Words and Worlds
Imagine that our environment is reported in nouns only. Lists of nouns are collected and placed on a map of the only tangible world. Neutrinos and galaxies, hot dogs and cold showers accumulate and spill out. Reality is a spatiotemporal storage facility. History is made of nouns listed in different dimensions. Nouns are all there is. Worlds. Democracies. Dictatorships. Disasters.
Imagine that a new fashion blows nouns away from the headlines. New style makes us report on our world by mentioning only verbs and actions. Sleeping, walking, talking and making love or war fill the lists, which are collected according to time, space and purposeful actions. Reality is a stream of actions, reactions and interactions. Worlds are made of events. Events are triggered by actions. Verbs are all there is. Worlds. Creating. Consuming. Conquering.
Then a new principle comes along; a humble servant of nouns and verbs, adjective, wins a war of liberation. We do not see a painting, we see red, yellow or green paint spots. We do not know nouns or verbs intimately. Only adjectives we do. We rub shoulders, eyes, ears and fingers with adjectives. A world is a store of properties, only adjectives deliver data available to our senses. Adjectives rule because they allow reporting on objects behind nouns (stone is hard, velvet is soft) and on actions behind verbs (running is fast, fasting is slow). Verbs are all there is for us to know. Worlds. Sweet. Sudden. Serene.
Culture is about negotiating words and worlds. We experience properties, act on objects, remember nouns. Culture is about what we know (everybody has a right to personal opinions, but nobody to one’s own facts). Culture is about what we can do (“yes, we can”). But culture is predominantly about what we want to happen (what life is worth living and why). Or don’t want to happen. Words and worlds bow to worship. We worship values, which are neither nouns, verbs nor adjectives. No amens.
Rotterdam, August 31, 2017