In my last post I shared the importance of knowing oneself before knowing the world. There are so many things we could work on in the everlasting endeavour of knowing oursevles, and here is one.
“You cannot know your own thoughts precisely until you manage to articulate them with words.” Not sure where I found this quote but it had stayed with me since.
If “talking” could be counted as a hobby I would’ve included it into all my CVs/resumes and bios. “Talking” to friends who I feel truly connected to is the most enjoyable thing I can think of doing, and I take it rather seriously. When I talk I always try to make a point, and reach a solution which I believe will improve the situation.
That’s why when I read these words from Nakanishi san all my cells nodded in agreement.
“Language is the way to make thoughts more comprehensible.” By this he meant to make the thoughts more comprehensible to oneself first. It is so common to see people trying to argue without knowing what they really want to say.
Nakanishi san drew from his own experience as a law student to further explain this insight. In order to study law, he says, he lived in the language environment “modelled” after civil law and penal law, and after that he devoted most of his time to studying English in preparation for his overseas education. As a result, his mother language “is actually very poor”.
It is unexpected, to say the least, to hear a law student admit his language as “poor”. But I totally understand what he is talking about here. As students trained in the centralised educational system, and under the pressure of having a promising future after graduation, we are often so eager to speak the jargon well, so as not to sound like a layman, so as to feel we “belong” to a filed of profession. Even outside of school, in the society we always have the pressure to “sound like everybody else” in order to be accepted by a certain group of people or the “society” in general. As normal and necessary as it may seem, this is how we slowly lose our own way of thinking, and lose ourselves as a result.
While in college, in spite of being called “talking like a student” in several occasions, I insisted on looking for the simplest and most accurate words to articulate my feelings or opinions in the more straightforward way, instead of quoting from the fashionable slangs which would stamp you as an “adult”, or some form of “professional”. This is only one of those things that I insist on doing since a young age, rather intuitively.
I also found it detrimental to get in the habit of quoting the well-known proverbs or using traditional idioms that are so often found in Chinese language, and any language I believe. These commonly accepted and frequently used phrases might give you more strength and immediate credibility when talking to acquaintances, they seldom express precisely your personal feelings, making it impossible to share your unique perspective. On the contrary, they are tinted with so much historical and cultural background that people would not give them much thought. That’s why they are called “cliché”.
In my opinion, “jargons” are worse than cliché. They are lacking the food for thought that most clichés have to offer. They imprison the mind of an ever changing being to one narrow field.
Nakanishi san knows very well how difficult it might be to get out of that prison. He offers the advice of “sharing your writing with the world (for example: writing a blog), and see whether someone resonate with you. Precise articulation does not need elaborate rhetoric, but it must reach the hearts of people.”
Indeed, what’s the point if we cannot express who we really are?
Notes: All quotes from the book are my own translation from the simplified Chinese version.