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Spells

This is the final part in a four-part analysis of how the self exists in society. It focuses on language. Published February 2019 in Bilkent News.


In the net of transmission and perception, the most successful interactions occur when the source shows language. Each concept exists as social information, and succeeds in existing so far as this information approximates its source, or complies with a model suited to context. In the latter case, the communicated material must fit the role played, which in turn fits the social context of its use; both of these conditions can be evaluated rationally, based on premises of experience and intuition. But in the end, it would be far better for no mask to be used at all, because then the barriers of transmission would shrink, leaving less room for misperception and miscommunication, transforming language as the inner and coarser words of a million people meet and kiss, making love and new time. This makes people new because they exist in words, social images and impressions that change with the means of perception. When the language of the receiver expands, transmissions, both reception and communication, become quicker and purer: one’s words lose less in translation and are themselves elements of the image formed. This widens the band of interaction, allowing the passage of more, finer selves.

As in literature. Unlike speech, writing is arrested in transmission, choosing its own medium and space of language. In this phase of pre-perception, there is only raw content. Every reader understands it through the mist of his own experience, blind to the writer and their expectations of each other, tasked only with understanding what he holds in his hands. Separated from act and judgment, these words continue to travel through time and people, unmarred by other language like touch, smell and sight. They remain unaware of themselves and their purposes, traveling only because they are here. If the speaker knows how to use auxiliaries in transmission, their speech may come closer to the functional truth, because they will make their speaking so special to the other that it permeates skin. But this will never be raw as writing, because the other end of language is in someone’s mouth, changing media with changes in perception, even if the material itself is altered little. Written works preserve both source and form but pale before spoken words, which, reinforced by sight and sound, can enter the space of another. Touch-words bind bodies; long, thick, bright cords, convulsing the medium. A slow sort of spell.

The last implication of these image-selves is that predictions self-fulfill. When a person is expected by a community to display a certain quality, such as arrogance, nothing he does will ever negate this first impression. The meaning of arrogance will take shape in context, describing whatever he is in this state, because it occupies perception and makes other acts impossible to receive. Behavior is evaluated on a relative scale of judgement, constructed according to the needs and values of the community: in this community he is functionally arrogant. Even if this expectation never corrupts the signal, it will become the response. This is how prejudices reinforce themselves: they modify not the act but its transmission and interpretation, which is, socially, its existence. All that can be done against this is to use language naked. Opening eyes and also ears. Giving into spells.

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