Not a poem, but just something I felt I had to write out.
Power of Words
“Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking.”
~John Maynard Keynes
You call me dangerous because I can manipulate vocabulary, because I can dress up sentences with metaphors and similes, all the while giving texture to the context of my meaning while spinning a web of words so intense, its complexities astound the simplistic of mind.
This is only accurate given that I realize the expression that the pen is mightier than the sword is true, for while blood will thin out, ink will live true through generations as words that provide ideas to humanity. This is what makes words so powerful; that they can spark ideas and ideals to which we hold everything to be true.
You see, once said or written, words can never be stricken from minds or books, or anyone who listens. They grow, change, and formulate into the ideals that shape our lives. They become a part of a person’s being, of how they think and react to the world that surrounds them. This gives birth to our ideas, and our ideas are thus given expression through words, a form of reaching out to the reality around us. So please, pay attention as I tell you the power of words; the essence of communicating; the ideas that change and shape our lives.
Let us agree on one thing: Words are by nature powerful. They are fundamental to our being, a part of us that we never truly appreciate in the total value of its worth. Words are used by all to communicate, to deliberately express a specific meaning that we wish to convey to the world. Such words spread like wildfire, as they cannot be stopped by any force known to man save the silence that precedes them. They are abstract expressions that cannot be punched, kicked, or beaten and if written cannot be stolen after they have left their imprint in the mind of others. You may silence the man, but you cannot silence the words already uttered; you may burn the book, but you cannot burn the thoughts they created. As Lord Byron once said, ”But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling, like dew, upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.” Now the words that are used are neither good nor evil nor somewhere in between, however used in any capacity they are intrinsically powerful agents precisely because they cannot be stopped and because they force people to think, reflect on ideals and gain knowledge. As you know knowledge is power, and words are the medium of choice for knowledge to be broadcast.
Now that we understand the concept that words are inherently powerful, let us focus on this fact that knowledge can be spread through them, that expression can be conveyed, and theories passed on. One person will use words to bestow this knowledge, and another will absorb them into their being, into the person they are, and adapt their thinking accordingly. This is the essence of communication. Jason R. Dorsey once said, “It is only by talking and listening that we can understand other people’s mindsets, lifestyles, and goals.” Both actions require words to be used; both are something we do without pausing to realize the significance of the profoundest measure to which we use words. We ought to all take a moment to realize the importance of respecting the words we use every day. As Henry Old Coyote said, “From the moment a child begins to speak, he is taught to respect the word; he is taught how to use the word and how not to use it. The word is all-powerful....”
Yes, the word is all powerful, and there is a reason beyond the abstract nature of its existence, beyond the fact that it is the foundation of all communication. It is the indisputable fact that words can transform the way a person thinks, change what they believe, and revolutionize the ideas they awaken. As Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr said, “A man’s mind, stretched by a new idea, can never go back to its original dimensions.”
This is the ultimate expression of the world changing influence that words possess. This is what makes words so important; this is what gives us the one fact that rises above all else: The word is all-powerful.
Blair asked me to comment on the above post. I agreed, happily so, especially when it concerns something I enjoy. But, in any case, on with it.
A bit too melodramatic for my tastes, though certainly entertaining ( ). I won't refute anything from it, because it's all quite true, but rather will add a bit of nuance to the idea that I hope you'll enjoy.
In and of themselves, words are arbitrary and meaningless. Far from the all-powerful deities of the above argument. Any word could mean any thing, or nothing. There is no syllable we utter that, in some understanding (either known or unknown, discovered or forever hidden), isn't the name of Almighty God, or All That Is, or conversely the name of nothingness, pure evil, or simply bereft of meaning and purpose.
But the point instantly becomes relevant again when one interprets the idea of a word to mean our internal representation of that word, the meaning that our minds ascribe to an otherwise meaningless symbol.
The other, less abstract, point that I would make actually extends your argument a bit. Language, in its basest definition, is any symbol that we internalize and create a meaning for. Spoken/written language is the most common, but gestures, symbols, objects, etc. all fall into the same category (for my purposes). Without the ability to internally represent a thought, which we do through symbols, we literally can't imagine that something (whatever it may be). Therefore, our very consciousness, and our ability to experience a wide range of emotions, is only as strong as our language for it.
