Words

March 16, 2006

I am thinking about the word “words,” and a beautiful song comes immediately to mind: The Real Group‘s song titled, of course, “Words,” which merits a hearing by everyone who works with, struggles with, obsesses about, and are afraid of words. Every time I listen to that song, I regain confidence to confront the unknown darkness of words. To my mind, that song is draped entirely in black — velvety, luscious, pitch-black. The lyrics (words about words) shine through that velvety blackness, and remind me of the sanctity of words. It’s the stuff human history’s made of, and I personally believe that writing them down with ink on paper, or else singing them out loud are two of the most powerful ways to express that sacredness. Thanks to The Real Group, I have gotten through some pretty desperate writer’s blocks.

* * *

Words (my words) constantly underestimate, misunderstand, miss each other, lose each other; words too often work against me. But it’s the only tool I have to try to document and eternalize the fleeting moments of my life. Unless I write, I forget about an exhilirating walk under ginkgo-lined avenues in autumn. It’s vexing not to be able to pinpoint precise words to describe an inner necessity. It feels futile to interview someone only to realize upon transcribing the tape that the answers don’t match up with the questions. Or the answers don’t make sense. Or, worse yet, the questions (my questions) don’t make sense. Misunderstandings make me feel stupid and inadequate. False words cut into the flesh, sever the tender tissues of the brain, and leave neurons floating in ambiguous space. This is the risk of writing and expressing one’s inner necessities out loud.

* * *

Of course people react to words in different ways. When Deepak Chopra’s prose was read out loud during yoga class the other day, I failed to find him enlightening, for instance. I find scholars like Robert E. Svoboda much more amusing and inspiring. And sometimes spoken words deliver more power than written ones. An instructor at my yoga studio spoke moving words the other day — about how our hip joints, unconsciously, from daily use, tilt to one side or the other. By restoring our hip bones to equilibrium, we learn how to truly balance our bodies. Not only my hip bones, but I seriously think my brain is out of sorts. I read in the newspaper a few days ago that being close to nature inspires words in us. Another writer observed that fear inspires words. Can my fear of not attaining a balanced mind and body inspire great words and help me out of this rut? Can being close to nature find a fresh spring of words?

 

* * *

 

We constantly create words in our separate lives, and either let go of them, or else write them down or hear them out to grateful (or not so) ears around them. But if we all do that, doesn’t the world get too crowded with words? Don’t trite words go to waste, die useless deaths? Then a thought struck me while I was walking the dogs the other day. I was walking under vast cherry trees, and I noticed all these leaves crunching under my ruthless feet. Then I thought: all these leaves — trodden, decomposing, abundant — serves as a vital link within the life cycle of trees and insects and just about everything included in this uncommon yet omnipresent niche. Old leaves turn into the earth, and provide a rich fertile ground for more trees and taller trunks. Leaves create a culture of words. Maybe it’s not so coincidental that the Japanese word for “word” literally means “saying leaves.”

* * *

 

So I feel a bit better about words. I still have fear, but I need to keep writing anyway, and that’s exactly what my mentor had told me — keep writing, don’t stop. And keep reading, too. The next step for is figuring out what my message is and to whom I want to transmit that message to.

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