It's just words
“What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant.”
― David Foster Wallace, Oblivion
It's 5.24 am as I start this post.
I've nearly finished my first cup of coffee and I'm listening (through my headphones) to Nick Francis' Quietmusic.
As always, today's title has emerged or come to me out the ether. It could have been anything.
Isn't that strange?
Likewise, the above quote — my second of DFW on Livejournal — just appeared via a search of Goodreads.
It's all just words, right?
Don't worry, this isn't a 'pen-is-mightier-than-the-sword' post, but one premised on the fact that we'd do well to consider the import of the words we read, are attracted to, comprehend, inspired by and, most of all, articulate.
Perhaps I should drop the pompous, overbearing 'we' and just say that I should take my message to heart!
You'll have seen me say here and elsewhere that "language is everything". I use quotation marks to give credit to Stephen Jenkinson and his remarkable book, Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble where I first heard them said on the audiobook version.
And for better or worse, I keep circling back to them both in my speech and the written word.
For the record, I'm a long way away from where I want to be: my writing still leaves a lot to be desired — it's verbose, imprecise and I've not converted the heat of my desire into anything more than a few random blog posts; and my speech can be or is slightly arrogant, even haughty and I need to dial down the almost hyperbolic sense that I've got all the answers. I haven't — none at all. In fact, no longer do I want to hold myself out as someone with anything to offer other than my creative instinct. If that touches people, then wonderful. If it doesn't (hopefully it doesn't piss them off too much) then I'm fine with that too.
I recognise that not everyone gets off on words. In fact, judging by how little people read these days, I do wonder why any writer, of whatever hue, would bother or at least work so hard to be published? But then again, whatever your native tongue — mine just happens to be English — what else have we got but words?
In case you're waiting for the takeaway to this post, sorry, folks, there isn't one. All I'm trying to do is to share a tiny bit of my deep fascination with the power that words have to unlock (among many other things) that which lies deepest in our soul.
If you'll allow me, perhaps I can share a poem of Emily Dickinson:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -
And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -
I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
Isn't that wonderful?
Of course, not everyone likes or reads poetry but to my untrained eye, poetry, more than any other genre, captures the essence of life. In fact, as William Blake said:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
How perfect is that?
Thank you for indulging me but I think we'd all do well to consider always the import of Jenkinson's pithy exhortation "language is everything" because perhaps then we could start to craft a life that properly reflects the one we really want to live. What do I mean? Well, if you're going to start (again) with a blank sheet of paper — and I mean that in more than a literal sense — you'll need some words to articulate the unlived life.
Who am I?
What's my purpose?
Why am I here?
Sure, you might drive yourself crazy trying to write more than few lines but even if these invocations to a new life are too lofty, then even writing down what you'd like to do this day, can be remarkably refreshing. And I don't mean some dry To-do list.
I can see now, more than ever, that they're going to keep me entertained, inspired and involved in life in a way that I could only have dreamt possible. If only I didn't see that earlier but, hey, what's a few years between friends?
Have a good one.