We “press” words here on this platform of our minds. Every day of our lives we use them, probably more than we use anything else. Those words form our thoughts; they express our feelings and tell our stories. They are as important to us as the act of breathing or the beating of our hearts – imagine a life without thoughts and words? We could hold our breath… but if we did for too long – need I say more. When I was a child, I remember countless teachers, and others, who told me time and time again:
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
How wrong they were.
Have you ever had your words misinterpreted or misunderstood what others said? I am sure you have. You have probably sent that message, email, letter, or missive that was misunderstood by the reader in some way, shape or form. Your intention was probably not to at worst hurt or at best mislead; but the reader found something that hurt them or confused them – getting the wrong end of particular stick is a fact of life and a more than common occurrence.
But for some reason, it happens to me more than it should, especially as I am in a foreign country and words and idioms are often too easily misunderstood for no apparent reason other than language barriers. I know that I too am guilty of misunderstanding other’s words, but quite often I make a quip without meaning anything other than thinking aloud and a ball is set in motion and the initial hurt has been caused. Moreover, it just doesn’t go away, despite explanations and denials – this power of words that we all possess. The problem I have with this power, is that I feel that words are, in themselves, misleading and a poor substitute (albeit the best one we have) for describing what is in ourselves, the real power is our being and our consciousness.
By this, I mean that feelings, thoughts and emotions are fluid and too powerful and have no shape or form and essentially indescribable – at best they are partially describable because once they are put down into words they lose that fluidity and freedom to morph, freedom curtailed they are now caged in a word that is now their life. Some of you may disagree and say “bad craftsmen always blame their tools,” but I counter that with my own argument: why do we all have to be craftsmen, why can’t we all just be who we are, good or bad, poor or rich, geniuses or dunces and not what society or someone else wants us to be or write or think or do? But I digress, if just a tad.
This is the issue and where most misunderstandings stem from, in my, often misconstrued, opinion. What I find is that when I write, the feelings come pouring out, the ideas are queuing up, which often reminds me of Woody Allen dressed up as a sperm getting ready to be ejaculated and the nervousness of his impending ordeal. No seriously, I mean it – there was a serious point to that comedic moment, there always is in comedy otherwise it wouldn’t be funny. Hear me out before you go jumping to any conclusions that I don’t want you to jump to or think that I am trivialising a serious subject. Here is this seed of a feeling or idea, about to go and make a new thought on paper, a thought like no thought before – your thought, your baby, one that you might have thought long and hard about or one that may have popped into your head on the back of a whim, a smell, a feeling – anything. It is then given life by your hand through keyboard or pen and paper and is there in black and white. Ready to face the world and create a reaction in the reader who will formulate their own thoughts and so on.
But once it is read it can’t be crossed out or deleted. It is there for you and others to interpret. That interpretation is based upon the reader – their DNA, their background, their current situation – a myriad of factors, much like life itself. We can assess the general thought and meaning – after all it came from us so must have a part of us in it, but once on paper it takes its own meaning and life. Yes, it becomes alive… a living thing that communicates itself to people who have the time to read it. This is what I am getting at. Once on paper, it ages and at times seems like a good thought and at others it seems like a poor one, maybe even a dangerous or hurtful one. It now has a life of its own: at times it is admired, at others denigrated. It may last for a long time, or it may be forgotten as so many lives are. It may shine or it may just never make it to the end of its intended journey. But rest assured, it does and it will have a life and it will at times be understood in the right context and at others it will be a barb that hurts some and pleases others.
That, in essence, is an opinion I have on words and how they can cause pain as well as pleasure. The pleasure we forget, but the pain often lingers so remember, use them sparingly and carefully. Don’t box your feelings into words as sometimes they are not enough, or rather we are all not enlightened enough to enunciate what is truly inside all of us.
And remember that words can, and often do, break bones.
© One Writer and His Blog 2013