Words Become Flesh

This may be the opening blog for a number of follow-ups. I tend to find meaning in metaphor, and in this case, words becoming flesh is one that has intrigued me for years. So, given the need for brevity in this particular medium, let us begin. It seems reasonable to think about our DNA as a language that gives direction to a variety of our behaviors, including our appetite for ideas. Studies of identical twins separated from birth are replete with anecdotes about reunions where both twins show up wearing the same kind of outfit or driving the same kind of car. The number of such similarities defies coincidence. Fashion as such is a manifestation of the idea “this looks good on me”, and while not considered profound, it nevertheless serves, as a butler might, to introduce us to the next idea.

Any child, born of any ethnicity, and raised anywhere in the world, will speak in the language and with the accent particular to that local. The DNA will not automatically reach back to what for that child has become a foreign tongue. So in the language of its new place it will learn about the ideas that serve as intellectual currency in that local. I say “about” deliberately. As those ideas go through the process of being understood they mix and mingle, join or isolate, are chosen or rejected according to a DNA dictated selection process. That may sound odd, at first hearing, but how else explain why we don’t all believe the same thing about everything. Facts are facts, and may be newly discovered, but they always require the interpretation of individuals who do not share an identical prior understanding.

And where do we think those ideas reside? In our brains? We take for granted that is the local, and our behavior, physical and emotional is therefore dictated, message like, by what we think. But that particular idea may not be as accurate as it pretends to be. Studies have shown that when we hold beliefs strongly, especially those beliefs associated with social and political ideas we do not take kindly to the presentation of new information, irrefutable facts that challenge those beliefs. More often than not we dig in, and defend what we believe more vigorously. We behave as if under attack. Where does the motivation for that response come from? We get emotional as if we are in bodily danger; our sense of self is endangered. But why? Isn’t it just an idea?

I would suggest that particular behavior, and in fact most of our significant decision based behavior is best understood by the metaphor of words becoming flesh. I have always liked the phrase, “to entertain an idea” and I recommend it to you now. Invite into the home of your consideration, give food and drink and get to know the following idea: we are, and in fact function as the daily articulation of the combination of our DNA and its specific appetite for how to engage the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual world in which we find ourselves. We are the physical manifestation of the language of our DNA and the ideas we have chosen to believe.


One comment

  1. David Lee · · Reply

    Thanks, TD,
    I have back-pedaled your comments from Dec 1 to Nov 18. No surprise, your writings are invigorating with frequent nice chunks of “right-on”. I do recall that the metaphor of Word to Flesh has been swimming with you for decades. Glad it remains true to you and thanks that you remind us of it.
    My quick reply was a sudden recollection of a painter, I have not thought about for quite some time: Rene Magritte. (I have just found that Wikipedia does a quick tour of ten of his works, and I have not read the text. But it leaves out my favorite.) I think of (?title) the one that is a pair of boots left against a wall. The toes of the boots are humanoid.
    I don’t suggest that a paltry interpretation of mine encompasses all that Magritte attempted, but his boots suggest liberation. Just as someone left his boots behind, so s/he has left his “old ways”, his fixed mode of behavior and has gone onto other ways of seeing his/herself and his/her world.
    I do recall some of Magritte’s writings that he intended that his paintings could remind the viewer of the possibility of freedom from both the fixed and the chaotic (probably not the words he used, or even the language he used.)

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