Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Passion for the Possibility of Words


I am so excited about our guest today. HKatz, of the Sill of the World, has a way with words like no one I have ever known. Her Week in Seven Words posts thrill me, make me think, and often give me a shiver of recognition. She finds the best videos to share and her photographs reveal a woman with an eye for story.

Human language is a blessing, a wellspring of beauty, poetry, vision, and possibility, prayer and healing.

Words in all their rich variety are cells in the living organism of language. Words are alive with meaning and sound; they interact to form connections and bonds.

I think of words as spots of paint, as galloping horses, gold dust, feathers, particles of light, warm red bricks in sunshine.

Words can show us what we haven't seen and what we may never see; they tickle all the senses, stir up feeling and thought. They are emissaries from our imagination.


They can be profound as old parchment, or playful as children hopscotching on a spring day. Words are draped over naked abstractions. They give voice to emotions that churn in our bellies and hearts. They support and structure our thinking.


Sometimes words are not enough. We know this, when we have crossed into the territory that words rarely reach - when we are doubled over laughing, or clenched up in grief, or just struck dumb with how much love and wonder we feel for the world.

I love that about words - their human limitations. We strive as best we can to be clear, precise, to construct word pictures and little worlds that the reader or listener can step inside and explore. But it's a struggle to find the right words; a lot of times they fall short. We keep pushing though, seeking the words that resonate best - the ones that are closest to whatever is beautiful and true.
I think of words as pieces of coral, musical notes, nuts and seeds and priceless gems, mortar and mushrooms, yarn and twine, drops of iridescent water.

We bubble over with all this wonderful beautiful imprecise language... the danger is being too careless with words. A mastery of words also means choosing them carefully for the sake of other people.

Words have the power to damage people, to undermine joy, love and truth. "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" just isn't true - words can burrow in deep and fester. Along with deliberate malice there's the day-to-day carelessness with words - thoughtless comments, bits of gossip we spread, half-truths and ungenerous assumptions we don't bother to reconsider and correct. Words can be like teeth and spearheads, rocks that tear the flesh off to the bone.

If you take away anything from this post, let it be this - a commitment to be more careful with the words you use day-to-day, and the increased and sustained desire to give people sincere compliments, kind words, whenever possible; speak genuinely of your love and appreciation for who they are and for anything they do that you find lovely and good.

Your words will glow like small gold lamps.


One of the most miraculous moments is when a child first uses words. I love observing how children make use of language and map it out for themselves - its delights and absurdities, its music and power. Children can say the same word over and over to themselves, they just love it - they can name something (how profoundly wonderful is that), they revel in sing-song rhythms, they have command of their own voice, they can share themselves with other people. They have entered the human conversation.

People have many ways to communicate, and that's yet another aspect of language I love: the wordless words. The faces, sighs, and gestures - all that human eloquence in our muscles and bones.

With words we ought to be wise and careful, but also use them with the joy and delight of young children. I have a passion for the possibility of words, the gifts they convey, and the way they invite us into the landscape of another person's mind. They have such capacity to render beauty, connection, resonance and joy, to help us make something of our sadness and shame (a poem, a plea). They cement the deepest commitments, or wink at us like fireflies.

8 comments:

Jaime said...

What a wonderful post!
I too have a passion for words (I think most bloggers do?) but you have used your own words to encompass our world of language so beautifully.

They really are powerful, aren't they?

Char said...

beautiful words.

Rita said...

How right you are! Words can hurt or they can heal. I've always said the old saying of "sticks and stones" simply is not true! I hope my words will always be used to heal and not hurt. Great post!

Jeanie said...

How very thought provoking -- I think of this in particular as I read the well-phrased "human limitations of words." I have a number of those moments -- joy so big that to put words on it diminishes it, sadness so deep there are no words.

I've long been aware that there are dangers in harmless words -- words that are twisted by tone or inadvertent insensitive use. I hope everyone reading this gets an enhanced look at what words can do to us all.

naida said...

Very beautiful post!
It's very true, wordless words can mean so much.

HKatz said...

Thanks, I'm glad you guys enjoyed :)

Jennifer Richardson said...

I'm wordless
over this...just swooning!
I feel as if I've just been handed
a large bowl of warm buttery
popcorn:)
Delicious in every way.
Thanks for this share.
-Jennifer

John Hayes said...

Wow--this is just beautiful! I love this: "Words in all their rich variety are cells in the living organism of language. Words are alive with meaning and sound; they interact to form connections and bonds."

I love it all really--your description of how children use language is also amazing.

Oldies, but Goodies