General Semantics Advanced Thinking
A System-Discipline Concerned with the Sanity of the Race & the Individual
On Language, Fantasies and Evaluation

by Milton Dawes

On Language …

A speculation: As children, we usually learned the words, definitions and meanings before – sometimes years before – we encountered the actual objects, situations, processes, etc., that the words were about. You might say that we humans learn language too early for our own good; “too early” in the sense that we often do not allow ourselves time to discover the ‘things’ behind the words, and more about their relationships, functions, processes, etc. “Too early” before we understand the dangers involved in indiscriminate use of language, uncritical interpretations of the words we use, differences in the meanings we each give to what we see, hear, read, and so on. Similarly, I speculate, we have developed warring technologies “too early” – too early before we have learned to negotiate and make compromises involving our differences and conflicts.

We build our societies, create policies and laws, establish economic, political, religious and myriad other institutions based on the language structuring we learned early in our lives. Our institutions and ourselves ensure the propagation and continuity of our earlier evaluations. Some humans speak, and act, in terms of “believers” and “unbelievers”, of being “for” or “against” us or them – what we refer to as a two-valued orientation. Due to individuals who act from these two-value orientations, we may be in for some continued tough times ahead. Earlier in our history, sovereign nations had and controlled the missiles and the bombs. Now, due to advances in technology and wide-spread distribution of knowledge, it is possible for one individual to virtually destroy an entire city. For the militaries and law enforcement agencies, it is much more difficult to find and deter one individual than another country.

Time is running out for us. We need to update our evaluation schemes at many levels – personal, interpersonal, societal, and international – before we ‘entropyze’ ourselves; or in other words, before we blow ourselves to small bits. Can we do it? We have a method we call general semantics, a system of formulations to help us update our evaluation schemes. Can we apply it to our human affairs and relationships in time?

On Fantasies …

A few days ago, a friend started to share a fantasy with me. I was included in my friend’s fantasy, and I expressed my objection to the role I was given as being against my values. My friend corrected me and replied, “No, no … it is my fantasy and you have no say.” I quickly realized a ‘truth’ in my friend’s point of view. As I reflected on this conversation afterwards, I had this insight … In our day to day relationships, we often treat people as if we’ve assigned them roles to play, as though they were characters in our own “fantasies” and had no say. We create our own expectations as to how they should behave, what they should say, when they should do something, and so on. And in our everyday situations at home, at work, among friends etc., we often act as if things ought to go according to our fantasy. A great deal of anger, frustration, disagreeableness, dissatisfaction, conflict, and violence can be attributed to this lack of distinction between the realities of our fantasies, and the realities of our everyday relationships.

When we are conscious of abstracting, we remember not to confuse, not to identify, not to intensionally act as if there were no difference between what we imagine, between what’s going on in our heads (our maps), and what’s going on in the world outside.

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