Despite what Beyoncé says, it is not girls who run the world. Nor is it boys and not even money makes the world go round.
Simply speaking, words run the world. Growing up I would always think about the first person to ever say the word “tree”. Who looked at this living piece of wood with greenery floating in the wind and thought “Yo guys from now on we’re gonna call this a ‘tree’”. Funny to think about, right?
Taking it a step further, each and every language has a guy who came up with his or her own variation of “tree”. However, not every culture is the same and so each language is different. Just as the necessary toolbox for building a plane and a car differ, each language has in store a plethora of unique “tools” for identifying individual cuisines, animals, people, places, things, and feelings. Think back to a time when Google Translate butchered some phrase, idiom, or even simple sentence, partially due to the complexity of language translation and also probably due to the innate friction of comparing words from differing languages.
Elon Musk perhaps put it a bit more eloquently when he stated, “The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy and with analogy we are doing this because it’s like something else that was done, or it is like what other people are doing. With first order principles you boil things down to the most fundament truths and then reason up from there.” Pinnacles of industry hold an understanding of these fundamental truths and simply understand the world which they live in.
If I ask you about the sensation, umami, you will likely answer me with an empty stare. How could you ever describe your feelings, encounters, and thoughts on one of the tastes we are all given if you do not even know its name? Understanding requires identification. You cannot understand what you do not know, and this is where words become everything.
Over the past few years I have had the distinct pleasure to suffer and work through chronic depression and anxiety. You may find it odd that I look back on these experiences with a pleasance, but I should clarify that I would not wish my past troubles on my worst enemies. Mental illness is real and it is a real problem. That being said, experiencing the lowest valleys of my mental state, pure, simple isolation and desperation, has given me a more profound understanding for human happiness and purpose than I could ever receive struggling through normality.
Society has made progress in so many facets of life, ending a majority of institutional racism, frowning upon homophobia, and promoting the wellbeing of those with severe mental handicaps. If a politician ever uttered the words “nigger”, “faggot”, or “retarded” in a stigmatized fashion, that person would no longer be a politician. Certain members of society have even gone so far as to try remove “the n-word” from Mark Twain’s novels, as if we live in the Harry Potter books and every mention of Voldemort must be shrouded.
While I do not promote the usage of these words, it is important to understand the emotion and thoughts behind them, just as food critics must understand what umami is.
Despite all of society’s progress, I still walk the halls of the University of Pennsylvania, a school riddled with suicides over the past few years, and hear students claim how things are just so depressing or how they are so anxious about upcoming tests. If you spend time with me I will likely use the colloquialism all the same. I have been yelled at numerous times for using words in poor taste and yet I have never been nor have I heard someone get called out for using mental illness words improperly.
While I am not advocating for people to all of a sudden become triggered on yet another idiom of society, I believe this hypocrisy sheds light on an important trend in our culture: mental illness is believed to not be real. When looking at our current stance on mental illness take into account that 1 in 5 people struggles with some form of mental illness, whether it is depression, anxiety, bipolar, ADD, ADHD, or others. I myself and many others I have talked to and supported continually battle with the belief that they are abnormal, fucked up in the head, and simply need to generate their own happiness and sanity. I recall stories of the 60’s when everyone sort of knew smoking was bad, but no one knew just how much harm those pretty cigarettes were causing everyone.
I was personally able to return to a “normal” lifestyle, even though my depression and anxiety will always be part of me, mostly due to shifts in my mindset. Too many people treat the Game of Life like a Game of Chess: playing things out four moves in advance. From the day I entered the third grade I knew what I would be doing 30 years from then and was always dreading the present because of just how bright the future seemed. Middle school was going to be so much better than elementary school, high school so much better than middle school, and college even better than high school. Eventually, this constant grinding and bleeding into my work wore on me and the anticipation of happiness was not enough.
If you asked me in the third grade what I would be doing right now, I would have answered, “A junior at UCDavis studying pre-veterinary medicine, working with the farm animals, preparing to go to Vet School, and eventually become a small-animal veterinarian.” That dream stuck till about seventh or eighth grade, then it was biotech, then it was investment banking and now if you ask me what I am doing in 6 months I will reply that I don’t know where I will be in six weeks. Why concern ourselves with the massive decisions that lurk in the future when there is plenty enough to worry about, cry for, and love in the present?
While this all may seem like bullshit some life coach would spew over an infomercial, I can understand its importance because of those moments in my past where the depression and anxiety left me crippled in numbness. Without this understanding I would not have the clarity I do now. Everything I go through whether good, bad, or ugly I just trust it is helping me get a better understanding of the fundamental truths of society so I can build up my own toolbox for comprehending the shit that goes on around us.
This is why it will never be girls, boys, or money that runs the world, but simply words and those who understand them: for they hold the key to the world’s toolbox.
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