Words can Kill…or at Least Deaden!

Blogging the past three years has been such a wonderful experience for me. One of the nice things is that it has put me in touch with interesting people from around the world people who have books, movies, and experiences to share and thus broaden my life.  But yesterday, I received a comment via email from a “real-time” friend who I only recently met which further stimulated my thinking about words and their relationship to reality; or, the converse of that notion, “words and their lack of relationship to reality.” This person is a local artist/musician and is preoccupied with a similar concern of mine—words and their “meaning” they have in the depths of the heart, a “meaning” which is completely missed if we live only on the surface of life and take words…and the rest of our experience…only on a surface level. The following is an excerpt from Martha’s email:

A book I look at from time to time by Leonard Shlain would no doubt interest you, Lewis if you have not already read it! “The Alphabet vs. the Goddess” where this binariness is explored throughout history. He presents things in a left-brain right-brain paradigm and would probably agree that labeling was the end of beauty. I am fascinated by brain scans of children when taught that a color has a name. Can you imagine simply experiencing the color blue, all through your body and senses, before you were told that this experience was associated with the label “blue?” The scans show the brain tingling in all its parts and portions, lit up! When scanned later, once the label “blue” is assigned, the brain activity becomes very localized to the verbal areas, and I dare say, the experience is also tempered down. I just don’t want anyone’s light to be under a bushel and my mission in life is to wake up those experiential aspects that true artistry awakens, no matter the medium. (http://marthashepp.com)

 Martha’s thoughts brought to the table an additional dimension to my post of yesterday, illustrating how that there is a sense in which words can kill…or at least deaden…and keep us on the surface level which in the Christian tradition is known as “the letter of the law.” The brain scan research she referred to is just stunning.

Martha’s observation brought to my mind a marvelous poem on this subject by Carl Sandburg, a poem which captures poetically the “diaphragms of flesh negotiating the word”–attaching a subjective experience to a word which has currency “out there”. But this experience, there on the threshold of consciousness, introduces us to a “verbal order” (i.e.l patriarchy) which some of us spend the rest of our lives finding the courage to lay aside…in some sense…and allow the words to have meaning again.

 PRECIOUS MOMENTS by Carl Sandburg

Bright vocabularies are transient as rainbows.

Speech requires blood and air to make it.

Before the word comes off the end of the tongue,

While 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 home had meanings: Behold the Man! Look at

          Him! Dying he lives and speaks!

(NOTE: If you check out Martha’s web site—where you will find some of her art and clips from her music…make sure you read her “Artist’s Statement.”)

2 thoughts on “Words can Kill…or at Least Deaden!

  1. Stephen

    Thanks beyond words. Words can liberate too when we name the dragons or demons or shadows that haunt us . Sort of like surgery or baptismal scrutinies or something during Lent….


    1. 21stcenturyxstian Post author

      Well stated. Yes, words can offer us freedom…if we are willing to let them sink into the depths of our heart and then find the courage to wrestle with them. This is what I think “wrestling with the Lord” is. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and am pleased that you are following this palaver!



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