Saturday, June 2, 2012

Many people are familiar with Plato's allegory of the cave. Men (prisoners) face a cave wall, unable to turn around, with a fire burning behind them. Between the fire and the men is a walkway, along which puppeteers carrying objects pass. All the men know of the world are the shapes and shadows that are cast upon the wall. The shadows constitute the basis of reality for the men. Imagine attempting to discern the world from such a vantage point. How would the words that are selected and the language that is used further define what is real? A shadow of a book is not the same as the book itself. And what would happen if one of the men was to become free, and make his way to daylight? Would he experience madness as he experiences the objects themselves as opposed to their apparitions?

As previous entries have discussed, our use of language determines our reality, evokes emotion, and helps to motivate--or demotivate--us.  Words transport us to different worlds. Words can describe our experiences, but they are not the experiences themselves. The map is not the territory.

Writers take advantage of the fluidity of experience and the worlds that are created by words. How frequently have you read a book and then later viewed a movie based on the book? How often did the movie measure up to the written word? If it did, how did that happen? Was it because the images stayed close to the descriptions in the written word? If it didn't, was it because the images that you formed when you read the book were superior to the adaptation of the movie into film?

In any form of communication, we assume that the listener, reader, or reviewer interprets the message in the manner that we intend. But experience, culture, mood, and the relationship between the communicator and the recipient will cast their own shadows.