Perhaps the solitude does it. The deepest, darkest hours of the night may unearth questions otherwise buried under the daytime rubble of incomplete thoughts and hurried conversations. Regardless of their genesis, the questions tend to arise when I awaken many hours before sunrise. Today, it was not yet 3:00 a.m. when I awoke and it was just a quarter after when I decided sleep would elude me. I left the warmth of the bed, venturing first into the kitchen, then to the guest bedroom that serves as my study. And then the questions began to come.
Is language utterly inadequate to describe humanity? Does the complexity of individual humans’ interactions with one another, with themselves, with the environments in which they live, and with the worlds outside their views and beyond their comprehension render language unable to describe humanity, even in the broadest of terms?
If you were asked to “describe humanity,” could you do it? Is the universe just too complex for any language to be up to the task? Each person on earth is stunningly complex; an endless string of words can never fully describe that person. Why, then, would we expect language to serve us when we ask it to describe not just an individual, but billions upon billions of individuals?
We think we know the world around us, yet we cannot even begin to fully explain one individual, not even ourselves. These thoughts lead me back to one of my favorite quotations: I know everything except myself ~ François Villon (a French poet, thief, and vagabond who lived in the early 1400s). Perhaps it is only ourselves language cannot describe. Perhaps we can describe, maybe even explain, humanity. We just cannot explain, on an individual basis, who we are and why.
So, two hours after I awoke, I have succeeded only in suggesting responses to questions with no answers.