How will language change in the future?
| The stark contrast of the moment with the entire day was genuinely relaxing and afforded him to savor it like a desert. He sat down in the small office chair and rolled toward the desk, then reclined and propped his feet up while he grabbed his pair of headphones. Locating his favorite play list, he began his descent into perfect noise, and enjoyed the opportunity to exit his mind from the realities of the world. He began to feel truly escaped from everything.
The selection of melodic blues filled the cups around his ears and drained away the air around them to involve him into their hypnotic comfort. The vibrato of the acoustic guitar with a piano accompaniment rendered out a trance of a story, which as it was told, made the words dissipate into the carefree world of nothing. The words of the blues had a way of getting rid of the very themes which it presented.
Now, he could do some writing. With his mind now more clear from daily activities, he could open it up to his imagination and begin a journey into a new story. He opened the word processor on the computer and began his journey with a few strokes of the keyboard with the first sentence that came to mind, just to get something going.
Once the first sentence was there, the words flowed out more easily. A character was concocted, and then a place, and then some object within the room where the character resided. A plot gathered up as these things were building steam and as ideas for obstacles or problems that might affect the character began to add flavor to the story. He was going to enjoy this story as a third party watching as the story unfolded. This was his favorite way to create.
As he was beginning to forcibly slow himself down to see the story unfold as he wrote, a sting came to one of his ears. At first, it was only a tinge, and then when it came the second time, he had to quickly remove one side of the headphones to relieve the burning sensation. It was as if the noise of the music had literally burned him. He waited for a moment until the pain passed, and then hesitantly replaced the headphones in their prior position.
After only a few more key strokes, the pain started again. This time, however, he found himself unable to move while his ears singed with the burning sensation. His body rested where it was at, while his muscles locked into position. He wanted to scream in agony, but was unable to make his mouth open or his lungs force the air across his voice box. He was stuck in torture while something held him still and filled his ears with something he didn't like.
It was as if someone or something was probing his mind through the sound in his ears. At the same time, the sounds were causing his brain to hold his muscles still. He was still conscious, but barely so. His mental awareness was being challenged by his subconscious mind as the unknown being wormed its way through his thoughts.
Suddenly, the onslaught was ended as abruptly as it had attacked. Regaining full control of his own mind and body, he threw off the headset and shoved himself away from the desk in utter horror. He felt violated, but he did not know exactly how. He just knew that someone had managed to know his thoughts, and this frightened him. There was no way he could continue to even sit at his desk, much less make an attempt to finish what he had begun. With his legs quaking underneath his weight, he headed for his room to look for something comfortable.
It was another 24 hours before he grew courage enough to sit at his desk again, and even longer before he went through his usual relaxing ritual of listening to his music over the headset. It was Saturday now, but he just couldn't feel at ease like he normally would. It was his own stubborn will, though, that pushed his fears aside and made him believe that what had happened before was only some trick of imagination. After all, he took the writing so seriously and came so closed to actually living it as he was writing, that perhaps it became too real for him, he thought.
This time, he was more reluctant and rested the headset on his head with one side off so as to only commit to one ear. He knew logically that he shouldn't be so cautious, but he gave his emotions some concessions as they battled his logic. He tried some of his favorite classical music instead, hoping the change would put him more at ease and make him more readily forget so as to concentrate on the writing.
He was able to complete a full page this time, and was becoming lost in the story again. More characters and situations were developing and seemed very engaging to him as he again became both that third party observer and creator at the same time. The work was becoming fun again, and he soon settled well enough to cover his other ear and enjoy the music.
Just as the story was coming to its first climax, a quick sting ran its course down his spine. Not Again! He began to tear the headset off again, but was too late in the process. Before his arm could reach, it fell flat in his lap as the muscles began to convulse. He lost control again of his body and its movements. Heat scorched his ears as pulse ran through them into his head. His forehead began to throb in spasms as the pulses strengthened. They were so much stronger and so much more painful this time.
The pain began to black out his vision. The sides of the room first blurred around him, and the slowly faded away into blackness until he could see no more. Slowly, the pain began to subside as a new picture came into view before his eyes. Darkness still prohibited full vision, but he could now hear something different through the pulses pushing their way through his ears. The voices seemed to form words which it seemed like he should understand -- the words sounded like English, but was different enough that the messages were unintelligible.
A room of dark gray slated walls began to appear around him. The floor became solid, glossy black, as the voices began to echo through and bounce from the hard surfaces. Although the room's level of light seemed to be normal, a thick vale of vaporous fog inhibited his ability to see everything around him. Shadows of human figures began to form.
A rush of unintelligible, but oddly familiar, words coursed through the air. It was as if a group of adoring fans were mobbing their favorite public figure. The shadows wanted to ask all sorts of questions, but their words fell upon ears that were disturbed with confusion. Finally, someone hushed the voices with a resoundingly emphatic exclamation.
One dark figure moved forward and spoke more slowly. This time, his words were easier to understand. "You must be overwhelmed by what you see and hear. Your thoughts are still somewhat clouded. Are you quite comfortable?"
The man who had found himself in the center of the crowd's focus shuttered in wonder at what was happening. "Comfortable? I don't even know what's going on? Are you some figment of my imagination? Did I create you within my story?"
"You use..." The figure looked around to his colleges for aid in searching for the correct phrase. "You make use of old words." He had gathered his mind well enough to communicate his message. "We are familiar with ‘imagination.' However, what is a story? This word appears often in your writings. The concept seems unfamiliar. We've been searching for the proper translation into modern English. Although language isn't as you once thought of it, we still make use of it to an extent. More out of novelty than out of necessity."
The man wasn't ready for such deep philosophical communication without first coming to terms with where he was or with whom he was speaking. "Now, I know you're a figment of my imagination. You must be coming from my head, so I'll just go along with this. First, I need to know who you are and where you come from. If you expect me to write this all down, I need to know some details."