Take two words: angry and perturbed, for instance. Imagine yourself as either one. Now confused/vexed. Or any two similar words. The emotions associated with one are slightly different than the other. Now try to imagine a slightly different form of confusion, that isn't "confused" or "vexed." After a time you may happen upon "befuddled" or some other synonym. But eventually you will run out. Is it possible to feel something different than the emotions you associate with those words? Absolutely. Is it easy? Hell no. You'd likely need a new word for it before you could experience it regularly, or some symbol with which to associate it, which only reinforces my point. We have that range of experience because we possess the vocabulary for it...a way to internalize it that provides a context for our emotions. Our very consciousness, as well as the breadth of our potential experiences, is generally only as big as our language (again "language" in the broad sense, not just written words).
I don't say this as a blind hypothesis. There is scientific work, and more defined theories of such ideas, that I pull this idea from. I also mentioned a similar point recently in the philosophy forum:
You touch on these ideas in your words, but the delivery of your post doesn't word it quite so exactingly (it is passionate, though not as concerned with application as it is with conveying the emotional import of language's power).
And if anyone wants me to dig up the articles/journals/publications that I drew these ideas from, I'll be happy to oblige, though it'll take some work to dig them up so it wouldn't be an instantaneous thing.
Oh, and I love the Oliver Homes quote. I may need to steal that for my own use.
Also, memes. The idea that a word, or usually a collection of words (an idea, story, etc.), can far outlast deeds, bloodlines, etc. is wonderfully analyzed in current meme theory. Aristotle may have a stray gene or two surviving in the human gene pool, but he certainly has some powerful memes still running through all of our minds (many that we likely don't realize).
Your words on their power to outlast deeds of the sword in the above post are certainly reflected in such ideas.
In that sense, "the pen is mightier than the sword" has some intellectual backing other than its intrinsic appeal as an anti-violence, pro-idea statement.
Others write better than I do on memes, so I'd encourage cursory research if you're interested rather than my own musings (there's a thread I started on them too years ago, where a lot of good thoughts/articles are posted by a lot of people). And yes, Richard Dawkins coined the term, but no it's not a plug for any religious statement ( ). I just enjoy the study of them, and think they are a powerful tool for viewing cultural evolution and society in general.
__________________ Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
slur? Anyways, not a poem again, but a writing that just came out one day.
Call to Arms: A Generational Revolution
"If abuses are destroyed, we must destroy them. If slaves are freed, we must free them. If new truths are discovered, we must discover them. If the naked are clothed; if the hungry are fed; if justice is done; if labor is rewarded; if superstition is driven from the mind; if the defenseless are protected and if the right finally triumphs, all must be the work of people. The grand victories of the future must be won by humanity, and by humanity alone."
~ Robert Ingersoll
Alexander the Great extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the world. Cleopatra ruled Egypt when she was 18. What have you done? Take the time to truly think about that question. Are you just living life a day at a time, just letting it pass you by? Worried only about immediate needs, your current relationship or lack thereof, or what plans you have for the weekend? Why has this generation become satisfied with gorging on the benefits we were blessed with and all the while complaining about how awful the world is today? Someone once told me that today is tomorrow's past. If you want to look at your past and be proud, change your present, and one day you can look proudly at your past. I look at our past and am humbly ashamed at what we waste our resources on. Is it time that we changed our present, and created a better future for ourselves and those who inherit the world after us? I believe it is. I believe it is best to not follow the path that has crippled the world around us. Instead I believe it is time we made our own path, a path that transforms the world and leaves a trail of change behind us.
Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do to change the entire world. It is too big, and I am too small, they claim. There is too much oppression, hate, abuse, discrimination, too much poverty for me to make a difference, too many problems I can do nothing about, and most importantly too many people who disregard me because of my age.
However, many of the world's greatest revolutions have come from men and women courageous enough to take a stand. A thirty-year-old man and twelve young men reformed our religious understandings. A young artist observed a stone and imagined the David. Two men taught us to fly, one great athlete revolutionized race relations in baseball, one woman dared to stay seated on a Montgomery bus, and one African American became the president of the United States of America. These men and women have changed the world before us, and so can we.
