Words are so much fun, so fragile in their understanding and, at the same time, oh, so powerful.
They can also be so misunderstood. In English, my native tongue, there are numerous little traps and pitfalls, misunderstandings and close-enough calls, that accuracy is a constant challenge.
Are You Up For The Challenge?
Here are two words, along with their meanings, to help make this point. You have used them all your life.
1 - AFFECT: To have an effect on; to make a difference, produce a result, leave the impression of...
2 - EFFECT: linked with "cause" meaning to bring about the state or its opertion, label its progress and, in Physics, a phenomenon named after its discoverer.
Both are verbs and nouns but only 'effect' is in common usage as a noun, where its definition is "result, consequence, affect; used principally as a verb." Just two words, in an entire vocabulary, that show how complicated our communications and their understanding can be.
It can become a real challenge, as one takes steps toward learning more about Life's Big Questions, "Who are we, really?" and "What are we doing here?" The Bible has been translated so many times, through so many different languages that, in order to study it in earnest, this fact must be taken into consideration from the first page. Other scripture, books on mysticism, the occult, the Meaning of Life, Meditation, Yoga, Lives of the Spiritual Masters and so on, can be very helpful or mere hearsay, depending on the student's state of being.
I Remember A Story...
It wasn't an easy walk for this fellow traveler, either. From my own career choice as a radio broadcaster, which means jack of all on-air trades, mostly DJ work, communication was held in high regard but still misunderstandings would occur. Memory provides a few cobbled together scenes from personal occasions here and there, wherein this situation of uncertainty we all share in the use of language was nailed home again. It happened just the other decade or so. Seems like yesterday...
The whole point of this story revolves around the setting in which it took place, and while I cannot remember where, I DO recall it was a fun gathering of radio folk, probably a small convention or large conference, visiting jocks, job possibilities and fresh stories from other metropolis hot spots.
We enter the story and it's abuzz, rolling in full tilt boogie. Everyone in attendance, it seems, is having a peak moment and these were all spilling over each other; while this took place in a spacious room but seemed elbow-room full. There were plenty of chairs, the necessary tables for literature snacks and purses and many spirited people.
There was then in progress, as there always was, an enthusiastic, raging war of words that we then referred to as "talking stink," or putting our spin on things. What sorts of things? Every. Jovial conversation involved sharing promotions, jingles, recordings, and DJ stories of the trade.
It was in this setting I witnessed a Personal First that, to this day, still retains the power to impress. I learned another of what I call "Universals," which are powerful broadcast styles, tools and tricks that make what you're doing better.
There they were - the bigger-than-life DJs, personalities and characters had clustered, found common language and begun to share their stories. This is WHY everyone was there in that room, really.
The tales flew like frisbies on the beach, and the band of strangers-become best friends, had landed a juicy prey! In the fury of their over enthusiastic conversation they pounced upon one particular word (I forget which; not necessary to this story) and were conducting an autopsy for the purpose of determining what it really means. Examples, processes of defining, degrees of distinctness and use-in-sentences were being brandied and parried in the attempt at reaching a more exact, or far out, meaning.
To set the picture more distinctly in your mind's eye, add: the roar of human voices over each other, the night time ambiance of music, outdoor traffic, several different TV shows above the open bar, and, overall, a wonderfully encapsulated cocktail and Happy Hour snack fueled evening. This was typical broadcast after hour conduct - boistrous but beautifully slurred voices, opinionated for effect, synopses on every tongue of any topic in the world, but more frequently the love of our lives, top-forty radio and its menu of possibilities, from current music acts, other DJs and other stations, ratings inaccuracies, to that hilarious thing we did in San Diego last Fall and all the stuff of our so-called great civilized conversation.
Then, during a heated debate over some language distinction, the always-hoped-for Bomber One Liner hit and everyone heard. One phrase, well paced, perfectly placed, landed as if scripted, and the entire roomful of attentive participants stopped silent. As it happened, one man, affected with frustration over not having his definition either understood or accepted, threw up his hands as if to discharge the entire argument exclaiming, "Ah, that's just semantics!"
Not missing a beat, his adversary immediately rejoined, "Semantics? That's ALL there is!"
The room fell suddenly silent as his point sunk in. Every skull in the room seemed to have been opened up for a split second.
Then, applause. Cheering. Not everyone understood what had just been exchanged, but they instinctively knew, as there was a truth behind all this loud verbal fencing that, that answer was more powerful than the regular question-and-answer dynamics they were used to. The argument had very effectively been Grand Slammed.
It was a magic moment, shared by all, and the electricity that passed among us seemed as if it could have easily lit up the entire metropolis.
Reviewing on playback, we can see all the elements in effect there. The rhythms of call-and-response one-liners between professionals. The rising and waning volumes of tone, the precision inflections, the uncanny timing. This is what these mad men were really capable of - fast paced, highly stylized oral presentation. Each and every one in this room had the DNA markings for a screamingly funny stand-up comic.
What more than a few minds missed was the stiletto of truth in that final rejoinder. One guy said, as if to end the debate, "It's JUST semantics." The other guy topped him with his come-back, "It's ALL semantics".
What a perfect zinger. That comeback liner didn't object to what had just been said (so there was no resistance, nothing left to swing at) but included his opponent's argument in a well chosen, more inclusive statement, in effect, "That's all there is!"
There was nothing left to come back TO.
"Semantics - THAT'S ALL THERE IS," (truly a spiritual koan if there ever was one).
Meaning, "it's all in the eye of the beholder."
Meaning, "It's all relative."
Meaning, "Ego is a product of thought. While of and about it, never real, never actual.
Thought is a concept of something else, something real. Any thought, even a word's most correct definition, is still only a concept of the real thing; as are all words and symbols.
Meaning: "You are not what you imagined yourself to be.
Meaning: "It's ALL semantics."
Following that which is Real, is its wake, all swirling spin-offs, reflections, innuendo and reference; not things. Real You is perfectly silent, solidly still and loving without effort. Its shadow, or mental clone, is made of thought-logic, so-called Common Sense, conceptual form, implied reference and the Stuff Of Semantics, is other than the Unmanifested Reality and is very needy. This imitation you needs your attention to feel really alive.
Only You are the Real Thing. Not the idea, notion, opinion, definition, humanity, personality, or any other shade of You. Being you is a full time job and your Principle Purpose here.
Everything else is Semantics.