My Enemy, The Noun

I'm terrible with introductions because I never know what to call myself.

I write, but I'm not an author. I learn, but I'm not a student. I build, but I'm not an engineer.

My struggle is with the language, not the life it attempts to describe. In this struggle, my enemy is The Noun.

The Noun has round edges. It blunts the truth and asks us to label something that is hopelessly complex.

The Noun tells us to simplify. It conveniently removes excess from the world for the sake of convenience.

The Noun is limiting. It influences our understanding with each quiet step it forces us to take.

In a time of incredible need for detail and nuance, we struggle to master our language.

We become what we pretend to be, and we're pretending to be The Noun. We forget the past, ignore the present, and fear the future.

These categories we've chosen for ourselves are not wrong, merely incomplete.

If I'm a writer, it's because I love words. If I'm a student, it's because I want to learn. My need to build is an impulse - the eternal Noun cannot capture it.

I prefer precise language. Instead of The Noun, give me a verb. A verb is sharp. It is an action, a moment in time. A verb defies the past and challenges the future.

You cannot understand life from The Noun. If I tell you I am an engineer, or student, or writer, I have told you nothing. Worse, The Noun has painted me into a neat little box, unable to escape from the label I’ve given myself.

Drop The Noun, and you will see that life is wonderfully chunky, and that it might be capable of resisting definition after all.

Do not ask me what I am. Ask me what I do.

Now do you see what I'm bad at introductions?

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Authors note: I wrote this essay with the help of GPT-3. As an experiment, I’ve recorded the entire process of writing. You can watch it here. I recommend 2x speed.

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