And yet, for too long young people have been pushed down by those who grasp firmly onto a non-existent power of security, told that "No, you're dreams are impossible. You can not attain that; you should be satisfied with what we think you can do." What happened to the days when we aspired to set foot on another planet? What happened to the days when we dared to believe that we could change the status quo? I believe we all still have that drive, that pressing need to do more. However, we as a generation lack purpose and a certain level of rebellion against stagnation and those who believe in it. There are people in certain countries willing to die for their purpose. Are you willing to die for what you believe in? Or better yet are you willing to live for what you believe in? Are you willing to center your life around the belief that you can and need to improve the world? If we would all live for this belief we could truly change our world, and change it for the better, to help not us but our fellow man. So let us band together to fight for our world against the social injustice that corrupts it. As Robert F. Kennedy once said,
"We must first, all of us, demolish the borders which history has erected between men within our own nations - barriers of race and religion, social class and ignorance. Our answer is the world's hope; it is to rely on youth. The cruelties and obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. It cannot be moved by those who cling to a present which is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger which comes with even the most peaceful progress. (You see) this world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life, but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease... It is these qualities which make youth of today the only true international community."
I believe it is time for a generational revolution, a movement of ideals and passion, of an ideology based on demolishing all borders and thus joining in global unity to improve the world. We are the youth of today, a legion of ambitious people who can set right the world we live in if we guide our passion with a purpose. We can make a difference; in fact I believe we can make a global difference! We are, as Kennedy said, the only true international community, a worldwide alliance towards the greater good. We can be a change of status in the way the world thinks and acts. Together, with strength in numbers, we can be a guiding example to a hostile world of what can be accomplished when international borders are forgotten, and there is a commitment to improvement, reformation, and a common ideal shared by all.
Let us remember, people starve in Iran, rights are suppressed in China, and civil war tears apart Kenya. There is genocide in Darfur, and war in Iraq. However, we humans still think that the world we can influence does not go beyond the nearest city district, that our choices do not impact past the corner block, and that our common humanity does not go beyond those we call family and friends. And yet, as Tommy G. Thompson said, "You don't have to share a man's faith to help save his life. You don't have to speak a woman's language to cure her illnesses. You don't have to understand a town's culture to bring it fresh water. But you do have to understand your place in the world and your responsibility to love your neighbors, whether they live down the street or across the ocean."
So pay no attention to national borders, and do not worry about the culture clashes, and most of all do not let others dictate what is impossible. We have to show them that there is strength in numbers, passion, and ideals towards a common goal. We have to remind them that we are a generation of youth, defined as those who are naive enough to believe that the impossible is possible, and wise enough to know that this is exactly what we need to foster a change in the world.
You may be asking yourselves, So what can I do? What kind of change can I make? Remember that even a small pebble thrown in a pond has a ripple effect. Be a servant to the world and the world will be the greater for it. While you may never be immortalized in history, listen to the words that Helen Keller once said, "I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker."
So what are we waiting for? I've heard many say, "Be the change you want in the world." However, very few actually go out and do so. So, you want to serve your community? Want to serve the world? There are a million ways to help humanity. Pick one way, serve, and then do it again. Enact social reformation, make your voice heard, and do not refuse to do the something that you can do. As Edward Everett Hale said, "I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do."
Am I the only one who has ever had these thoughts? Wondering what history is going to remember this generation as? What history will remember you as? What are family and friends going to think of you once you are gone? Will you have done something that improves the lives of others? I know it's a cliche but I want to do something of meaning in the world, something that validates my existence on this planet. I want a reason to be proud of my being, something to justify my being here, and something that changes this place for the better. What have I done to give back to this world populated by humanity? I guess hope has orchestrated my frustrations, for I hope on behalf of a better tomorrow, I hope for a greater life, and I hope for a better me. Should that not be our greatest hope, our greatest aspiration, to do something of importance? Something that lets us look at ourselves in the mirror and be satisfied with who we are, not with what we have done for ourselves, but what we have done to the people around us. So, I am going to go out and change the world. Will you join me?