One of the challenges of being a postmodern communicator is that words are not necessarily tied to the single truth of their meaning. Words can be used just for effect. And, often, no, very often, postmodern people listen for effect rather than meaning.
Custard Dripping from a Dead Dog’s Eye
John Lennon wrote a song titled “I am the Walrus." It is a nonsensical song. It was definitely a shot at poetry in lyrical form. But many listened to it looking for meaning. A line like “custard dripping from a dead dog’s eye” can hardly convey any clear meaning. Yet Lennon’s avid fans searched for meaning in every line.
Coo Coo Cachoo
Songwriters use words for effect. You can apply them as you will. It depends upon how they effect you. John Lennon wrote: ”I am the Walrus, I am the egg man coo coo cachoo.” What does this mean? It means nothing. It is a catchy construction of sound. It is language used for effect not meaning.
The history of "I am the Walrus" offers some interesting background. First the “egg man” is rumored to be a reference to Eric Burdon of a group called the Animals. Burdon enjoyed breaking raw eggs on the bodies of women and hence was known as the "eggman."
It is also rumored that “I am the Walrus” was Lennon’s attempt at a shot against Bob Dylan. He felt Dylan got away with murder lyrically with his nonsensical verbalization. He felt he worked hard to gain meaning and Dylan just wrote for effect. So he took up the mantle and wrote for effect in a beautiful way.
Dylan actually got his penchant for hidden meaning and using words for effect from the beatniks like Ferlinghetti and Watts. Both very melodic in the way they read sound driven poetry with some but little direct clear meaning. The chant like sound was a distinctive approach that is still a trademark of Dylan’s music. I like it. But I enjoy William Blake’s literature and children’s poetry. So words for effect give me some delight. But when the underlying meaning of communication is that words are only as important as their effect it hampers my style as a communicator.
Winning the Battle for a Singular Meaning
Post-modern communication attaches a great deal of meaning to effect. And it affects our ability to communicate authoritative final truth on much of anything. As a communicator I know I have to win the battle of the authoritative and singular meaning of language before I can get deeply enough into the soul to see transformation.
This is how we can get a former leader like Ted Haggard speaking against homosexuality and revving a crowd up. Language is for effect in its use here. It’s the response of the crowd not content and truthfulness of the word that is premier.
Language used for meaning is communication. Language used for effect is an art form used for the fun of it.
Using Jesus’ Name for Effect
I had a dentist once say to me, ”You know if you’d preach about Buddha or other Eastern religions you’d have a bigger church” (we already had a church of 5,000). I asked what he heard when I said, “Jesus was the only way.” He said, “Well that we need to have a solid focus point for our spirituality and you are wanting us to feel what that is like.”
My response, “So you think I just used Jesus’ name for effect.”