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Blog Number One (1): The Dictionary and the Butterfly

A dictionary is a morgue of mutilated ideas. Dictionaries can facilitate communication between individuals — even when people are talking to each other across historic ages or when they live in different countries and speak different languages. But dictionaries are still morgues of mutilated ideas; their definitions remove the concepts they try to capture from life, give them limits, and put them into a book.

We need to use dictionaries as we fumble along through life. But defining words is like pinning and mounting butterflies. Once mounted, life is gone and the butterfly no longer flies.

We are less likely to make a mess of things when we are aware of our penchant to define everything, applying finite measures to infinite quantities. Being aware that we are dealing with mutilated ideas keeps us from treating them as eternal verities or ultimate truth.

My book, The Answer Is A Question, is my attempt to provide words for that idea which makes the most profound difference in how one lives: the humility of an open mind.