Metaphysics of the Other


A Lionizing Lion

Wittgenstein famously wrote in his Philosophical Investigations that if a lion could speak we could not understand him.

Why only a lion? Isn’t it also true of the tuna, the dragonfly or a rattlesnake’s nest? Or even of a pile of dust, a block of granite or a cluster of galaxies? Or a prion, a plasmid, a boson? Or an angel, a seraphim, and even God himself?

The living, the non-living or the beyond-living speak languages that cannot be translated into each other. They live or non-live in their own worlds, – while living or non-living side by side in the common world. The lion smells the blood of the impala, hears its terror, feeds on its scent, and the whole surrounding savanna learns an immemorial lesson from this feast.

God fills the world with His subtle grammar, but a single boson, too, fills the universe, in its own very tenuous way.

It is an ancient dream to speak all languages, past, present and all those yet to come.

But it is an unspeakable dream to desire to speak the language of all the aeons, all the universes.

One might say: but a stone doesn’t speak, nor a proton or a star! Only beings endowed with reason do speak.

This is, of course, a short view. Can we conceive what we are not?

The Leonine language seems closer to the Human language than to a mineral language, because there is no lack of animal metaphors, that could bind the two worldviews.

Isn’t the crushing of bones in the jaws a kind of sentence? Isn’t the agony of the victim, the smell of fear and death part of the universal volapük?

The lion « leonises ». The snake « snakes ». Man « anthropomorphizes ».

What about the aborted dream of the fly? What about the photon’s fatigue? The angel’s grief?

All these lives, these feelings, — outside of all syntax, all lexicon, but not totally out of all intuition.

If we put a million Champollions on the spot, to finally decipher the roar of the panther, the cry of the whale or the vibrato of the lizard, wouldn’t we be able to determine non-thought of structures, shapes, meaning? Wouldn’t there be some hope of establishing correspondences between languages eminently « other » than, say, Greek, Hebrew or Sanskrit? Is it certain that we will never find a new Rosetta Stone one day revealing that the languages of the living are living their own lives?

And life is not reserved for the living, by the way. The non-living, or at least what the living call it, also lives a life that is undoubtedly more secret and more fundamental, initiated at the borders of time and space…

All languages have one thing in common. They survive those who speak them. They form a world apart, which also lives its own life.

How can we understand ourselves if we cannot even understand the nature of the language we think we speak?

If we could really understand ourselves, and our language itself, would we understand better all the infinite otherness in the silent worlds, all that is obscure (to us) in the universe?

There is talking and talking. There is speaking without saying anything, and there is speaking without looking like it; there is speaking with covered words, or between the lines.

There is the music of words and there are tones. The high tone, the firm tone, the beautiful tone, the warm tone, the acid tone, the fat tone. So many tones! You need the ear, you need sensitivity.

In the slightest breath, there are ignored palimpsests, impassive, waiting for their time. And the stars also breathe.

‘Words’ are also the dark and shiny reflections, the muffled flashes of a latent fire, a fire of meaning, inaudible, unhoped for, smouldering under the ashes of appearances.