Saturday, February 28, 2009
A Perception of Words
For as far back as I can recall, words have always intrigued me. The power of their use, and misuse, is something that we continually take for granted in our modern and increasingly abbreviated world. How odd it seems that the omission of one word from a sentence can change its entire meaning. History has shown that the improper use of words can create perceived conflict and hostility among otherwise friendly peers, misunderstandings that led to unnecessary feuds that spurred wars, death, destruction, and sadly years of chaos. Just simple words, mere letters and shapes arranged in a particular order.
Metaphor, sarcasm, and hyperbole are all weapons we employ on a daily basis. So accustomed to their use are we that more often than not we aren't even aware of the subtle layers, patterns, and complex history that has gone into the evolution of how we communicate today. Myself, I'm a smart-ass. Anyone who has talked with me at any great length knows I am painfully sarcastic, to the point where my often dead-pan delivery can be perceived as rude, harsh, coarse, or asshole-ish. Still, to those truly close to me, I am also known to be one of the most honest, sincere, and verbose people they know.
I am continually inspired by those who communicate well. The proper use of words is indeed an art form. Politicians, advertisers, religious leaders and those who have managed to survive in the toughest of times can all attest to that. Knowing what to say, how to say it, and perfecting the timing of the delivery are all facets of this complex game of communication. Those who play the game well can make non-believers into leaders of a movement. They can educate, inspire, and in the worst of situations, create doubt, fear, and promote hate.
In this current period of texting, instant messaging, and refusing to answer calls from numbers we don't recognize, I see a continued and increasing lack of proper communication. With all of our technology, which can transport words and their ideas across the planet in an instant, we seem to actually be communicating less, and no one seems to notice or care. I wonder what Johannes Gutenberg would say if he lived today. Would he be as confused and frustrated as I am about how our words for conveying emotion have devolved into emoticons and abbreviations like "LOL"? Or, more likely, would he be found in a Starbucks with his iPhone in it's scratch resistant case updating his Twitter account?
When I was in junior high school I began to memorize poems and verses from the bible in larger quantities. Not all of them are still retained in my noggin, but there are still many I can recall that continue to inspire and define me. Also, I collect quotes, be them from great moments and icons of history, a drunken stumble and play on words from a friend, or a profound song lyric that inspires repeatedly. I often wish I was a better writer, or that I could commit to creating a body of written work instead of the massive amount of visual art I have made in my life.
While living in Seattle for half a dozen years, yet still driving the eighteen hours or so back to California almost seventy times, I began to see traveling and the road as metaphors for so many different aspects of life. There are too many to recount here, so instead I will leave you with one of my favorite poems about the road, one that I recite to myself at least once a week. I would be more than satisfied having the last stanza being etched upon my tomb stone, that is if I can't think of something terribly witty and sarcastic enough to put on instead:
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
By Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it's queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.