the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.
Hey. Thanks for coming through.
There’s this quote I really enjoy, wanted to share it with you. It goes…
“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
I think Lau Tzu said that, or maybe Gandhi.
Eskimos understand at a fundamental level that not all snow is the same.
In the late 1800’s, Franz Boaz went up north to study their culture, and found (among others things) that the Inuit have something like fifty different ideas that could all refer to what most would simply settle for as ‘snow’.
I know you’ve heard the story.
Just bear with me.
From the chilly Chicago suburb of Homewood, and so I especially appreciate this.
In fact, friends from home could probably list off four to five different ‘types’ of icy precipitation off hand; from slushy big flakes that cause massive slowdowns, to the light fluff that’s fun to make snowballs with.
So what’s my point?
Words are important.
And sure, we all know this, intellectually.
But do we act like it, practically?
Words let us label thoughts in such a way that they become accessible to all who share the language. Essentially, they’re just symbols that provide the crude mental scaffolding for the collection of our shared ideas.
They grant us new perspectives. They let us think differently.
Words have the capacity to determine the trajectory of our lives.
Acting either as a freeing force that breaks down constrictive dogma, or as a reinforcement to the status quo, keeping users shackled to old ways of thinking.
I’m getting there.
The English language is home to over a million words, yet we only use about twenty thousand on regular basis.
Thats a lot of untapped potential.
Over nine-hundred thousand unused ideas, just sitting around.
Drying up. Like uncapped glue sticks.
When all we really want is to be connected.
See where I’m headed?
We are designed for intimacy. To understand and to be understood.
Yet, a majority of our relational bandwidth switched off.
Even of the 20,000 or so words we do use, most have been diluted overtime. Semantic drift sets in as core ideals get further away, and in our verbal amnesia we seem apt to forget that the whole point of this exercise in life is deep connection.
So, here we are in 2020.
Masked up, and socially distant.
My question is…
Are we really going to build the next generation of tools, applications, and societal solutions without first understanding – ourselves, and others?
Something has to underpin the growth we’re about to see.
Strides in research, technology, and education juxtapose a dangerous strain of tribal populism that seems to be the norm today. Attempts to do good are constantly hijacked by our inherent distrust of the “other”, and a mindset of scarcity keeps us stuck in a state of competition instead of cooperation.
I think, people are ready for a change.
And I sense it’s time to stop and reflect on the bold truths hiding in plain sight.
This life then becomes an exercise in empathy.
A reminder of what it means to feel.
And by beginning to observe how others felt about the world at different periods and in various places across history, we can maybe manage to learn a few things.
Again, these are reminders.
None of the ideas we’ll discuss are new. In fact, most are pretty old.
I figured we’ve already built a functional foundation of linguistic understanding, especially in the west – so my goal isn’t to convert you into a polymath.
My goal is to get you to reconsider what you already know.
Maybe if we do, it’ll cause us to slow down just long enough to think twice, gain perspective, and successfully steer toward the future we want.
So, I decided to make a list of twenty words.
(Aka, ideas disguised as language.)
Each weekday for the next month, I’ll reveal a new idea that I think could help humanity uncap its potential, and move boldly into the next stage of our collective evolution.
Hope you join me, maybe we’ll both learn something.
See you tomorrow, for word number one.