I was first seduced by words in eighth grade, in Sister Margareta’s class. She challenged us to pick our favorite word.
At that point in life I probably had a favorite color, a favorite dessert, and, certainly, a favorite boy, but word??
But as it turns out, I did have a favorite word and it was “delicious.” And I give my eighth-grade self credit for choosing it – “delicious” is almost an onomatopoeia where the feeling you get when something is delicious feels like, sounds like “delicious.” The word rolls around on your tongue; it’s luxurious; it’s luscious. Ah, delicious!
The concept of words kept cropping up; in later adolescence – those lazy days of lolling about, peeking under stones for clues as to the meaning of life – who couldn’t be struck by the fact that words for everything were so seemingly arbitrary – “arm,” “car,” “cookie.” Say any word over and over and it loses meaning; it’s just sound. So, at some basic level, I realized that we yearn for symbols to define the universe and that words without meaning are useless.
Then, there’s one of my favorite of the myriad children’s books I memorized in mom-dom – “Frederick,” by Leo Lionni, where Frederick the Buddha-like mouse ostensibly contributes little to the winter hibernation until he reveals the colors of the sun and then, words, that delight and warm his fellow mice as much, if not more, than the practical rations of grain and wheat. In an essential way, the artist and poet Frederick feeds his fellow furry creatures’ souls.
This is all in counterpoint to what we hear in the news where the evidence that words are cheap and hollow is overwhelming. For example, Tea Party Spokeswoman Amy Kremer accuses President Obama of not loving the United States http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/09/04/cnns-soledad-obrien-confronts-tea-party-express-spokeswoman/. Or, NRA President Wayne LaPierre who says that “The only thing that’ll stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/21/16069016-disbelief-in-some-quarters-after-nra-calls-for-armed-guards-at-every-school-blames-movies?lite as he advocates for armed guards in our nation’s schools – a nice turn of phrase, but he clearly has no idea what he’s saying. Steve LaTourette, the Ohio Republican who is leaving the House of Representatives because of Tea Party “chuckleheads” http://foxnewsinsider.com/2012/12/21/rep-latourette-tea-party-chuckleheads-are-to-blame-for-plan-b-tax-vote-being-canceled/ may be the only one using words accurately.
I’ve been thinking about the classic carol “Silent Night, Holy Night, “ (according to Wikipedia, knower of all things) written in 1816, and Josef Mohr’s specific use of the word “silent.” It seems obvious that the night Jesus was born would be holy and it’s night so it’s quiet, but why silent? I offer you this theory i.e., that if you consciously deflect the noise, the news, and confusion of your life, in the silence that ensues, you have a chance of hearing the beating of your heart where goodness resides, where love can blossom and be magnified. So, in silence, love enters the world.
So, for this Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate, I humbly, and for whatever it’s worth, offer you words. But words without meaning are empty, so I hope you’ll click on this link of my favorite rendition of “Silent Night” (yes, I’m a big Barbra fan) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1SiEbjEKHU, close your eyes, listen, and breathe. You may be amazed by what you hear in the silence.
Peace at Christmas and always.
p.s. Ironic, isn’t it, that the title of my blog is misspelled. I’m aware and will get to it in the new year.