29 September 2009


We so often attempt to seek after the things that are intangible. Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are part of our country's history, the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence. Love and beauty and truth are three more that seem to be embedded in the American Dream (another intangible).

The biggest problem with intangibles is how reliant they are upon language. When we talk about tangibles like water, trees, television & family, we have something to which we can point to act as a definition. Without anything physical to direct us, we are forced to rely strictly upon language to define the ideas of love, happiness and the rest.

Rising out of this conundrum is a glorious problem. The problem we run into is the diverse definitions that grow from single concept. It's glorious because it gives a greater perspective than one single person can achieve.

Take the idea of 'community'.

Last week, i went to a church that was discussing this, how to be a community to each other. They had looked at the second chapter of Acts the week previous, which talks about sharing everything in common and living lives together.

There is a new show in Thursdays titled 'Community' that plays on the concept of the community college. It's about a misfit study group of seven people who grow, humorously, into a small community.

There is a game on facebook called mousehunt. The developers constantly are talking about the mousehunt 'communitay', as one South African developer pronounces it. They are talking about those individuals who make friends with other hunters and share tips and advice on the game.

Every city has some sort of community center, where people can hold events, learn how to swim, or defend themselves, or take their toddlers during work. It's a center in service to the community, for its betterment.

Each of these holds some piece of a shared core idea.

The trouble comes when we communicate with one another, keeping our intangible idea stuck in our heads, immovable, and the person we're talking with has another perspective of that intangible idea. If neither of us is willing to bend our minds around the other person's perspective, the conversation will just become a frustrating exchange of words.


  1. Ok so this isn't quite related, aside from the labeling intangibles thing. But, do you know why the AP standard for racial classification has Asian and Hispanic capitalized but black and white in lower case. These are social constructs / categories doing the same thing (i.e. grouping ) so why are some groupings favored over others through capitalization (or the lack thereof).

    I've heard a lot of the social arguments behind these, but figure there's gotta be some English standard keeping it in place.

  2. Check out the newest blog for some comments on that.

    Basically, it does come down to language. Asian & Hispanic are rooted in specific locations: Asian & Spain (Hispania). White and black are centered around color of skin. If we were to call Asians yellow and Hispanics brown, they too would be lowercase.

    I think a bigger question is why it's proper for us to say 'white' & 'black' but not 'brown' or 'yellow' when talking about ethnicities.