"Forgive me. I know you that you desire to chronicle this communication, but you will have no memory of it. We cannot afford to take the chance of altering the past. In terms of your understanding, the best for me way for me to explain in a way that you will understand is that we are from the future. We are students of history. Our researchers -- you can think of them as anthropologists -- have been studying your writings in particular. You have left us a rich body of work from which we can derive much about life in your time. However, there are some concepts which we have been unable to understand. They are vague to us. And so, we sought you out through electronic means to bring you here to explain."
The man was now very intrigued by how this story might turn out. "I see." He was enthused with the depth of the characters within his mind, and wanted to explore more deeply, and so decided to participate in the answering of questions as an exercise in character development. "A story is a work of creation. It's an imaginative means of exploring thought. I imagine a character or group of characters, and then I place them into situations and allow my mind to explore the possibilities of what will happen."
"So, you do not write of real events?" Whispering and confusion spread amongst the observers. They were nearly in panic. "You have altered years of opinions on history with a single statement. What is the purpose of chronicling events and people which do not and have never existed?"
"There are a number of reasons. I appreciate the opportunity to be forced to explore and explain them for myself, as well." He gave pause momentarily to explore his mind. "I write stories of fiction because I want to explore the human condition -- learn the possibilities of the human psyche -- to understand the full range of emotions and reactions to them -- to embrace through the eyes of people what I cannot possibly understand through my experiences. I also write to reflect on my own experiences, and to allow others to read of them. This is the first, though that I've heard so resoundingly from those who have read my work. I suppose that from what you've read, you've learned that I like to write with passion."
"Passion. What is passion?"
Although he didn't think it originally, it was difficult to immediately spout out a ready definition of the term. He struggled for the words. "Well... It's similar to love. True love, I mean. The kind that clenches you so tightly that you are compelled to devote everything to it." This exercise in defining such simple, yet intangible, words had to be helping him with his writing. He continued it in earnest, believing it would free his mind.
"This word love. We've read it in much of your work, as well as in others'. It's a difficult translation. We have tried to translate it as sex, but it doesn't seem to fit that way in all contexts."
"Ahhh..." he thought. Now he understood; the lack of emotional understanding all lead back to a misunderstood definition of love. Without love there could be no understanding of true emotion and of fiction stories or their purposes. In order to understand deep reflection on the human condition, one would first have to have some rudimentary understanding of love. "Tell me. I need to ask you one question, now. Before we continue, without an understanding of what love is, how do you now take care of your elderly and needy? How does your society deal with oppression? Without love, how do you provide aid to one another?"
"These things require love? Love, then, is the compelling desire to fulfill an obligation to better the world around you?"
The questions seemed to answer his thoughts, and he realized he needed to clarify. It was true that there were reasons of pure logic to aid those in need. What, then was love? How could he define it so that they could understand? "Well, that's not exactly it. You see, love is the motivation behind these things." He paused for a moment. "No. That's not exactly it, either. It's the desire to do it, when you know that you don't have to. It's about setting the self aside and placing someone else's desires and needs before your own. I'm not sure where you got that it only had to do with sex."
There was whispering throughout the room as the dark figures talked amongst themselves. It was apparent that these things were new to them, and that not all of the discussion was making sense. The foggy vapor was thickening in front of the man as his inquisitor leaned forward and put the palms of his hands against the man's head. "Your mind is becoming less clear to us. We are having trouble interpreting and fear we may lose contact with you. Allow me to clear some of the fog you see around us." He pressed his hand tightly. "It's difficult. Other old words are coming through that we do not fully understand. You sit so comfortably here in a presence that should frighten you. A word keeps coming through your thoughts. What is ‘faith'?"
"Now, you are truly making me work for this, aren't you?" He grinned widely at the inquisitor. "The faith with which I am familiar springs from a basic faith that I have in God. I am surprised that if you do not have it, which He has not yet found you contemptible enough to destroy you already. Are all those in your society as devoid of faith as yourself?"
The figure was startled and angry with the question. "We have no need for a god here. We believe in that which we see."
"But, of course. I wasn't thinking before. How could you have faith without an understanding of love. The two are so closely related. As I was saying, my faith grows out of a belief in what I cannot see, what I cannot know beyond doubt. I don't believe this because I can prove that it exists. I believe it out of love. Without the presence of faith, I'm not sure there could be love. So it doesn't surprise me that your culture has difficulties with this term. I'm curious, though. What brings you joy?"
The cloud of vapors began to disappear as the figure became a more human form. His face looked very puzzled. "Joy? Our joy comes from our work. We derive joy from our lives in what we do."
"And, what do you do in your society?"
"We work. We search for answers."
The man now was pleased at what he was hearing. Perhaps there was a positive to be found in the future. He sighed in relief. "Then you are growing close to an understanding of what I represent. You are not far from it. You will soon learn that you can never acquire all knowledge. For, there can only be one who has all knowledge. Else, there can be no purpose behind your endeavors of discovery. For, they would be of no use without the pursuit of joy which can only be found in its purest form in love. And, in order to truly experience love, you must have faith. If not in God, then in others."
"Your old words still ring foreign to us. You have given us much to ponder. This connection is now fading, and so we must allow you back to your time. We thank you for the light which you have shed on your culture. We wish to discover what life was like as you lived. We will bring you back again soon with more questions. Until then, we must dispose of your memory of these events. It could be detrimental for you to have such intimate knowledge of the future."
The vision of the room began pulsating inward and outward, while the edges blurred to cover it up. Soon, the entire vision of the room was gone, and the man was left sitting in his desk chair listening to his music, pondering his next key stroke. He picked up his story where he had left it, now with a much clearer mind.