On Robert Macfarlane, and how the words we use define us


Toni Morrison said that language “arcs toward the place where meaning may lie,” but life also arcs toward language. This is beautifully explored in the movie Arrival, when a linguist’s apprehension of an alien language shapes her own experience of time. But it is terrifying when language lies, oppresses, steals, and erases—and life distorts in kind.

If language is, as Morrison said, “the measure of our lives,” if it is the “human difference” that distinguishes us from other animals in the Garden of Eden, what do the words we use now say about who we really are and who we are becoming?


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