Language and Happiness (Living without Words)

What is the connection between language and happiness? We all know that we use words to define the world around us. “The ground is flat” or “this room smells like oranges“. The difficulty is that we cannot stop defining our environments. Try for the next 30 seconds to look around without thinking any words. . . I bet that your mind was full of them.

It appears that we have difficulty removing adjectives or basic words that act as descriptors. In the short phrases above I underlined the words the we have difficulty forgetting. Our minds immediately think “flat”, “hot”, and even fill with some nouns that have memory association like the smell of oranges. No matter how hard we try, it feels like we cannot stop ourselves from describing the world.

Yet, I believe that our happiness is dependent on the removal of language from our experiences. Next time you have a cup of coffee, don’t think of any words. Find a gap in your mind where there is no description, only experience. Really taste the coffee but don’t think of any words to put with it. As you look around your room, don’t describe it – just look.

It sounds silly, but when you label your experiences you rationalize them. You reduce them to the quality of words in your head. For example, when you look at the sky and think “blue”, you’ve labeled it. You don’t really see the sky anymore, your mind has filled in the details with the memory of blue. Instead of really experiencing the richness of the sky, now you’re living in the memory of it.

Here’s an easier example, bake something in your house that your family traditionally makes. If you bake, let’s say, an apple pie, let the kitchen fill with that smell. When you walk into that room, you will undoubtably remember a memory associated with the smell. Maybe it’s cooking with your grandma or when you first tried the pie. The important part of this is that once that feeling hits, the memory or familiarity, you’ve lost the real experience. You can’t smell what’s really in front of you anymore. All you can do is describe it with a memory or a simple word.

The reason I say that happiness and language cannot coexist is because you can’t experience true happiness through memory. You can only remember happiness. The only time you can have rich, full, and lively, experiences is now. The memories that are in your head are only a fragment of reality, they don’t really exist. They are a construct of the mind.

Therefore, if you want to really feel life, start to remove the descriptors. When you’re walking outside, don’t look at the grass and think “green”. Just let the grass be as it is, with absolutely no judgement. “Green” is a judgement. When you’re drinking water, taste it. I know it sounds ridiculous but we don’t really do tasks anymore; we walk and talk on our cell phones, we listen to music while we write, we sit on the computer and watch Netflix. We don’t really experience life in a full way. We only get a fraction of it.

My assignment for you is, for the next hour, try to live without words as much as possible. If you need to talk to somebody, okay, but do not talk to yourself. Stop describing your life and just live it. It’s as simple as that!


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