Sometimes, late at night, I lose my will and allow myself to become enthralled by the internet. Like the bats that circle my backyard on a summer evening, I move mindlessly through the shadowlands. With each circuit I feel my vitality fade a little, leached by the vapid barrenness of the content, disquieted by the trolls that inhabit the comments.
On one such evening lately, I found myself typing a question into the search bar on Google. It’s amazing what comes up when you do that.
“Where have all the good words gone?” In lieu of an answer, I was directed to Youtube where I found the lovely Laura Gibson, singing Where Have All Your Good Words Gone? on a lonely street in the Inner City, Vienna. The mournful beauty of her music was like medicine for my soul.
According to dictionary.com a word is “a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning.”
Social scientists say that we create the world with our words. The words we use to describe (give an account in words of someone or something, including all the relevant characteristics, qualities, or events), define (state or describe exactly the nature, scope, or meaning of; mark out the boundary or limits of) label (apply a phrase or name to a thing) and categorize (classify things or people according to shared characteristics) shape reality as we know it.
Defining good is not so easy. I looked and found 45 distinct variations. When it comes to good words I’ll take any of the 45 varieties on offer. Give me morally excellent, high quality, right and proper, kind, honourable, refined, sound, genuine, reliable, healthful words. Not tainted. Favourable words. Cheerful words. Words free of distress or pain. Agreeable, attractive, intimate, sufficient, advantageous, skillful, fine, fertile, loyal. Give me the whole mouthful if you’ve a mind to.
And in return I’ll try to do the same for you. Words really are the blocks with which we build. Like the parable of the stonemason who seemed to be laying stones but in his mind was building a cathedral, let’s build something good, and maybe even grand, together.
Three morals in this story,
1. Words are the smallest units that contain meaning.
2. We put them together like bricks to construct our social world.
3. For better or worse, the words we use now, define the character and limits of our future.
Yours with creativity and imagination,