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I didn’t know the Star Wars’ Stormtroopers spoke

Francisco Miraval

I didn’t know the Imperial soldiers in Star Wars, those wearing white uniforms, spoke. Let me explain the reason for my ignorance: the first time, many decades ago, when I watched Star Wars, it was in Spanish and those movies did not include any translation of whatever the Stormtroopers said.

It was only many decades later, after learning enough English, that I realized that those soldiers not only spoke, but that they spoke English. Even more amazing, I was now able to understand what they were saying.

I am certain that there is no existential, epistemological, or ethical advantage in knowing that some movie characters do speak and that they speak English. But that’s not the point of this commentary. The point is that my “ignorance” was based in limitations imposed by my culture and my language.

So, only after being immersed in a different culture and language, I was able to listen and to understand the conversations of the Star Wars soldiers. That leads me to the key question for this column: what other realities unknown to me exist outside the limits of my culture and my language?

In other words, what lies beyond the limits of my knowledge? And what I should do to avoid confusing the limits of my knowledge with the limits of reality?

Wittgenstein said that the limits of our language are the limits of our reality. And it seems that Borges once said that the limits of our library are the limits of our reality.

In both cases, the thinker and the writer seem to say that there is a reality beyond what we know and we can express, but we don’t know that reality because we are not enough to expand our language, due to imposed and self-imposed limitations in our language.

It is true that our daily urgencies lead us away, and rightly so, from the luxury of reflecting. Paying the rent of the mortgage, buying food, and sending the children to school take priority over philosophical meditations. As Aristotle rightly said, there is a connection between thinking and leisure (free time.)

However, it seems that our daily routine is getting smaller and smaller, preventing us with increasing force from knowing more and from thinking deeper. Thinking has been replaced by calculating. Reflecting is now just “expert commentary”. And meditation became isolation.

But calculation, expert commentaries, and isolation don’t lead to deepening our knowledge of ourselves nor to exploring new dimensions our ourselves and the universal self. For that reason, we remain ignorant of the reality, in the same way that I used to not know that fictional Imperial soldiers spoke English. Ignoring what happens in a movie is irrelevant. Ignoring reality is not.

Who or what is talking to us and we are not listening? What other voices we can’t hear because nobody is translating the message for us? What new languages we should learn so we can understand? Due to my own self-imposed limitations, I don’t have answers to those questions.

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