Words have consequences. A very good friend of mine said that to me during a recent conversation. And since I’d been thinking of writing about the power of words since I wrote my thoughts about The Reader a few blog posts ago, I took what my friend said as a clear ‘go’ signal from the Universe.
If you’ve ever had doubts about how powerful words are, imagine being illiterate. Better yet, go to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language and/or where the characters used are not the Roman alphabet (e.g.
Japan, China, , etc.). Imagine riding a train or a bus and then realize that the signs don’t make any sense to you, leaving you feeling lost. Imagine turning on your television not understanding a word you hear and feeling left out, alienated, like someone who’s not being included in an important conversation. This is why when I wrote about The Reader, I thought the part where Hanna Schmitz finally deciphered the word “the” was so powerful because suddenly, it was as if blinders were taken off from her eyes and things started making sense. In that moment, the world became more meaningful to her. It must’ve felt no different from being able to see, really see, for the very first time. Imagine that moment!...the exhilaration, the sense of wonder, the sense of joy and pride and hunger for more! Thailand
I don’t like wasting words. Though I understand that at times we need ‘fillers’ to get by in this world---'hi'; ‘how’s it going’; ‘have a nice day’--- I still think there will always be a part of me that will find them wasteful and nonsensical (unless of course they're sincere, which is not the case in daily life). Given my Sociology background, I know that Ethnomethodologically speaking, it makes sense that when you go to a store, most likely some attendant is bound to ask you at some point, “Can I help you?”, and that this is part of reproducing the social order. It’s a practice with taken-for-granted meanings, at least in American society, and that being a part of this society assumes knowledge of those meanings and there is no need to challenge such ‘everyday practices’. However, sometimes part of me still wants to be naughty and strip the ‘taken-for-grantedness’ off of such a statement and reply, “Yes I hope you can help. Would you give me some clarification as to the existence of God?”
You see, I love intentional words, just as I love meaningful conversations and fail miserably at small talk. Maybe it's because I love how words, when meant and pregnant with truth, have the capacity to genuinely move you and even cause your body to respond. They can make your heart beat fast, tighten your stomach, cause you to blush. You could get goose bumps, make you choke, or weak in the knees. Think of the consequences you experienced when someone you desired said 'I love you' to you, or maybe you uttered the same to someone who has always felt unlovable. Think of the gift of assurance given when someone says 'I choose YOU' and the possibilities opened with that declaration. Imagine the fears calmed and banished just with a simple 'Mommy's here' uttered to a helpless child. And what about 'I forgive you' or 'I believe in you' and the spirits they heal? I know too well how potent words are since I am one whose most significant relationships rely mainly on words. As an adult migrant, most of my family and dearest friends are not physically with me and so we only have words for each other to bridge our gap, convey emotions and reveal truths. Given my situation, I know too well how utterances can drive me insane, make my mood swing from one extreme end of the continuum to the other. I have felt much of words' consequences indeed and my world, my consciousness, have been shaped much too often by mere words so I can never deny their power. Where action or physicality is not possible, words, whether spoken or written, become sufficient verbs.
Words can be so many different things to different people. But one thing is certain. Words, with their meanings, make it possible for our individual worlds to collide. Let's do our best to make most of our collisions count!