We’re led through this experience
by rhyming poetry.
It’s time we get a real sense
how such a thing can be.
How games of words our voices play
and thoughts that they disclose
unite us in a novel way
no other species knows.
Life built on random games to shape
all species out of dust,
but only one strange kind of ape
now says so, and that’s us.
Of course all beasts and birds can call
or gesture to convey
some signal they would share with all,
some thing they have to say.
We all have heard excited sounds
in flocks and packs and herds,
but strangely, we have never found
real grammar in their words.
We’ve heard most songs most birds can sing,
most calls of animals
and all are only signaling.
They’re not true languages.
The air we humans ventilate,
we shape in funny ways.
Our human grammar complicates
the words our voices raise.
It could be argued whales can send
each other thoughts much as
we do, but that’s an argument
no other species has.
To see how speech is marvelous,
we need just give it space
to think and meditate on this,
on words our voices raise.
One sound before another sound
holds meaning differently
from them the other way around.
“See to” is not “to see”.
“Use for this” is not “use this for”
and it’s not “for this use”
or “this use for” and that’s just four
terms these three words produce.
Per word, the terms it will permit
They’re literally infinite
Words strung together can make sense,
confuse us or be fun,
in narratives and arguments
and sermons like this one.
With words describing words themselves,
like “grammar”, “joke” and “true”,
we make them useful for ourselves
and get what they can do.
And even silent gestures meant
to say what words could say
are functionally equivalent
to words our voices raise.
Our loving curiosity
for one another is
fulfilled by our ability
to speak our minds like this.
Of course our minds are huge and rich.
Our lips can only reach
few words per second, limits which
constrain what’s voiced in speech.
We must compress reality
when we communicate.
Words simplify complexity
they just approximate.
This makes our words transmissible
and makes us pay a cost.
Short words make unavoidable
that subtleties get lost.
At best, words lose less subtlety,
so they’re diverging less
from true observed reality
and that is truthfulness.
The exponential choices of
grammatical words give
more meaning sent per word, enough
to be informative.
Compressed, words need less space in minds
than full experience,
so they’re more easily combined
and built on to make sense.
These – seven – words – make – up – a – line.
These – four – another – one.
And once four lines like this combine,
one stanza has been spun.
These stanzas all have one design.
It’s strict and classical.
Its rhyme and meter give each line
a groove that’s musical.
The words we speak have melody
and an unrivaled choice
of musical variety
in songs we also voice.
Most who can speak can voice a strong
and bright melodic phrase
to pitch what all of us call “song”
in words our voices raise.
One word like “song” for separate acts
makes them comparable
and can outlast the actual facts,
since words are durable.
This makes words quite dissimilar
from things they name and mean.
Our word for that is that they are
ideas – things unseen.
From words that we could speak as names
for real things we see
arose more abstract meta-games
and lots of novelty.
Ideas that were practical,
like “one” and “two” and “three”,
made human lives more tractable
and furthered inquiry.
Ideas met, and some could take
each other’s aspects on.
Their combination sometimes makes
a new, more complex one.
Thus measuring the land we own
and trading crops this land had grown
A good idea can improve
our lives entirely.
A bad one can obscure the truth
and cause catastrophe.
Entire lives have gone to waste
in pointless wordplay schemes,
when too much value had been placed
in search of hopeless dreams.
Ideas shape our futures, thus
they’re very powerful.
For them to not make tools of us,
they must be our tools.
But always, an idea shared
creates relations of
shared understanding, thinking aired
with some degree of love.
With words, we can resolve disputes.
And where that fails, a judge
who hears the case, or law statutes
use language just as much.
Our words are always to invite
each other into games,
relationships, however slight.
These sermons do the same.
But language not only involves
the words our voices raise,
it interacts and co-evolves
with thoughts in mental space.
This helps us understand ourselves.
Like we make words for words,
we make new thoughts on thoughts themselves
and learn how thinking works.
