Like many other things which we take for granted and that go unappreciated for their value and importance are words. Simple, humble utterances, scribbles and thoughts that have been key to our development, as humans and as civilisations.
Intangible and useless to those who do not understand them, yet mighty and powerful when used in context and in an intelligible way.
A tribute to this awesome basic element of human life can never be enough when you think of how it has served humanity. This writing is a humble attempt in trying to focus on this great little thing we call Word.
Probably one of the most glorious tributes to the Word is found in the opening of St John’s Gospel – “In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
Ultimately, even the sciences must bow to the phenomenon of words. It is words that sciences use as tools and vehicles that help them to understand themselves and explain themselves to others.
Through words do we study, understand, learn, share and create. Unlike all other living organisms, we have this innate ability to assimilating words and language.
In our routines of life, I wonder how many of us stop to think about the priceless gift of words and languages we are endowed with. The power of words take on an even more important role now that many of us are drawn and hooked to social media.
With so many of us learning, communicating, travelling, romancing and working within the digital sphere continuously tapping at those pads. Even the bits and bytes of the digital languages must be translated into words that we can comprehend.
It is through the spoken word that we start teaching our children to communicate and perform basic life skills.
Through our ‘I do’ in the marriage vows we commit ourselves to a lifelong relationship. It is the spoken word that has passed on generation after generation so many fables, religions, myths and knowledge. It is the spoken word that enables lectures, homilies, prayers, discussions, TV programmes, lyrics, jokes, warnings, comfort, healing and elation.
It is the simple ‘I love you’ or ‘I hate you’ that changes moods and strengthens or destroys relationships.
Words are the means for others to enter the cloister of our minds that only we have the right to reside in
It was the spoken word that the ancient Greeks employed to orate their philosophies and to delve into the understanding of thought and matter. It was rhetoric that propelled the great Augustine of Hippo.
Hitler’s speeches that motivated the Holocaust and Churchill’s courageous speeches that responded to it. Through words did Dante, Shakespeare, Homer, Orwell give us so much to reflect upon.
It was Christ’s words of the Sermon on the Mount that still reverberate in our favourite scripture readings. It was Martin Luther King’s vision “I had a dream” passionately painted in words that still echoes in our society.
Through the written word we can enjoy a good book, follow instruction, follow a recipe, fill in a form, understand a car manual, download an app and receive our blood test, our exam results, our diplomas and degrees. It is through words in writing that budgets are monotonously read. It is in words that all laws are written and in words do all archives retain their form. Ask an illiterate person and one easily realises the importance of the written word.
In its spoken and written form, the word is already an awesome thing. When it comes to the way the word permeates our minds then it becomes even more awesome. Deep in our minds is a me that is curious, easily distracted and keen to know. It wants to float about on its own but needs direction and control.
It is with words that we battle to direct where our thoughts go. It is with words that we try to reason with ourselves to thwart panic attacks and phobias. With words we examine our morality.
Within our minds it is words that we use to explore our sexual fantasies. It is with words repeating themselves in our minds that we become paranoid, obsessed and stuck in the past.
Words are the means for others to enter the cloister of our minds that only we have the right to reside in. Unattended and without vigilance in a world of hackers and fake news, many people and institutions try see their way through and try to manipulate our thoughts through truths, lies and artful manipulations of facts.
Words like many other of God’s gifts are precious to our well-being but they are inert and depend on our intent to achieve their goals.
The beauty of words is that they are free. They do not belong to anyone. The rich, the poor, the proud, the meek, the gifted and the less gifted.
Words and languages are precious tools and gifts that open unlimited horizons to us humans in fulfilling our purposes of life in work, in leisure, pleasure and faith. Whether you are an Albert Einstein, JK Rowling, President Donald Trump or the man in the street, you cannot do without words and at the same time presidents, authors and discoverers cannot do anything unless we understand their words.
The list of attributes and tributes that can be given to the word are endless and we could even create a Word Day to celebrate all this. However, I feel that the best way we can give tribute to the word is by just being conscious and appreciative of the role words play in our lives.
From the mundane small talk to the transcendental words we speak to God – word is a giver of life.
David Pace O’Shea is an observer, thinker and well-wisher for a better society.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece
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