I love the feel of words. I know that sounds hokey. Some would say pretentious. Especially the most pretentious. They wouldn’t say so straight out, but with a role of their eyes or a condescending aside, perhaps jot down a clever remark to be shared later.
I try to enjoy the irony rather than get upset at the belittlement. But whether I feel joy or anger that feeling would come from words. Not just the words, but how I interact with them. They’re in us and outside of us.
But no one can deny the feeling you get from hearing a good story, a poem or the lyrics of your favourite song. Sometimes they don’t even need to make sense, you relate to them on some other level which you can’t find the words to describe.
A simple sentence like, I love you, heard for first time from someone who you love back—it changes everything.
I don’t love you, anymore.
The test was negative.
The feelings these words evoke are strong. But what feelings?
When someone says, I love you, to someone who doesn’t love them back, it hurts. Both people.
When a person says, I don’t love you, anymore, and the other person doesn’t love them either, that can be a bit of a relief.
One of the most beautiful sentences in the Bible is just two words, “Jesus wept.” Whether you see it as literature or literal, doesn’t matter. It’s powerful. It’s saying that God, the universe, feels our pain. We’re not alone in it. Mind you, if you’re a believer, and read it as meaning that every time you cause pain to a fellow human being you cause God pain, some might wish to rethink their behavior. Before judgement day.
In my darkest moments I’ve turned to words for comfort and to remind me it won’t stay dark forever. Bruce Cockburn saying, “Kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.” Leonard Cohen’s, “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Gord Downie, “For a good life we might just have to weaken and find somewhere to go.” Or Flannery O’Conner, “I don’t deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it.”
Words allow us escape and discovery at the same time. They let us know that others have felt something similar. That we’re not alone.
A single word can be enough to make us laugh. Sometimes for stupidest of reasons. I recall when I started working at Rosehall Run Winery. My friend, JJ, was training me and another new employee, Tommy. She told us she was going to go through our duties. I giggled.
“What?” She asked.
“You said, doodies,” I said.
“Yes, yes, I did,” she said.
“Oh, my,” Tommy said.
The beauty of it is that duty and doody don’t just have different meanings but they aren’t even spelled the same, they just sound alike. The magic of words, there are so many ways to play with them.
Words can be empowering and humbling. We use them at weddings and funerals, they make us laugh and cry, but there are moments they give way to silence. There are times that words fall short, parts of the human experience that can’t be translated, that refuse to be named and can only be felt. They are what they are.
We try to avoid those things for the most part. If we can’t name, label and categorize something it remains unknown. We fear the unknown. It reminds us of how small we are, how little we actually know or control. We turn to words for comfort. If we choose the right ones we can manipulate ourselves into feeling better.
Words don’t break bones but they shape us and reshape us. They can most certainly hurt, but they can also heal.
I do love you. I’m sorry about what I said. Please forgive me. We can do that thing you always wanted to try.
She’ll pull through.
The word. Was it there in the beginning, waiting for us to discover it? Did words bring the world into the beginning? Or just the world as we know it? The acquisition of knowledge, telling of stories, poems we read, songs we sing; all the things that we now know and see ourselves as. They bring us together and tear us apart. Love isn’t just a word, words are love.
But that’s just a hypothesis. All I know for certain it that I like the way words feel. Label me as you will.