The Truth of Language, Mantra, and Responsibility

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(The Response to Book Entitle “Menggugat Tanggung Jawab Kepenyairan Sutardji Calzoum Bachri (Sue Responsibility of Authorship of Sutardji Calzoum Bachri)”

By Mahmud Ali Jauhari
Translated by Agus B. Harianto

What is in your mind when you read the title above? Is it pattern of language? Shaman who is reciting a mantra? A man who was fulfilling his responsibilities? Or, what?

That day, in a study room, I listened to a short question, “What is language?” Perhaps you’ve heard it either. Or, maybe not. Regarding to the question, many people answer it with a simple sentence, “Language is a communication tool.” The question now, is it true that language is a communication tool?

Before we get in further about the truth of language, and also respond to the book written by Nurel Javissyarqi which its title I wrote above, firstly, allowed me to acknowledge, I am neither a linguist nor a great writer. In this case, I am merely a writer who wants to write what I know.

Okay, back to the question about the language, in simply way, it is not wrong if the language defines as a communication instrument. Why? Because, indeed the main function of language is a tool to convey a message from the speaker to the listener or from the author to the reader. But, does this argument already undeniable in deeper study to be a standpoint in defining the language?

I believe all will agree that the primary function of language is as a communication tool. However, the function is not the same as the limitation or definition, is not it? So, if we are asked question about one of the functions of language, the correct answer is a communication tool. Thus, “communication tool” is not a language definition, but merely one function of language.

Well, actually, what kind of the question about this language as to the language itself. When we heard the word “language”, what came in our brain is the “word”, “phrase”, “clause”, “sentence”, and so on. The words and so on is the language in every its level. Easily, whether the words or the others actually is the symbol of the sound. And, the symbol of the sound is a repository of meaning that relates between the symbols such as the words with its references. For example, the word of “eyes” is a vessel of meaning that reads ‘senses in the living body to see’. This meaning relates the word of “eyes” with its reference which is spherical object sticking on the face of the living body to see.

So, when we hear someone said, “Selamat Pagi! (Good morning!)” it means we listened to a person speaking the language. Or, when there was a little child said the word “Enak (Delicious)”, he has said the language, which is Bahasa Indonesia.

If we observe carefully, “Selamat  Pagi!” and “Enak“, all of it have rules or have systems. Just pay attention to it, “Selamat Pagi!” it’s not spoken with pagi selamat and “Enak” it’s not pronounced kane, anek, neak, or kena. This proves that the language is systematically and the system is conventionally by a group of people or community of the language. Just mentioned one of the human groups that I meant is the citizens of Indonesia. I, you, and others are included in the human groups that are conventionally agreed onto Bahasa Indonesia, whether the words and others.

Thus, we would already be able to grasp, does the language is actually the truth of the language itself, which is the system of arbitrary sounds’ symbol (as he likes) and conventionally used for the benefit of human kind, such as communication, cooperation, and to develop a nation within a language community.

In referring to this community of language, it’s famously known as the term of linguistic creativity. A concrete example of the creativity is, the Latin letters that its amount doesn’t to a hundred, it can be used to words, sentences, paragraphs, and others which is countless. Books with Latin letters, which is very much in this world, in the truth is also designed from those small number letters. Please imagine a poet takes benefit of those letters to make into the words, lines, stanza, to be a lot of poems that are collected in a book of anthology of poetry. So was our ancestors in the past, from the letters, they made a lot of mantras. Yes, the mantra that has meaning and purpose to be purposed to the spirits and others.

And of course, in order to make the work or any kind of modern poetry or even the mantra, it’s required the competence of language includes the understanding to the meaning of the words used by author to write a quality works (masterpiece).

Well, to correlate the matter of language above with the book Menggugat Tanggung Jawab Kepenyairan Sutardji Calzoum Bachri (Sue Responsibility of Authorship of Sutardji Calzoum Bachri) written by Nurel Javissyarqi (published by Pustaka Pujangga, May, 2011), I found very interesting. How far is it? Please follow my argument below!

