Upon watching the movie Arrival, I’ve been provoked into questioning things that hurt my mind to question because they are so incomprehensible that to question them is an utter disaster. Let me lead you through my thought process.
First off, language. What is language? Why do we all speak different languages? Further, how does language affect how we think and feel? There is a language in Northern Australia called Guugu Yimithirr that doesn’t have words for left, right, front or back, instead they use south, east, north and west to portray direction. They don’t see someone standing in front of building, they see someone standing north of a building. How does this distinction make their sense of position in the universe different? Words to express love are different in every language. While English speakers call each other “honey” or “love” to show affection the Romans said “animae dimidium meae” meaning “the other half of my soul” and the French say things like, “dans tes bras c’est mon destin” meaning “my destiny is in your arms.” How do the words we use to describe people affect how we see them? During war we have a tendency to distance ourselves from the enemy using derogatory nicknames, allowing us to see them as inferior and therefore making it easier for us to kill them. The names we call them affect our mind to such an extent that we begin to perceive them as lesser beings than us, essentially as animals.
Language is that powerful.
Then there’s the fact that the written English language writes how it sounds, but ancients Egyptians used hieroglyphics, which write as they are seen. While our writing uses words to tell stories, hieroglyphics uses visuals to tell stories. Imagine trying to write a text to your mom about your day but you can’t describe it with letters you have to describe it how you saw with symbols that have no correlation to how the word actually sounds. How do you pronounce hieroglyphics? How do you speak them? You don’t. Because the way you read hieroglyphics has no correlation as to how you pronounce the words you are reading. Our minds feeble English minds just don’t work like that.
Then, I started thinking about letters and I arrived at a terrifying conclusion. Why is our alphabet recited in the order that it is? A, B, C, D, E etc. etc. has no actual reason to be in that order. Alphabetical order has no reason to be in that specific alphabetical order. They could have at least done us all a favor and put the vowels first and the consonants second or vice versa, or structure it so that similar sounds are grouped together. But no. We’re stuck with A, B, C, D and poor Z is left at the end. Shoutout to all the kids who got called on last in literally everything in middle school because the order of our alphabet makes no sense. No thanks to you Aaron, you get to choose your crayons first because you have two A’s at the beginning of your name. Thanks Aaron!
This philosophical realization next prompted my thoughts about how numbers go on forever, or rather how you can have infinities that are bigger than other infinities. The numbers between 0 and 1 are infinite but the numbers between 1 and 100 are also infinite, meaning they’re both infinite but wouldn’t you think the numbers between 1 and 100 would be more infinite than the numbers between 0 and 1? The answer is it is. The theory of infinite sets was developed by Georg Cantor, who concluded that some infinite sets are vastly bigger than others when he argued that natural numbers are less numerous (that was an unintentional pun) than “real” numbers. Real numbers are numbers that can be represented as a decimal even if the decimal itself may be infinite. Trying to comprehend this requires a quiet space and calming music. How can infinity be bigger than itself? If the universe goes on forever, than who’s to say there aren’t other universes larger and more infinite than ours? And, if the universe goes on forever than infinity is getting bigger and bigger as the universe expands. Does this not make you feel incredibly small? And incredibly insignificant?
It made me feel so.
This leads me to my final thought, which is the importance of questioning what’s around you. Question your language. Question why you say expressions that you do. Where did they come from? What effect do your words have on others? Question your writing. Question why you write words the way you do. Why do certain words prompt certain thoughts? Question why things are the way they are. Question why you somehow remember every single song lyric from 2004 but not where you put your phone two minutes ago. Don’t settle for what’s accepted until you make sense of it for yourself. There is so much we do not know and so many things we cannot explain. We have access to the entire world now. We have computers, iPhones, planes that can take us anywhere and access to nearly every book and movie ever written or made. If you decide to waste your time looking at what your friends are doing or worrying about what other people think of you, you are wasting your potential. Some would argue that the purpose of life is to find your purpose. You won’t find it if you don’t first decide you want to.