Language is one of the most powerful forces in our human experiences. The use and implications of language greatly shapes not only our cultural-social expectations or behaviors but also implicitly carries normative value judgments that influence our perception, structure our thought, and shape our attitude. In short – language plays a central role in constructing and defining meaning in the world.
As a director, I am first and foremost a student of interpretation. One of my professors taught us young directors that the principle problem of our craft is to put the subtext of the script into the film. As such, the subtext and connotations specific language carries has proved essentially inseparable to my examination of language and the world defined by it.
As we pass into 2013, my long awaited graduation approaches. I’ve been considering many different possible new years resolutions to take with me into this new year, to hopefully make me better prepared for a world outside of university. Most of my life, I have applied my obsessive personality to the arts and found myself working more than a hundred hours a week on projects. In general, many of my favorite things – from reading, to watching films, to my conversations with friends, all have revolved around my obsession with the work that has defined my life.
In no way do I see this as a bad thing. I decided a long time ago that committing myself to meaningful and challenging work was the best way for me to pursue my life’s goal of “actively exploring the world and celebrating life.”
Unfortunately though, over the years I’ve fallen into the bad habit of referring to the incredible joy and sincerely astounding privilege of studying and pursuing film, and engaging in the necessary associated commerce attached to it as “work.”
In the traditional sense, a lot of the time it is work. Still, the power of language is immense. When asked by friends and loved ones – “What are you doing this week?” – the short hand reply – “Just working.” Is a dangerous restatement and alternative framing of the great opportunities and privileges I’ve been given.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how damaging that simple act has been. It is something we all slip into in a number of different avenues.
Have you ever left a new film in the theater and been asked what you thought, only to shrug and remark passively – “It was interesting.”
It becomes easy, too easy, to dilute our language down to meaningless apathy. Sometimes I care about the film that I just saw. Still the habit of disregard for colorful expression and personal involvement into speech is an easy one to repeatedly reinforce.
This year I am breaking that habit.
It is my hope that over the course of the year I can be more mindful about how I use language. I want to stop referring to the “work” of my life’s passions as if it were labor and start referring to it (at least in my own thinking and writing) as “practicing my craft.” When I am faced with a long, necessary, boring, wait why don’t I use the power of thought and consider my situation “a practice in meditation?”
If these sound like gilded euphemisms for the unpleasantries of life – let me be clear. I believe most sincerely that the whole of life, the process of living, should be a joyful celebration and pursuit of mindful, sincere, love. I am pursuing an “ecstasy of being” that can and should be made manifest in the hard times and the fun times of my craft, my research, and my personal development.
I hope you will join me this year on the adventure of retaking control over our language.
What if we refuse to be apathetic or ordinary with our rhetoric and our communications with other people?
What if every external communication and internal monologue is an exercise in mindfulness and an adventure in-and-of-itself?
One of many New Years resolutions, but certainly one of the more difficult ones to embark upon. It is my hope that language, the lifeblood of thought, can revolutionize and empower my life – rather than burden or impoverish it.
Mindful language is a tool of personal liberation and it is ours for the taking, now.