Naming The Thing
When something is mysterious or unknown to us its potential for bad or good is essentially limitless in our imagination. Because the thing is unknown it’s just possible that whatever we care to imagine could be true about it. Originally I was only thinking in negative terms – potential for bad – but the more I think about it this also applies to the potential for good.
When we encounter an unknown, depending on who we are – our disposition, our age – our imagination can run away with us, about just how much this unknown thing will affect our lives – both for good and bad. BUT, once we are able to name this thing – symbolize it in some way – we suddenly limit it’s potential. In many ways I suppose that’s a useful trait, but I was originally thinking of unknown’s with bad consequences and so limiting this potential simply by giving the unknown a name seems undesirable – particularly when the bad reality far outstrips the limit we impose by naming it.
I’m finding we are glib about all kinds of dangerous or difficult things the more familiar we are with the name of that thing. For example smoking. We all know smoking is damaging, we’ve all known this for a long time and yet there are a lot of insincere comments about how this one smoke is no big deal since it’s only shortening our lives by X hours – as if that is in fact the reality of the situation. The same goes for commentary on debilitating and deadly diseases like cancer. It’s as if the thing we discuss is just so incomprehensibly bad that we can’t begin to discuss it properly and so we’ve retreated to a safer minimized description of the bad thing – so we can all chuckle lightly about it and move on.
But then when we are unfortunate enough to actually encounter this bad thing, we are struck with disbelief about just how incredibly horrible the experience is – nothing like how we envisioned it would be when joking about it with our friends.
Perhaps making light of things we have or may encounter is an essential trait for socializing and survival – no one wants to be with an exaggerator.