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(Re?)Introducing Meh and Lah

February 12th, 2008 · Posted by Hugo · 11 Comments

A couple of unfortunate souls reading this blog might have read Lousirr’s “Lah/Meh” post before I took it down. Utter madness. But anyway… Lousirr’s words remained in my mind: the rather arbitrary words “meh” and “lah”. There’s something nice to using meaningless new words, a clean slate on which to build concepts, avoiding any preconceived ideas already attached to pre-existing words. (We can always later return to using an existing word, should that prove more valuable.) Right… applying some courage and get this thing written and published.

“What is truth?” Greg asks. Shawn looks at him for a moment. A twinkle in her ambiguous eyes… Sadness? Or an eager excitement? It matters not, he knows that is not for him to know. She shifts her gaze back to the valley. Grey. Sombre. Obscure. The grey of the lake is reflected in the sky, the trees seem lazy, slouching, frozen. Silence. Not a breeze, no rustle of leaves. She takes a breath. And sings! A note, a song, reflected by the boulders to their left, absorbed by the trees on the right, echoed by the flock of birds that just took flight nearby. Suddenly the valley looks cool and calm, rather than sombre. The trees look peaceful, relaxed rather than slouching. And the birds dance in the sky.

Lah and Meh

Lah is reality. Lah is the mountains, the rocks, the birds, the trees, the lake, the things we can touch and feel. The things we interact with. Reality. Lah is the grass. Lah is the sun, burning hydrogen and producing helium, a cosmic fusion power plant, like humans can presently only dream of building.

Meh is our subjective experience. Meh is our language, our emotions, our communication. When we say “the grass is green”, it does not make the grass green. What is “green” anyway? “Green” is Meh. The grass reflects light with a particular wavelength, which is sensed by our eyes, our retinas. Lah. The subjective experience of that Lah is what we call “green”. Meh. The question “might what I see as green, look like purple to you?” is really a senseless question. There is no way to communicate the subjective experience. (Of course, thousands of years hence, neuroscience points out: “Look what a fool Hugo was!”) And there is no point in communicating it anyway. We all understand that “green” means the way you experience a particular wavelength. The colour-blind person can not experience green and red, and can only dream of it. Still, the eyes of the colour-blind person catches the light reflected by the grass…

All our inter-personal communication takes place in Meh. The Lah in the transaction is just the tool we use, the air particles bouncing off one another, transferring energy in the form of a sound wave, from vocal chords to eardrums. Meh is the meaning we attach to these vibrations. Meh doesn’t “exist” like Lah does, Meh is experienced and understood subjectively.

Solipsism

On the other hand, we cannot actually know that Lah exists. We assume it does, on the grounds of our Meh. Our experiences.

Solipsism (Latin: solus, alone + ipse, self) is the philosophical idea that “My mind is the only thing that I know exists.” Solipsism is an epistemological or metaphysical position that knowledge of anything outside the mind is unjustified. The external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist. (Wikipedia)

So which is really more real? Meh or Lah?

Empiricism and Science

Science deals with empiricism, science deals with Lah. Science tests things. The process of testing is our process of “communicating” with Lah. We can also communicate through more direct use of Lah. Depending on the context, such communication can be clearer, or just as ambiguous. It always comes down to context. I punch you, you move. Lah. You experience pain and emotional anguish as to why I would do such a thing. Meh. I wash your feet. Lah. Your experience is still Meh, but in a particular culture, in a particular context, an act in Lah speaks louder than words.

Sorry, the feet-washing example requires knowledge of ancient Jewish context and customs to be fully appreciated. Here’s an easier example: you are crawling across the desert, starved, parched, I give you water. You are freezing out in a blizzard. I gesture you into a log cabin with a fire, and give you a warm bowl of soup. Lah. Meh.

