Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The power and glory of the word

For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by words. I would go through the dictionary and find interesting words and repeat them to myself. That’s where I learned the words fervid, turgid and fulgent. When I am tired, my words are the first to go, and when I want to wound, my words cut deeper than any blade.

The problem is that words are a contradiction. On the one hand, they are so powerful, they can change destinies, destroy civilizations even – according to the Bible – wrest creation out of nothingness. On the other, in the mouths of men and women of easy virtue, they are worse than meaningless.

In my world, words are more dangerous than grenades because the shrapnel does more than wound the body. They lodge deep in the psyche, forming never-healing scabs. A barb thrown out in a moment of anger can lodge in a child’s brain like a grain of sand in an oyster and grow until it is the glistening pearl of self-loathing that picks up the razor blade he uses to end his life. The empty promises of today are the seeds of disillusionment that will blossom into the bloody revolution of tomorrow.

Perhaps that is why I am a writer. I love the way a well-crafted sentence can play on the tongue. And when a master like Stephen King can write: “Her voice, warped and distoted, cut through the babble like a dull ax through a calf's brain,” I can only shake my head in bemused wonder. That is why I love fantasy-fiction in particular. I have just finished reading the first two books in the Dark Tower series: “The Gunslinger,” and “The Drawing of the Three.” I had read “The Gunslinger” years ago in middle school and was hooked, but reading it again was breathtaking. It is difficult enough to write the human condition with depth and feeling, but to write it in a world that does not – could not – exist, well that is something else again.

And it is words that make it all possible. Right now, the leaders who run my country use words to underlie their misdeeds like the shredded newspaper used to line a filthy cage. They mouth empty promises about roads, power, education and clean water, throwing words into the air to cloud our minds, while their hands are busy raking in the wealth of the nation. But I believe that such is the power of words that they cannot be used with abandon. If thoughts can create our destiny, how much more powerful are the words that thoughts birth?

I believe that for those for whom words are merely the grease to smooth their sins, there will be a reckoning – if not in this life, certainly in the next. For words, once spoken, cannot be swallowed again. And that which we name will name us in turn.


  1. Like the last paragraph and last line the best. Words will surely come back.

  2. My dear you said it well...
    there is power in the spoken word, as the Bible says! Thank GOD for giving you the gift to use words wisely and weave them exquisitely!:D