The Words must be free of Understanding

In the book Menggugat Tanggung Jawab Kepenyairan SCB, it seems that Nurel Javissyarqi directly related it with the mantra. This matter is in accordance with SCB in his words that he wants to restore the word to the mantra. SCB states, meaningless mantra as a part of his thought to free the words from the understanding. And, in the book, it’s clearly performed that Nurel refused SCB’s statement which is the word should be free from the understanding.

Nurel said in his opinion that the mantra itself contains great meaning purposed to the spirit and the other. In other words, the mantra will not powerful without meaning. And then, did the problem finish merely in that way? In fact, it’s not. Because of a new question arose, does it true that the mantra is without meaning like SCB stated? Or, does it have meaning like Nurel’s said?

To answer those two questions, certainly we should go back to what exactly the truth of language is. The word, according to the linguistics I described above, is a repository of meaning. Of course, the meaning, the purpose, and the understanding could not be separated from the word itself. Why?

Because of the word without meaning, purpose, or understanding will make it an empty word. Similar to tin cans of pastries that is empty after we eat. For example, the word of door, if it’s separated from its meaning, the word will have no function. It’s same as the pattern of lopi, meka, juha, and so on, which are without meaning and without any function. Think about it, could we use lopi, meka, juha to send message? No, isn’t it? Conversely, if the meaning, the purpose, or the understanding of the words is disengaged, it will lose its entire repository. And, at last it would find out another repository to accommodate the meaning that already separated from its original.

The repository of meaning is very important as naming in communication. As a short overview, long time ago the man could not make computers, so the people did not know the word of computer. Then with persistence, new object was created and could be used to type, to design drawings and so on. To facilitate or naming the new creation of the man, sought and was chosen arbitral (where the like) with the name of computer. The question is what will happen if the words and meanings are separated from each other?

Well, besides the word, actually something outside of the lingual or even nonverbal has meaning. Could you believe it? Please, consider the following illustration.

At that noon Fajar persuaded Hena to eat in a simple stall at the end of the campus. Fajar has been trying hard to make his super elite girlfriend to be willing to follow his will. But, unfortunately, Hena said nothing. In a few moments Hena was silent and soon after Fajar gave up. Yes, he stopped to persuade his beloved and beautiful girlfriend. They were finally having lunch, as usual, at a fancy restaurant with exorbitant prices.

From the illustration we could know the meaning of Hena’s silence, which is ‘she did not want to eat in simple food stall at the end of their campus’. With her silence, Fajar gave up in his persuasion. The silence includes nonverbal, but it has meaning. Especially with verbal language? Of course it has meaning, instead.

Viewing empiric facts and the discussion above, it is clearly that the word can not be separated from the meaning, the purpose, and the understanding. In other words, the word is a symbol which always going to be a repository of the meaning, the purpose, and the understanding that relates with its reference to both objects and concepts. Thus, the words in the mantra, in the truth, have meaning. Please pay attention to the following mantra.

Bahasa Arab dan Banjar….Bahasa Indonesia

Bismilahirrahmanirahim….Dengan nama Allah Tuhan Yang Maha Pengasih lagi Maha Penyayang
Kecuali pandira ini bagarak…Kecuali bendera ini bergerak
Maka maling kawa bagarak……Maka pencuri bisa bergerak
Barakat La ilahaillah………Berkat tiada Tuhan malainkan Allah
Muhammadarasulullah………..Muhammad adalah utusan Allah

There is no single word in the text above that is not meaningful, is not it? And, the author is able to create the mantra supported by language competence, including in the meaning of the words he used. Even if there is words that just sound in the mantra, it contains a specific destination that is understood by the author to be purposed to the spirits and others. And, the author of the mantra must have language competence before he create the mantra.

