An Oar of Words

February 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

As I throw away another unmentionable, I can’t help but wonder at the sheer amount of things we find utterly unmentionable in our daily lives. James Earle Jones, with his booming, rapturous voice and exceeding eloquence once said, “One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.” He either meant that due to pomp and circumstance, it’s often forbidden to say the words you wish to speak. Or he meant that there are sometimes feelings in the human experience that can’t be uttered because language just doesn’t account for it. Since he used the word ‘words’ and also because I don’t want to get into a deep linguistics discussion at the moment, I’ll vote for the former.

Either way, I think there’s truth to the statement.

I’m currently writing for a living and it’s now more than ever that I feel that words are such a pitiful mode of conveying anything of true import. There’s a million definitions for each one and when strung together in a sentence and uttered, it’s like a series of hands cupped together to transfer water from one person to another. Some sort of meaning gets to the recipient of these words but a lot of it has been drained out and fallen through the cracks just by being transported. I don’t care how good you are at wordsmithing and conveyance, even the most erudite aren’t conveying all they would like to say. They just accept it and make it work to their advantage.

The adage “actions speak louder than words” is certainly true, though the Victorians almost beat the dead horse with their embroidery samplers that spelled it out for all. For those of us who don’t always have the courage or the tact to take action, words are all we have. It seems the inverse is true for those who usually have the courage to act. I’ve recently come to understand that some actions that go unqualified can be the most sinister in our lives. Actions, no matter how small, do tend to affect those around us. When that is felt by those close to us, the following silence can cause doubt, suspected insincerity and cause a rift or gap in your friendship.

Words, as pitiful as they may be, are there for our use. Without them we are merely in a row-boat being pushed down a stream of hopes and actions with no oar of words with which to steer us.

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