Communication is a beautiful illusion, a farce we are all a part of, in which we like to recognize ourselves and which we experience on a daily basis.
We believe that we communicate, that we understand each other with precision, when really, we only “understand” each other by chance. In our effort to communicate, we manage to gather together a few fragments of what the other person puts out there, suspended in midair, and taking those fragments, we reconstruct our own interpretation of what the other person said, conjuring up a new meaning of what was actually said.
But behind all this abstraction, so artificial and so human, there is a superior language that speaks to us in secret, and which urges us to decode it.
What is this “language of nature” and how are we expected to interpret it?
Language as we know it is nothing more than a human abstraction, even tribal, born of our need to express ourselves so as not to die alone, since we are, in short, social beings by nature.
But doesn’t a universal language that precedes it already exist?
Is there no pattern? Or structure?
Invariably, I find myself returning, once more, to the figure of the circle.
A figure that traced in the air seems to contain the authorial imprint of the universe. The unmistakable mark of the creator. The Alpha and the Omega closing in on themselves for an uncontainable whole.
Galileo once said that we cannot pretend to understand the universe without first learning to understand the language in which it was written. For Galileo the language of the universe is the language of mathematics and the letters that compose it are its triangles, its circles and myriad other geometric shapes that constitute it. “Without this language” says Galileo…”humans cannot understand a single word of the universe they inhabit.” Without that language, we wander through a dark and unfathomable labyrinth.
This notion makes the intricate question of communication all the more interesting and complex.
If we think about it this way, translation, as a profession and as a tool, would be both an art and a delicate and dangerous alchemy. A craft of careful preparation nearly reaching the order of the magical and the extravagant. We no longer speak of Deconstructivism and Constructivism, as Derrida would do, or even advocate fidelity to a univocal and primordial sense that precedes the “product.” We speak instead of preserving the soul of the text as a mystical task. As a supreme duty to protect and transpose that breath of life that has no origin and belongs to no single language, but vibrates simultaneously at all frequencies.
With this in mind, the work of the linguist is somehow related to the intrinsic quality of the poet.
In the English language one can refer to the poet as a “wordsmith”, that is, a kind of blacksmith of words.
The concept of this word evokes this idea of craft, of careful craftsmanship, but also of a construct that can be wielded with a weapon, a notion that also leads us back to a recurrent thought: “Language is the first weapon that is unfolded and wielded in a conflict.” Everything else follows.
It is at least curious that this notion of the “blacksmith” is applied to refer to those who work with something as ethereal and elusive as words and language, although the impact of its application can produce such concrete and conclusive effects on the plane of reality.
In the end, the pen is mightier than the sword.