Dead Words

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People tend to listen and respond as if words have more or less fixed meanings. But words don’t have fixed ordained meanings. They mean what we, the community of word users, agree they mean–and we often disagree and change our minds. Word meanings are in motion like the fluid consciousness that gives them birth, and dictionaries are the fluent history of our collective verbal habits. Dictionaries are not meaning bibles but an ephemeral record of how we have used words. Words are a catalyst for consciousness–there is no meaning in the words themselves. Or we might say words have shadow meanings that follow the actual meaning that exists in the life of consciousness. Words are symbols, forms, obscure mysteries—they are in the world of dead things and only take on meaning in a moment of illumination in the mind and heart of the reader or speaker.

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