27 July 2009

Words Imperfect

Nowadays everyone means business. (Though I wonder, does anyone ever bother to ask what business means? or what it ought to mean?) And so we try to say whatever we have to say in the bluntest, most heavy-handed, most hard-hearted language available. Apparently the cardinal sin of today's serious writing is to let a stray grain or two of poetic rhythm wander into the meat of your essay. Especially (dammit) when you're supposed to be making a point.

But never despise words simply because they have music, simply because they flow, or because they persist in resounding and echoing deep into the well of one's heart or soul or memory. Often the word that stirs in us the longest, richest chords of memory is the one that knows us best, because that is the word which goes most bravely and deeply inside us. Indeed, no explorer enters into the heart of things - both of the thing itself, and of the often forbidding jungle of our own hearts - more boldly than the right word.

Just look at the modern carelessness with which we toss off the clumsy, the makeshift, the wrong word. And then notice how often we find ourselves resorting to deliberately offensive, even spiteful language, just to make our precious points. And where has it gotten us?

Might that same habit be a small part, not only of why we argue badly, but of why we keep on coming up with the wrong answers, the wrong solutions, the wrong certainties?

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