I love words! Words make us human. That ability to symbolize re our subjective experience and assign meaning to that domain is just incredibly fascinating to me. And as we assign meanings to our experience we find connection with others, we discover that they too use the same sounds to refer to the same experiences…more or less! And how did that ever happen and why does it continue? Yes, it is a neurological issue; but, ultimately it is a philosophical and spiritual issue.
(Let me share a relevant personal anecdote. Years ago in a casual conversation a friend of mine dropped an aside, “Well, our name is just a sound we learned to respond to.” This “word” of his spoke to me and continues to do so. It resonated and I realized what he meant, that my very name “Lewis” was merely a sound that “I” had learned to respond to at about the age of one and a half or two years. My “I” (a rudimentary ego) preceded that moment in some shape, form, or fashion but when I was able to associate that subjective experience with the sound “Lewis” I basically joined the human race.)
Poets are one of God’s gifts to us as they can play with words and teach us about meaning. They can use words and use them skillfully and artistically—with spiritual finesse—and usher us into realms of meaning which would otherwise be hidden. Here is a sample from one of them that I have discovered in the blog-o-sphere (enerihot.wordpress.com):
I Write Because
by Irene Toh
Here it comes: a manifesto.
I write because words are
necessary shadows, the way
they augment light that
shines on every thing.
I write because any object
may become a subject
by simple appreciation,
being talked about so
it becomes the light.
I write because after god,
we speak things into creation,
because day turns into night,
because after you there’s no
one who is truly you and
words are dying stars.
And then here is another example from one of my favorite poets, Carl Sandburg:
Bright conversations are transient as rainbows.
Speech requires blood and air to make it.
Before the word comes off the end of the tongue,
While the diaphragms of flesh negotiate the word,
In the moment of doom when the word forms,
It is born, alive, registering an imprint—
Afterward it is a mummy, a dry fact, done and gone.
The warning holds yet: Speak now or forever hold your peace.
Ecce homo had meanings: Behold the man! Look at him! Dying he lives and speaks.