The Prison

The Prison: One of the most structured place one can inhabit is the prison. I have not been in the place in the real sense, but from what we know, there is structure there. Everything is pre-defined. There are rules that must be followed, hierarchies that are in place, and any transgression is punished. From Alcatraz to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of the English language, we are placed in structures: From the guard towers to grammar. Any attempt to break out is a punishable offense. Even if many of my readers have not been to the likes of Tihar and Leavenworth, we are imprisoned by language. Many say language is a tool. And so it is. But a tool for what? A tool to structure our lives, to offer meanings, and point towards the truth, towards what is "right" and what is "wrong." We are defined by the signs that surround us, and again tonight, after watching a movie (The Name of the Rose), I am reminded that the notions that structure our lives are built into language. Take away language and you get anarchy. Those who mean to control, must control through language and teach us that words have fixed meanings, and that the grammars of language mimic the grammars of life. It really takes an aloofness to see the matrix of language that holds us in place, just as the guards in prison will beat us to obedience, language will compel us to comply. Words: The greatest handcuffs of life. Because language demands we follow the rules of the meanings. Because meanings must be fixed, and meanings cannot be tampered with. Because there is truth in judgments that are actualized in words. A "girlfriend," is a sexual toy, a "wife" the fountainhead of family, and they are not interchangeable, because language does not allow it. In such words, we create our structures of life and offer meaning, however perverse, to our existential crises. Without the words, truth would falter, and a World without the fixity of meaning is an unstable place. Even within the harshness of prison, there may be a sense of stability. There are rules, and those rules offer the stability of meaning. If meanings cannot be fixated, then stability disappears, and this leads to chaos. At a very basic level, relationships become complicated. A "lover" and a "girlfriend" needs to be defined as different from the "wife," a "friend" of the opposite gender is now not a "lover" but something else. These fixities, that we choose to live with, imprison us in the walls of language. Yet, there are other options; those who study signs and language (perhaps people like me) always know that language is fundamentally arbitrary and with the correct forces, meanings can be changed. Indeed, meaning can be pushed back (regressed) forever, and those held hostage by modernity get frustrated by the post-modern who will claim that meaning is always relative, that there is no meaning nor any truth, but the moment decides the truth. A friend becomes a girlfriend, the wife a friend, and the boyfriend an ex. Once we accept that we are prisoners of language, we can then release ourselves from that prison and break through to a new imagined reality without language judging us, but us genuinely wielding language to describe our lived experience. No longer compromising to language, but altering language to empower us. Break free. Just like the Bee Gees said, "It's only words and words are all I have" to express our lived experience.


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