The Toki Ponist on the Mountain main page

Use Incomprehensible Language

Turn down simple explanations, surround yourself with complexity.

August 2020

Trying to understand everything is not a wrong attitude, but understanding everything is an unattainable goal. Assuming you understand something fully is an tempting misconception.

At the basis is the assumption that we comprehend everything that we understand. Clear and simple language is a welcome way to explain complex matters, but that does not mean that you actually comprehend the complex matter. Even if it really feels like it does. This is the magic of language and storytelling. A well told story will make us believe pretty much anything even if it is pure fiction or physically impossible.

As a defense, you can surround yourself with the incomprehensible world en difficult and complex language. You will train yourself into not directly understanding something.

If you feel you understand something immediately, you have not understood it fully. The only way that you can understand something immediately is if you already understand it. But if you already understand it fully, you will not be satisfied by the simple explanation or you have lost the ful comprehension of the matter you thought you understood.

Either way, only complexity can come close to giving you full understanding.

Does it mean that complex matter is always closer to the truth? No, this fact makes it extra complex. But when it is complex it forces you to be extra critical and once you have fully understand the complex language you have either better understood the matter or properly disqualified the text as incomprehensible.

Another safe ritual is to surround you by other languages. Set your phone language to Finnish, put Facebook to Polish, set Windows or Mac OS to Chinese. Go to foreign countries. And of course pu! (interact with the Toki Pona book).

So how does Toki Pona, the simple language, fit into this talk of surrounding yourself with complex language. That is because while being a simply contstructed language with few words it is actually very complex to understand. By interacting with Toki Pona in reformulating the knowledge you want to convey you have to bring it back to the core essence, but by doing that you add ambiguity and loose context. So again, you simplify a complex thing into something that is simpler but harder to comprehend fully.

This is pona!