Language is great. I mean, blogs would be pretty weird without language! Putting the bad jokes aside, though, language is so crucial to us as humans in that it frames just about everything, from our perceptions to our thinking to our experience of life and what life even is.
You know that great feeling of amazement we get when we hear a word that oh so perfectly encapsulates something that we’d been having trouble explaining or expressing? Or when the word is so illuminating that we become aware of something we had been totally blind to until that point? Language, and words, can be limiting, but it can also be amazingly empowering.
That’s why I love learning that in Japanese there are a pair of words that have the same English translation: “muzukashii” (むずかしい) and “taihen” (たい|へん). *
In English, both of these words translate to “difficult.” However, they are not the same: “muzukashii” refers to difficulty from complexity, whereas “taihen” gets its difficulty from an overwhelming scale. So, for example, for a math test a muzukashii would be a hard differential calculus problem, while a taihen would be four thousand simple addition and subtraction questions.
Which is very cool, because when we experience those kind of situations they are quite distinct. As are our reactions to them, or the efforts we may need to take to get through it, or how we might go about solving them, and a whole host of things. And when we talk about the obstacles that lie before us (both as individuals and as communities and more), it makes a difference to know what kind of difficulty it may be to take it on… or even if it may be different groups of difficulties, some relating to complexity, some relating to scope. Otherwise, it’s easy to collapse it all into a complex morass of epic proportions, leading us to dejection before we even start.
I’m keen on being mindful and taking this new distinction forward to see how it alters my perceptions of things and, from that, what new avenues of agency and empowerment it opens.
* I do hope I got the writing correct… I came across this distinction in a comment by glilimith on this Folding Ideas video.