I have had a number of experiences wherein words would emanate from unseen and unlikely sources. Two of these experiences stand out to me now as seemingly significant because of how they reflect manipulative agencies we are taught to believe.
Back in the 1960’s, my brother and I would once and awhile take long walks home from grade school because there was a pet store/garden center which we loved to visit. It didn’t matter to us that the walk was about 70 city blocks long. I don’t know if my parents (who both worked at Rock Island Arsenal) ever really knew of our unsupervised meanderings. While my parents were diligently reinforcing the war in Vietnam, we kids embraced our liberty and loved to escape the seemingly unrelenting paranoia of the security state as it was in those days. One of the delights we experienced was a “talking” crow who was kept in a cage at the store. He (? – “Buddy”) had a brief paragraph of sentences which he was trained to repeat. The performance ended with our hearing the words, “Birds can’t talk.” The performance made us feel as if the bird knew as much about words as any human.
The second experience I am relating here was years later in the 1990s. It was mid-winter. I was meeting someone at the University of Chicago and I had time to kill while they were in a conference. There is a fairly famous monumental concrete sculpture at the edge of the campus in Washington Park which I had for a long time wanted to see. The sculpture was created by the former art teacher at the University named Lorado Taft and the Sculpture is known as “The Fountain of Time.”
The sculpture, from about 1920, features a billowing mass of 100 human figures rising up and then falling across its over 100 foot length while a larger, enshrouded, patriarchal figure of “father time” stands to the side, solemnly holding a scythe, seemingly in judgement of the passing hoard. The overall effect seems like the imagined image captures what might have been if Loie Fuller had performed to a dirge. The message within the sculpture was taken from a poem by Henry Austin Dobson, “The Paradox of Time,” which repeatedly emphasizes that time does not pass, we do.
As I walked around the sculpture trying to appreciate the efforts of its creation and how the grey winter weather suited the sculpture’s representations of bleak heroisms, anguish and lamentations, I was suddenly shocked by a booming male voice which came out of the sky and commanded, “Stay Off the Ice. The Ice is Not Safe!” Time may have stood still, but I certainly did not. I soon realized that the Chicago Park Department had installed a motion activated recording on loud speakers because of the hazard of the frozen lake behind the sculpture.
Everything seemed so appropriate – the cold, grey weather, feeling alone before the cold, hard figures, the artificially godlike voice and its proximity to the University of Chicago, the desire for fewer deaths in the proximity of Washington Park (which was like a buffer between the richness of the university and the poverty and insecurity of some of its adjacent neighbors. After a brief moment, I was both shaken and I had to laugh, lightly. My heightened feelings of insecurity were as if I was standing in front of a grumbling societal glacier and the sculpture was the result of a recent calving rift.
These memories arose with me one morning after a night of troubling nightmares which were full of repeated human impersonations and transformations involving spies and agents of terror who were never who they purported to be. A night of terrifying uncertainty and distrust led to a sluggish awakening where words were largely instruments of deliberate institutionalized misinterpretations, primarily in service of subterfuge and domination. The deceptiveness of their use seemed to be the uniting mortar of the constructs from across the supposed political spectrum.
I love to look at good, thorough dictionaries. I’m certainly not a scholar of linguistics, but it is the transformations of words over time which can be fascinating to me. It is like looking into a pond and seeing many species of fish and realizing that many of these “fish” may have simply been derived from an effect or an associated environmental characteristic which was (often very loosely) associated with them before human culture and time transformed those aspects into self-serving, imagined creatures. One of the fascinating (and often simultaneously disappointing) aspects is that it doesn’t make any of the “fish” in their modified inferences less real to humanity.
If I seem to digress, it may be because digression is a very common method behind most of what we have come to know and believe. To digress is “to direct” us into variably related associations which then often become embraced as the primary meanings. Words meanings often become reduced to strong signals which are only distantly related to their bearer.
So, the comically trained crow and the moving monumental concrete residue which seemed to be in service of and for the dominance of patriarchal inescapability are associated with my experience of words and they play some part in my knowledge that sometimes the sounds of words are used deliberately and sometimes we make unexpected associations based upon situational peculiarities. We, as a society, seem to be continually digressing under the spread of more and more situational associations which are largely misrepresentations and which we grasp as if they are lifesavers.
The significance of these thoughts for me is how we are flooded with messages every day in contemporary society and we have little power when it comes to possibly, concretely, and clearly deciphering any of them. Any (or all?) of the words broadcast around us may be deliberately misleading us or the words we hear may be little more than feint echoes of their assumed meanings which are merely bouncing off of our human-made, ever-fluxing continuum of desperation which is inflating and collapsing around us under the seeming illusion of our movement through time.
It is vital to me to remember these uncertainties in regard to anything said by those who seek political power. So often, they are clearly mimicking sounds for some (unknowable to me) self-serving agenda and, seemingly at least as often, they are clearly intent on creating some monumental visual which, while designed to make a personal statement from/for any given moment of attention seeking, may relate to and affect any current situation with unforeseen significance.
I have lost the ability to believe any words are beyond misrepresentation, misappropriation, and/or misinterpretation, especially the words of any politician. I can no longer escape the reality that the supposed spectrum of political positioning by so many governments around the planet is largely a matter of tinting and shading within a very limited and bloody hue which they apply to the dominating multinational chute of privatizing finance. It is insisted that we must take a side within a narrow uniformity as if there is some enormous difference from one side of a chute to the other. Nowhere is this debilitating delusional belief in partisan differences greater than in the hubristic self-deception known as the USA. By comparison, the words pronounced by the captured crow of my youth were truly cogent.
I have reached the point where there is no candidate in the democratrepublican buttressing of the chute of corporatized debauchery who can be trusted. Their messages are recorded and broadcast through their servitude to privatizing corporate venality. The meanings of their words have the character and effect of a mythological chimera and deserve to be seen as even less trustworthy because of their pretentious posturing as if they have integrity. They do not.
Integrity requires and exhibits a constitutional, environmental, and societal soundness which is anathema to the democratrepublican manipulators who are part and parcel of the church of deregulating financial opportunism which the democratrepublicans insist must be the global religion. To hear their pronouncements as a genuine voice from above, you must embrace willful ignorance and beg for greater servitude.
If you prefer integrity, you must walk away from their manipulations. It is also the only way to possibly open their eyes and awaken them from their intoxicated state. They are getting high on the fumes of decay which arise from the subservience of their supporters.
Throughout the years I have repeatedly been advised that “Time will tell” in regard to numerous political candidates and the most telling fact I have encountered through the years is how far the democrats and republicans will go in order to pretend that they are opposition parties while they regularly arise in “exceptional” overwhelming numbers to proudly support the most egregious aspects of violent imperialistic injustice while gutting human rights and environmental quality in the name of private profits and corporate-state secrecy.
Is it possible for humanity to be otherwise? I do not know, but, at the same time, we will never know as long as we support an illusionary fraudulence and we allow ourselves to reject integrity because we are afraid we will lose the power we have already given away.