Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Words Matter

Let me tell you a short story.

It began when I was a wee bit of a being. Innocence or maybe the lack of experience governed my being. I was led to places, guided around pot-holes and helped across the street. Things were fine then. The hardest part was homework, as it always is at that tender age. There were essays to write and I wasn’t very good at them. There were questions about “x” that I could not fathom and complicated (for that part of my world) series of arithmetic; additions, subtractions, multiplication and division that I could not keep in order. Other than that life was a peach.

On a bright autumn day, when the leaves had shed into a heap of discolored knotty brown mass by the roadsides and the trees had turned bare to allow the blustery winter wind to pass through, I walked into a shed that we, my friends and I, called “the clubhouse.”

The prattle of 6 and 7 year-olds began. One of us suddenly and quite abruptly spoke in a loud voice above the clamor of the rest and the clubhouse fell silent. Ah, here was something important. The voice from this puny, five and half year old was commanding attention to say the least. What is more interesting is that this pip-squeak was only recently allowed in into the clubhouse and had never said a word before. And here he was commanding six and seven year-olds into silence. Wide and expectant eye turned towards him. “Who?” And “What the? “ gave way to “What the heck!” It was like the Shitzu barking up the Great Dane only sounding like one.

“Enough!” he said. Oh yes he was the orator all right. From the vocal cords of a not yet six-year old, the voice that bellowed seemed to belong to someone more mature, someone with presence and worldly appeal, not from the “who” that stood there, in all his knock-kneed, curly brown hair, brown eyed glory. His words made him taller. His words made him appealing. His words are still what I remember.

“We are a team!” he said, “ and friends.” He added, “We will always be friends.” For that moment these words could not have been more direct, more with meaning, more with life, more with idealism, more with authority than any other that I had heard.

They seem trivial now. They seem diminished from our today’s lofty standards where we proclaim to watch the planets on a flyby, claim to heal the illnesses beset the human existence, have the hubris to change the ecosystems on this planet, jump from 24 miles at the edge of space and land safely on earth and take vicarious trips to the red planet, zoom into the workings of a single cell and zoom-by the far reaches of our planetary system witnessing the “bow-shocks” yet, in those words from the innocent mouth of that five and a half year old stem the very essence of our true existence.

I don’t remember how the “meeting” ended and I don’t even remember the faces of those “club-members” much less their names, but a few years ago, I met one. We both stared at each other for a while, sizing up the ravages of time on each other’s human shell and then without prompt we simultaneously blurted out “We will always be friends!”

We shared the past diverse lives we had lived. The five and a half year old spokesperson had become a politician and corrupted by his sense of security and fame, ended up serving time. But he had in his innocence made a difference for at least the two of us. The emotions that tumbled over from that chance meeting cannot be expressed. That far away world of the past, now a dream, hurtled back into space, time and inner reality.

Words have meaning. Sometimes they are buried beneath the veneer of this thing we call “civility;” the turmoil of the daily living, but once spoken with clarity of purpose they are always ready to jump out and take seed into our being, whenever that might be..

Words are powerful!

Words have meaning!

Words evoke sentiments!

Words hurt!

Words bring comfort!

Words unite!

Words divide!

Words live on!

Words matter!

And when you do speak, “ This above all: to thine own self be true.” ~Hamlet (Shakespeare)

A more powerful set of words follow below that should give us pause and reflection in life:


If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same:

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will, which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son
~Rudyard Kipling

No comments:

Post a Comment