So reason and philosophies
have found themselves in place
within the strange psychologies
behind each voice we raise.
Our ancestors built this know-how,
to know themselves like us here now
and reason rationally.
The better they could understand
what needed to be done,
the more they joined their many hands
and brains to work as one.
All wins our ancestors achieved
were times when they most talked.
Their worst mistakes were ill-conceived
when talking had been blocked.
We owe such massive gratitude
for all the work they did.
Our words grew with their aptitude
as evidence of it.
We honor what they have imbued
us with beyond their days
by paying forward, and include
the voices children raise.
By teaching kids our languages,
we’re giving them the keys
deciphering the valuables
in schools and libraries.
We hope the kids we teach and lead
through words our voices raise
will grow to match and supersede
the teammates they’ll replace.
Team linkages are languages.
When work we share today
needs language for new purposes,
new words provide the way.
Since words at best approximate
experience and truth,
the truthfulness they generate
improves as words improve.
Our ancestors could not explain
so much about this world.
What makes the sunshine? What makes rain?
They lacked more truthful words.
Compared to us, they seem like fools,
but they were smart to choose
to build the tools that built the tools
that built the tools we use.
Since they have passed their knowledge on,
it grew and grew and grew,
a treasure we here now have won
and keep on adding to.
Along the stream of centuries,
our growing knowledge formed
a lineage of societies
Each new discussion overlaid
what others had begun,
continued them and thereby made
all their discussions one.
In places of philosophy,
in colleges and guilds,
in schools of craft and industry,
discussion builds and builds.
Across all voices humans share,
one great discussion seeks
for good ideas that won’t care
whose voice it is that speaks.
We joined this great discussion when
we learned our words as kids.
Until our voice grows still again,
we will be part of it.
And part of how we all converse
attempts to understand
and to reflect the universe
as truly as we can.
That’s how we learned how we appear
as this humanity
within the vastness that is here,
from out of entropy.
By understanding more, we get
new ways we can discuss,
like writing, printing, Internet
connect each one of us.
Comparing our ideas more,
we find that some are wrong,
like heavens we can now explore,
where angels don’t belong.
The best ideas that survive
each other being known
comprise for everyone alive
the greatest wealth we own.
To see all this as one great whole
allows us to discern
how all our voices play some role
in something vast that learns.
As that increasingly employs
our words for what it seeks,
by now, we give machines a voice.
Through them, more stardust speaks.
Through ever more evolving speech,
we gain perspective as
we learn of places we can reach
no other species has.
Here now, around us everywhere
are lifeless, wordless worlds
and we prepare to travel there,
and teach them life and words.
The galaxy around us, not
mere heaven is our prize.
We aren’t fallen angels but
we’re apes who learn to rise.
Our rise to meet this universe
is young; we still have much
to learn together, to converse,
approaching truth as such.
In this, the more our speech is free,
the better it helps solve
the problems that humanity
attacks as we evolve.
Of course there’s danger in that, too.
Free speech brings to the fore
what speakers are contrary to.
This may include the law.
All good ideas might be friends,
but some are now opposed
and we’re still beasts, where violence
is still sometimes too close.
In silence, there is safety.
It hides us in some ways.
So there is always bravery
in words our voices raise.
For silence to be meaningful,
it has to be a choice,
to consciously not use the tool
that is the human voice.
Let’s not be silent out of fear
or habit or mistake.
Let’s try now. There’s been silence here
that we’re allowed to break.
Let’s raise our voice together now.
Let’s all within this… place
now speak and play a game out loud
of words our voices… raise!
We’re dust that’s played by entropy,
we’re life adrift in… space,
with love within humanity
and words our voices… raise!
Of all the reasons to rejoice
these sermons para-phrase,
we are reminded by the voice
and words we all now… raise!
To speak together is to say
that we’re a team that… plays
a game as one, one interplay
of words our voices… raise!
With that, this sermon culminates.
Our knowledge of it… stays,
as each of us appreciates
the words our voices… raise.