In the book Communication as Culture by James W. Carey the author proclaims,
“Communication is a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired and transformed.”
The statement is quite striking to the intellectual senses. It assaults our superficial acceptance that the world we experience through our senses is not indeed reality. It states instead that the world we conceive is a fiction birthed by communication. The communication of fiction has created, updated and perpetuated ‘reality’ over the millennium by man. Let us hearken back to the caveman as a means to illustrate.
We all understand the cave man to be the proto-human archetype of modern man. Our caveman is brutish, hairy and I shall name him Urg. Urg spends his day like most cave man rutting and rooting. He has no language beyond grunts emphasized by the parodying of what he is trying to describe.
One day Urg, out on a hunting trip, stumbles quite unexpectedly across fire. Now fire is a new phenomenon to him. Urg is quite agitated because he has no concept of fire. He stares at it from his safe perch atop a boulder. The fire behaves like nothing he has ever seen. What is Urg to do? Can he eat fire? Can he drink fire? Can fire hurt him? Can he hurt fire? Indeed how is he ever going to grunt out what he saw to his lady cavegirl?
But Urg is known to be a good grunter and has even got his fellow cave buddies to all use the same grunt for that nasty saber tooth tiger that keeps eating their babies. They now all call the big cat “Grrulll”. It was quite the accomplishment considering that before the grunt grrulll they all just voiced out some random utterance and let pantomime convey the rest of the meaning. It took considerable time for Urg to pound in grrulll to his fellow cave buddies. But after a few broken noses and one unfortunate death all the caveman now said grrulll.
So here sat Urg looking looking at fire pondering what it was and what he was going to name it. For he was certain no other has seen it before. He decided he would call it crkcrkel because that is how it sounded.
Urg returns to the cave and declares crkcrkel at the top of his lungs. No one understands him of course but they’ve learned through the grrull incident that when Urg grunts caveman listen. He convinces a couple of them to follow him out to see crkcrkel. They go to the place where crckcrkel is and Urg stands up erect, which is now quite the fashion, and points dramatically and says emphatically crkcrkel!
For Urgs cave friends their reality began to change before they saw fire. It began to change when Urg communicated fire. They formed reality out of the grunts expressed by Urg. They created out of nothingness a placeholder void in their minds for fire. Urg created reality in his communication. Later he would refine it when he discovered rather painfully that fire burned.
Fire before Urg discovered it was simply not a reality to the caveman culture. Does that mean fire never existed before Urg saw it? If a tree falls in a forest and no hears it does it make a sound? Perhaps but without Urg what is the point? If Urg had been foolish enough to go into the fire and then be consumed by it then fire would still not be a part of Urgs caveman friend’s reality.
Of course this is a gross oversimplification but it illustrates the point that communication whether it be language, dance, music or symbols create reality.
I’ve never seen a human heart with my own eyes. But I know it is real. I know that something within me beats a steady drum of life. Yet if I have not seen this with my own eyes then is a heart real? Why am I to believe others when they say I have one or the few who have said I don’t. Shall I open my chest and dig around looking for it? Certainly not! Perhaps Urg may be so inclined. I reject what my scenes’ tell me is fiction but instead believe a heart, my heart, is a reality. I’ve been told that I’ve a heart. I’ve seen pictures of a heat in books. I accept the created fiction of words and symbols as reality.
Now do not misunderstand. I mean to use fiction in the sense that the word heart is not an actual heart. The word is a fiction. It is not the real thing but a placeholder in the void for a reality that I cannot sense empirically. My heart is certainly not laid out on a piece of paper with letters or pictures. Instead it is locked tightly in my chest.
I hope this help elucidate the point that reality of my heart was created through communication and not through empirical observation on my part. One could argue that others have empirically observed hearts and because of their observation a heart is reality and thus no amount of refusal on my part to listen will change the reality that there is a heart. However this argument is specious as there are a multitude of fiction objects that are real that no one has empirically observed. Gravity comes to mind. We see the effects of gravity but we most certainly do not see gravity. But if you are still not convinced then perhaps we should seek elsewhere.
Let us turn and see to the impending invasion of the Protanomaly. The Protanomaly are color blind people. They don’t see colors the way we do. Their reality is without orange. They accept the fiction of orange because ninety percent of the rest of world says it is so. But to them there is no color orange. It simply does not exist. It is a communicated fiction that is forced into non-orange reality because orange, like Urg’s grrulll, was beaten into them through communication.
So does the color orange exist independent of the communication that named it? What if our protanomaly brethren were a lecherous and randy lot and through lascivious means were to populate the entire earth with non-orange seeing peoples? When orange was no longer seen by people and words of orange passed from the memories of men would orange cease to exist? It is easy to say no. For if it existed then it cannot be made to un-exist. But perhaps it can. If something cannot be communicated it no longer will have relevance. If there is no means to say a thing is then it is for all intents and purpose fiction until Urg comes along and communicates that color of fire is orange.