I love words.
I mean, I REALLY love words.
I love the sound they make in my ears, the feel of them in my mouth, the sensations they provoke in me. I love that some words simply cannot be translated – one of my all time favourite words is “gemütlich”. The closest approximation is “cosy”, but that simply isn’t enough.
It struck me today that I am not a visual thinker. I find it almost impossible to visualise a box, for example, out of my imagination. Now, give me the word “box”, and the concept is there in my head, but so much fuller than a picture…
In my head, the one word box gives me these pictures and so many more, all encapsulated in three, pretty, sturdy, delightful little letters. If pushed to find an image of a word, I often find myself visualising the letters… in lovely fonts or a simply Times New Roman…
This last week has seen a lot of talk and actions around words, and images. There has been much talk about the power of words, and about what rights we have. There has been much fear, much pain and suffering and much thought.
I have far too little knowledge to comment specifically on the events in France this last week. I feel close to it through my family, yet distant too – my life is restricted and I have less space for tragedies at a distance than I should? wish? need?
What I do know is that I have three children, two of them on the autistic spectrum, and that fifteen years as their mother has taught me that words are extremely powerful. And as the wielder of that power I had better be prepared to deal with the consequences of the words I choose to use. As the wielder of that power it is my responsibility and mine alone to ensure that my words are understood as I mean them to be understood.
There is no room for “oh but you misunderstood” in my life.
There is no room for “but it was only a silly little drawing”.
There is no room for “you should have realised I don’t agree with you”.
There is no room for “I can say what I want”.
I use words to communicate. To help the person in front of me understand what I am thinking, what I am hoping for, what I need.
And words, those wonderful, magical words are also the greatest traitors. Taking away any language barrier, any cultural barrier, any barrier of age, or gender, or creed, or race, words betray us all the time.
Most arguments can be sourced in the treachery of those fey words. “You say tomahto, I say tomayto”… You say “not now”, I hear, “never”. You say “I like you”, I hear “I love you”. How many times have you been headlong into an impassioned discussion only to realise that you had been on the same side, but not realised it?
How many times have you been hurt by someone else’s words? And of those times, how many times did the other intend to hurt you? I’m guessing far fewer than those who intended pain.
So words, and communication between human beings is a treacherous, quicksand of a thing. Words can make you love, and they can make you hate.
If you use words, you must be prepared for their consequences. And you must be prepared for the fact that they may have consequences you never foresaw.
In that light, the notion that freedom of expression allows any of us to “say anything we want to” is puerile. It is simplistic, it is selfish, it is “spoilt”. It is not worthy of people who feel impassioned about human rights, about equality, about freedom.
With great power comes great responsibility…
All of us who use words are empowered, and as such we must be held responsible.
Choose your words carefully. I’d love to hear your thoughts.. but I’d love them to be shared in kindness and respect…