Friday, April 27, 2012

Hush Up

Look up! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's not moving, so it can't be either of those. It's up above, and it's making sound. Let's listen in to hear what it has to say...

Speaking changes everything. The act. The words. The power. I wonder, do you know what your course words have done? Do you see how words brought up an Empire that brought down a Generation? Once we opened the gates of Auschwitz, how could we ever open our mouths again? Words are guilty of such horrors.

How can I steward them well, then? Carefully, I suppose. But, hush, can you hear? There's something lingering in the silence. Over there. Behind here. It's between the words. Listen close. It's soft; it's soothing. It cools the heat of the burning words.

Burning words, white hot words. What's the verb of that sentence fragment? Do you see how they still carry power? Did you hear the verb whispering in between the lines?

Go. Do. Think. Be. Create. Do you see how they command? I cannot command much of an audience, but what audience I do have I must speak to responsibly. I have these words, and I cannot toss them around lightly. They carry power and authority. I, the one who bears them, must do so thoughtfully. Can you imagine the ramifications if I threw words around with reckless abandon? Shirts would get printed with the word "wreckless" on them. Incidentally, this has already happened. I saw it on Wednesday. I saw a shirt that said, "Young and Wreckless." Absurdism begins to make sense in the face of these atrocities.

I wanted to cry.

Instead, I stewed on the idea that spelling is actually important. Grammar is actually important as well. When I'm tempted to use poor grammar, I think of Picasso. Have you ever seen any of his earliest works? The man was phenomenal in traditional art forms. He could paint in realism, impressionism, or pointillism  beautifully. After demonstrating proficiency in these recognized art forms, he broke free and began to paint outside the boundaries of accepted art. Virginia Woolf did something similar with the sentence. I am not Picasso or Woolf. I ought to demonstrate an exceedingly high level of proficiency with the English language before I attempt to break free from the bonds of grammar rules.

Do you know what the purpose of grammar and syntax is? The purpose of grammar and syntax is to facilitate effective communication. It's wise stewardship of words. Forming sentences well allows one to communicate most effectively. I'm not saying that every sentence should always be grammatically correct; I have a great deal of respect for Picasso and Woolf. Those great artists and writers, however, demonstrated an ability to communicate effectively inside and out of traditional boundaries. They were not breaking rules out of laziness; they created something new with intentionality.

But this blog was about silence to begin with. (Never start a sentence with a conjunction. Never end a sentence with a preposition.) Wasn't it?

Where do we go from here? Words have been abused. Grammar and syntax have been abused to the detriment of clear communication. Where do we go from here?

We go forward. We reclaim the words, and we use them responsibly. We craft our sentences with silence and intentionality. We complete our paragraphs, and we communicate thoughtfully.

Hush, did you hear something here?

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