Expression and Emotion – Redefined

Detail of The School of Athens by Raffaello Sa...

Symmachy  | Thinking Differently  | Expression & Emotion

  • Standard Definitions:

1)      Expression (n.): a series of unique thoughts, emotions and feelings made known in words by an individual.

2)      Emotion (n.): Particular feelings that characterise a state of mind e.g. elation, anxiety, depression, anger, lust etc.

Without getting too metaphysical I would like to open up a gateway of thought, questioning the “process” of internal human emotion and the contemporary ability to “act” out an expression of that emotion. In this feature I will try to give as erudite and pithy opinion as possible on the following three questions, (I will leave the answers open for comment and I’d be thrilled with some positive input that anyone can offer):

  1. Does the reduction in our ability to express ourselves succinctly and with efficient emotion reflect a lack of proper feeling or simply the inability to express that feeling?
  2. Is our modern society actively encouraging thoughtful expression or promoting a system of expression which is a freedom from thought?
  3. What motivations are necessary in this banal world to prompt us towards more true  thought, how can we reclaim the past and is it really worth the effort?

It seems the culture we now praise is one of simplicity and ease; taking pride in knowing as few words as possible to express the minimal with a positive or negative affirmation (cool or bullocks). It seems our minds have been distilled and it is in language that the root lies, because, paraphrasing Alan Watts, all that you know is what you can express in language.

It may have always been this way but it seems that there is a general trend towards the scorn of intellectual thought and the pursuit towards obtaining a greater vocabulary. People know fewer words and they seem to need fewer words to form an expression about how they feel. The English language is complicated and stuffy; there are a great many words whose meanings have been long forgotten and whose usage is now no longer needed in a society that has no active concept for them. Symmachy is one of these words, “Fighting together against a common enemy”1. To detail the subtleties between the meanings of words takes time and to gain a detailed understanding of the language we use is a task left to academics2.

Could it be that this degeneration of language is actively encouraged in our society and that we, the prisoners and the jailers of our safely mind-locked nation are the enforcers of a creed of ignorance?

It is seen throughout history that whenever a language fails to express itself succinctly people have to invent, borrow or steal words to fill the slots. The English language has undergone massive changes, so massive infact that if you were to go back a 1000 years you would recognise a handful of words at best. The multiplication of synonyms, the introduction of Latinate words for intellectual thought and foreign borrowings for exotic phenomenon and animals, all are things that have enriched and defined the English language. It is a hive for expression, preyed upon ruthlessly by poets and orators to create some of the most unique and heart rendered expressions and moving lyrics the world has seen in the last millenium.  This is a language that has built itself on the need to express. We need to express for if we can’t it seems we cannot know and we cannot share that knowledge.

It is interesting to notice that our old and refined language is not being built upon to find expression but eroded in the search for an easier kind of expression, one that by the looks of things, is slightly less than corpus-mentis. New and linguistically dense colloquialisms have emerged in the recent age, words like “wicked” “mint”  “safe” “bargain” etc. These words all have very similar denotative (that is to say, literal) and connotative (what people associate figuratively with those words) meanngs and are used so frequently that their function as intensifiers is flattened and they have become the very utterance itself, not its intensification.

Is it the fact that we cannot express how we feel anymore or simply that we feel so much less about the world we inhabit? It seems to me at least that most people generally have less to say about their stake in the world. The emotions they feel seems distilled in the use of this “double-speak” (as Orwell calls it in 1984) which is aggrandised as the tool for their release, “unchaining” them from the obligation of thought. Good is easy, you see, and easy is good. Cool is just good. Wicked is just good….that’s all there is to it…apparently. People seem either happy or unhappy about things and the ultimate aim is to find happy, or at least the closest and “easiest” approximation of it. Happy is good and because good is easy then the only kind of happiness worth seeking is that which takes very little effort to find. Watching TV is one of these pursuits as it consuming alcoholic beverages in excess – in short, an easy ignorance. It doesn’t seem to stir that perhaps truer forms of happiness may be sought in the more resplendent human pursuits, such as philosophy, art, literature, love and embracing nature.

Is there salvation (not to invoke Christian connotations here) to such a plight or ignorance? It is interesting to notice that ancient cultures seem polarised, in terms of their apparent aim, to our own; concerned in finding the most intangible and true forms of expression. A group of Greek Philosophers called the Orphics conceived that the ascension of the soul would be to acquire perfect memory; memory beyond that which is normal. Hindu’s conceive the notion of moksha, assuming that the great goal in life is to achieve a state of total awareness and peace that is outside the cycle of life and death; coined “the drama of life” by Alan Watts. Similarly, Buddhists believe that to achieve enlightenment is the zenith of human ambition; to become totally aware in a state of nirvana and know your true being and your true person under the wrappings of disguise which is life.

Just as ancient cultures stress the idea of a perfect awareness, our modern world stresses that the ultimate peace is achieved through perfect ignorance; a blissful reprise. What our modern culture fails to realise is that, just because something is easy that does not mean that it is necessarily good. While we sleep, tyranny runs wild in our house consuming all that we once cared about: our rights, our freedom, our passions, and then, before we know it and before we can reclaim it in our awakened minds, it’s gone. We can only fight this desire towards ignorance and submission with an equally strong desire towards education and resistance. Arm yourselves with language and finding the expression of higher goals will ensue, bring back Plato’s “Academy” and set thought free again among us…and by this I mean thought unfettered by agendas, dogmas and aims of a commercialist intent.

Keep Thinking Differently. Keep Fighting Together.



1 It seems we no longer need such a concept in a world where fighting is just something going on somewhere else; somewhere that other people are waging our wars of “freedom” for us. All we need do is consume and support, why should we fight anything?

2 A term I use to refer to those men who do not express the truth but stick to tenured and fettered meme’s. This term is not applied to those who seek to educate themselves, merely those who regurgitate information at the cost of a decent purpose and a sordid agenda.