may not have been what you actually meant. We also have multiple words for the same thing and various for slight alterations from it or adjectives to further change the meaning. Yet it is possible to have a conversation and use completely the wrong words and get your meaning across as well (and sometimes even better) than when the right words are used (this example works better in direct communication with the benefit of other types of non-verbal or language based communication). It is pretty much impossible to get across the whole truth of what you really mean but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try.
When communicating we need to look at what truth we can get across, whether this means more simple or elaborate attempts to describe sexual attraction, more words for romantic orientation and attempts to define romance or new terms and words for relationships. Ultimately we can only try our best to get the truth that we see and feel across to others in a form that they can them form their own truth, hopefully understanding enough or our meaning in the process.