Words in their speaking

We don’t just use words and language to name and describe things. More often than not our words are designed to do things: to direct; to evoke; to command; to unsettle and to pacify or calm – and much more!.

As obvious as this may seem, and as central as it is to how we go about our everyday business, we generally have very limited awareness of this aspect of our own involvement in the various circumstances that go to make up the multitude of intersecting worlds we inhabit.

Part of the reason for this low level of awareness is, I suspect, the likelihood that in order to participate in a particular world at all, to be intelligible and able to coordinate actions and activity with others, we must share a way of relating and a language for doing so that doesn’t require constant attention and which can be brought to bear effortlessly. That way we can focus on what we agree is important and we must, therefore, do in the circumstances.

Of great importance in our continuing ability to do this are our anticipations about what will happen next in any language-enabled interchange. When these are largely fulfilled we are able to move forward with ease and confidence and a certain resourcefulness that can often be mistaken for certainty. It’s when these anticipations aren’t fulfilled or perhaps come with subtle variations, that we can be roused out of our entrained ways of working and, as a consequence, see new possibilities.

We don’t however have lots of highly developed practices that keep us alert, ready to notice and respond to these disruptions or ‘striking’ moments. We therefore often go past them, put off for a moment but quickly regaining our composure and, to our disadvantage, plough on as if the mismatch between our anticipation and what actually occurred is some sort of aberration, rather than a clue or a glimpse into the unique nature of this event and these circumstances and the possibilities it holds.