How do you approach what you don’t understand?

Rabbi Yonason Goldson takes a look at The Language of Confusion. He encounters students whose view is that something makes no sense when the reality is that they do not understand. A first challenge is to change this point of view so that learning can occur.

It makes no sense implies that, if the material we are learning does not conform to your way of thinking, then it must be wrong. I don’t understand acknowledges the possibility that the flaw in reasoning may reside in you, rather than in the material.”

There are words like narcissist and humility that come to mind with ideas like this. “Doesn’t make sense” foists the problem off of one’s self and removes personal control from fixing the problem. “Don’t understand” allows for one’s faults and delinquencies and provides for repair and improvement. The point is that the language used sets a direction.

Because we formulate our thoughts in words and sentences, incompetent use of language guarantees muddled thinking. If there are no words for rebellion, uprising, or discontent people will find it difficult to formulate and articulate the concept of overthrowing even the most corrupt and oppressive government.

This then leads to the observation that language can be used as a tool in persuasion. If one can control the language, then one can control the debate.

In truth, for advertisers, politicians, special interest groups, and the politically correct, the real purpose of language is no longer to convey meaning – it is to obscure meaning, to appeal to emotions while bypassing the intellect. Their motive is obvious: it is far easier to evoke a strong emotional response than it is to present a logically developed argument. But by allowing meaning to be drained from our language and our words, we have not only denuded them of their clarity, but also of their depth.

Words mean things. When you find someone dismissing the proper choice of words you have also found someone dismissing clarity of meaning and potency of communication. What you say is how you think and how you think governs what you get done.

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