This is the second time in as many weeks that Monday’s writing snippets have been delayed till Tuesday. So much for a blogging schedule. I offer no weak excuses, and instead (as penance) promise a full length article to be posted next Monday, on the subject of idealized heros. To be titled: “Why the Princess Bride is Still a Classic.” Or perhaps “Kings and Captains: Why We Will Always Love Aragorn.” Something like that. But in the meantime, I offer you a short contemplation on the subject of words…
Have you paused recently, to marvel at the wonder of words? Now, I understand that’s an odd sort of question, but if you’ll bear with me, I’ll try to explain. What are words, after all? They are merely combinations of symbols. Every word in the English language is composed from a supply of only twenty-six symbols. And what is a symbol, beyond simple strokes on a page? Squiggles. Lines. Curves. Nonsense. Only twenty-six little opportunities—but they open an almost unlimited supply of possibility.
What are words, if not just descriptions? When you read the word symbol in the first paragraph, what did you think of? Did anything pop into your head? A single letter perhaps. Maybe you pictured the entire alphabet. Whatever the case, by a simple description—even a description only one word long—you saw it. Words are magical. Still not entirely convinced? Let’s try something a little more complex. Just for fun. Elephant. There is an enormous gray elephant stomping through the jungle, trumpeting, wreaking havoc with each thunderous step. But he finds the coffee shop at last, ceases to panic, removes his sunglasses, orders a large cappuccino, and slurps it contentedly by use of his trunk. Here is a scene you have never witnessed before in the whole course your life and will (most likely) never have the unique opportunity to ever see. But, through the magic of words, the scene comes alive before your mind’s eye.
And yet, words can do more than just create mental images in your imagination. Words can generate feelings—of awe, joy, despair, contentedness, or restlessness. Words can be beautiful, weaving their way into intricate and marvelous patterns—each one a golden thread in the final design of the sentence. Words can make you draw back in disgust by the way they ooze and fester; revolting little globs strung together with loose and cracking joints between. Words can conjure up a close sense of peace and tranquility—forming a smooth surface, unrippled and untouched by the chaos without. Words can elicit a sense of horror as they reach out with clammy, bony fingers and send an icy chill shuddering up your spine. Words can create an environment of complete and utter silence—full, unbroken, restful, and sweet. Words can deafen you with their loud and obnoxious din, by the way they clang and rattle inside your brain and threaten headaches.
But above all, words can make you pause. Words can make you wonder at the vast realm of possibility that resides in the simple combination of only twenty-six symbols. What are words if not just arrangements of symbols? And what are symbols but mere scratches and squiggles of ink? They’re just strokes on a page after all. Just spidery lines on the page.