Mythos and Logos

While the original inspiration for the choice of words would be mythos and logos, I’m sure you would agree that those words would be misleading? Logos is often translated to “wisdom” or “logic” or “creative power” or “Word”. Here is one translation that does line up more accurately with Lah, also from Wikipedia:

The notorious question of how to translate logos is topicalised in Goethe’s Faust, with Faust finally opting for “deed, action” (Am Anfang war die Tat).

Action. Deed. Physical demonstration. Lah.

For Future Posts

  • Dualities and the third component, e.g. balance.
  • A discussion about recursion and the flexibility and subjectivity of Meh and Lah.

(Not discussed here, as to not distract from this post.)

For Discussion

Useful concepts? Better word suggestions? (Though Meh and Lah have grown on me, they do at times sit uncomfortably. Finding something that sits better with me will likely be hard though. In particular, more traditional words more attached to “this reality” will likely fail when it comes to the follow-up post dealing with recursion.)

Oh, and how should a post like this be categorised? Tricky…

Categories: Religion and Science · Worldviews
Tags: · ·

11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Pieter // Feb 12, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Meh lah meh lah meh lah
    lah lah lah
    meh? meh!
    LAH!
    meh

  • 2 Hugo // Feb 12, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Heheh… hahaha…
    What madness.

    I do wonder how one would one share this kind of idea without sounding so weird and coining words that sound glossolalia-ish… *cringe* Page through a dictionary? Or books on philosophy maybe… It seems I am indeed still rather insecure when it comes to posting this kind of thing. Grrr…

  • 3 M. Simon // Feb 13, 2008 at 1:14 am

    When you have a good subjective experience you feel Mel Lah.

    You know – like that Donovan Song – “They Call Me Mel Lah Yell Lah.

  • 4 Pieter // Feb 13, 2008 at 11:56 am

    You can always use Mythos/Logos during first contact and sound all grand, and hook into existing usage. Then as the conversation continues, you can start to contract into Myth/Logo. Nobody would notice if it then becomes Myh/Loh, what is a few letters between friends. And then Meh/Lah can soon lah follah and then meh thinks it meh lah complah meh lah meh meh lah meh meh lah.

  • 5 Hugo // Feb 13, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Haha…

    On a more serious note, recapping:

    • “The grass is green” is not “myth”, per se.
    • “Logos” is not “empirical reality”. While it can be, it’s a bunch of other things in most translations.
    • Thus, mythos/logos is not what I’m talking about. Starting there would give people the wrong idea of, well, um, “meh” and “lah”.

    *sigh*.

  • 6 Johan Swarts // Feb 14, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Nice post (hoewel dit voorkom asof jy effe verveeld was aan die einde?)

    All considered, sal ‘n lame persoon dalk ‘n LEMAH wees? (‘n lamer :p )

  • 7 Meh and Lah, Reloaded // Feb 23, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    […] is a sequel to (Re?)Introducing Meh and Lah. Read that […]

  • 8 Batten #4: Intelligent Design and ATP Synthase // Mar 18, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    […] I would not argue with this statement if you call the evolutionary process intelligent. (If your measure of intelligence is the classical Turing test, you are defining intelligence by the result, by the consequences, and evolution could be described as “intelligent”. Of course, alternatively, evolution can be a counter argument for the Turing test, effectively another form of the Chinese room argument. But then our brains could also be Chinese rooms. Whatever. Our experience of “mind” exists in Meh, not in Lah.) […]

  • 9 Contemporary Tribes // May 6, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    […] on the tribe’s culture, not something that is universally shared between all people. (In Meh/Lah terminology, These stories define the tribe’s “Meh”. And this Meh isn’t […]

  • 10 Hugo // May 15, 2008 at 1:49 am

    Check this out: Karen Armstrong on her understanding of Mythos and Logos. This must be the paragraph I read that largely inspired the hole Meh/Lah thing.

  • 11 Another Angle on “Fundamentalism” (and how to avoid it) // Sep 29, 2008 at 1:45 am

    […] things, we’re talking about Meh. Arguably that is all we really have to go by: consider (Re?)Introducing Meh and Lah and discuss it there if you want some clarity on this […]

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