Essentially, between the words and the meaning could not be separated. And, the meaning is very important. Therefore, there are semantics to discuss the meaning and the repository of the words. For the words that seem merely a sound without meaning in the mantra, specifically studied in the semantic of intent.

The first word is the Mantra

In the previous section of this paper I have said that in the society of language there is the term of linguistic creativity. A poet for example, he uses Latin letters to be formed into the words, lines, stanza, to be a lot of poetry. So was our first ancestors, from the letters, they made a lot of mantras. Of course, in order to make the work or any kind of modern poetry or even the mantra, required language competence includes the understand to the meaning of the word he uses to create masterpiece.

So, our ancestors made the mantra based on language competence. Here, obviously, before making a mantra, our ancestors had known the word and its meaning. In other words, before the mantra was created, firstly, there must the words with its meaning. Or, the words and meanings must exist before the mantra. Thus, it’s impossible that later is created – mantra – to be the beginning of something already existed (the words and the meanings).

Well, this is what Nurel argued in his book with the cover is dominantly red. Frankly, Nurel refused SCB’s statement that the first word is the mantra. And, objectively, I disagree with the statement of SCB. Why? Because, obviously, the mantra was created after the existence of the word. So, the first word is not the mantra. If the statement of SCB is true that the first word is the mantra, and then, if in this world, the first word is eat, does the word of eat the mantra? Of course the word of eat is not a mantra. But, the word of eat could be the word to create a mantra.

The Poet Can’t be Asked the Responsibility

Who is the poet?
Is he God’s saint on earth? The apostle who brought the revelation? Or he is the God Himself?

Some say that the poet called literary man. Well, the word of sastrawan in Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia is an entry belonging to a noun with several meanings. And those are; ‘ahli sastra (literature expert)’, ‘pujangga (poet)’, ‘pengarang prosa dan puisi (author of prose and poetry)’, ‘orang pandai (clever people)’, and ‘cerdik cendikia (smart scholars)’.

Those terms, generally, drag the poet into the community of literary man. And, how high the poet is until he is included in the literary man, does not outright make him free from responsibility. The poet is still human being. He can not incarnate into angel or other. All human kind, includes the poets, are going to give an account of all his deeds. If he does wrong, he would be punished and if he does right he’ll get a good reward. Never mind the word in a poem written or read on stage, even whisper of the poet’s heart which is not transformed the words yet and other deeds would be held responsibility in the presence of the God someday later.

In the human level, anyone words could always cause an effect. It could be negative, and also positively effected to the others. If it has negative effect, not only in the afterlife we account for it, but in this world also we have to account for these words. And even, it could be meant by loosing the life or die.

Regarding the world of poetry, SCB states that the poet can not be held of his responsibility. And, his statement was refused by Nurel Javissyarqi. To Nurel, the poet can not be equated with the God. And, objectively and as I explained above, I refuse the statement told by SCB.

In the relation to the effect, the statement of SCB could cause high levels of freedom. Just imagine, if the poet is not held of his responsibility, certainly the poet would use the word as he likes. The words that are not inappropriate to say such as the words includes in porn, dirty, and so on would be legitimated if it was said by the poet. Because of the poet does not account for his words. This freedom is not expected. If this is associated with Licentia peotica even in the literature, it deviates from ideal. The ideal Licentia poetica has a limit in order not to exceed the limits of normality, including the aspect of responsibility in the working.

A good poet should pay attention to every word he used to create the poem before it’s published to the community. It is important to avoid unexpected interpretations.

Well, I think those three things above are the point of the book Menggugat Tanggung Jawab Kepenyairan Sutardji Calzoum Bachri written by Nurel Javissyarqi, the wanderer from the Java land. And, just this piece of writing I could present. Indeed, the truth belongs only to the God and if there is any though different with mine above, it’s usual. Sincerely from me in the Land of Borneo!

South Kalimantan, June 8, 2011

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