“Feelings and ideas have no physical substance, Ms. LaFollet. We can’t just hand them back and forth the way we would apple or an orange or a brick, so we devise symbols which carry their weight, and we call those symbols words.”
– Dr. Adelina Arif, Echoes of Honor
Honor Harrington series, by David Weber
Yeah, I’m plowing my way through this series, and loving it. Not least because of all the quotes it has to offer a humble blogger like myself! 😉
The exact context of the quote involves an effort to teach sign language to a species of empaths and telepaths who have never had need of it before, but which will allow them to communicate more fully with their more vocal friends, the humans. This is inspired by how one of the empathic creatures has been deprived of his telepathic sense by a severe injury, rendering him unable to communicate with his own species as he once did. In essence, he is now “mute,” in a way. That strikes rather close to home in my own life, as my sister is deaf, and though we have never had problems understanding each other, I have seen many others, both hearing and deaf alike, who have not had it so easy.
The simple ability to communicate freely, and the power that gives, is so easy to take for granted. To lose it, or never really have it, can be devastating.
I am inspired by the miracle of human language. As the quote says, words (or whatever other means we use), were made, and are still being made, to carry the weight of ideas and feelings. Though they are intangible, lacking all form of physical substance, there is no denying the reality of them, and the importance of them. That very importance is exactly what drives us to strive to communicate in the first place, by whatever means, the thoughts and images and meaning which form within our own heads. The expression of it, the effort to take these things in our heads that lack all physical form of substance, and share them, to implant them within another person’s head and heart… is that not a magnificent thing?
To understand others, and to be understood. That is the meaning of words, of language, the bridge which connects us all, our minds and our hearts. It is the fruit born of every desire for peace, and happiness, and knowledge, and power, and life itself.
Language is nothing less than the combined effort of all of humanity as it reaches towards mutual understanding.
That is why it inspires me, because even as we tear each other apart in terrible wars, our words, our languages, keep developing.
We are still trying to understand, and to be more than we have been.