If you went to a typical American high school, you’re probably familiar with Homecoming. (If not, please see the movie Grease for a pretty accurate description– you know, the Rydell High pep rally.) At my high school we also had something called Coming Home and it wasn’t until I moved on and sounded like a confused weirdo talking about Coming Home that I realized that wasn’t exactly normal. Coming Home is essentially the basketball equivalent of Homecoming… except instead of a parade with floats for each class, we decorated halls in the school (on account of I grew up in Michigan and it was cold and snowy during basketball season). Every year there was a different themes for hall decorating and each class chose a theme within the theme to decorate their hall. Tons of fun, in my opinion, way to go LHS! (Although, despite the hours I remember spending drawing, cutting, painting, taping, etc, etc, etc, I literally cannot remember a single one of the themes… all I remember is a large, cut out Spiderman. I wonder if that memory is real…)
Anyway, I don’t really want to talk about high school, homecoming, coming home, or pretty much anything I’ve mentioned so far. What I do want to talk about is recurring themes. And the fact that sometimes I feel like my life in general becomes suddenly inundated with one. I come here to share words with you, friends (see what I did there?). Therefore, the theme du jour: WORDS.
Words are obviously a big part of my life. I’m a science writer by day and I spend the majority of my time at work reading or writing… putting words together to make other people understand science. And more recently, with the beginning of this blog, words became even more important to me. Writing, sharing these words with you, has become so incredibly cathartic. A powerful dream come true. A release every night as I put my thoughts down on the page.
Of course, two things don’t make a theme. A theme is something so much more. And I’m getting to that.
We talked before about how I like to follow a lot of blogs. Most blogs consist of words, so again, I take in a lot of words. But just this week, I read two great posts about the power of words. My friend Dawn at Cups Running Over was discussing the negativity she was encountering on social media and she said,
“…all these negative words are bad for us!” Then she committed to “using the power of words for good.”
Love, love, LOVE! Dawn is so right, I highly recommend reading her post. She says some really thought-provoking things about the way we use social media. And I love the idea of using our words to spread good.
Next up in this theme of words was a blog post by Bridget at Stumbling Towards Perfect where she describes her knee-jerk reaction to some extremely negative words and the beautiful way in which her daughter responded. Again, it was a negative post on social media and her daughter chose to respond calmly, to explain to the person who tried to use words to hurt the power of those words, and in the process, taught a lot of people an important lesson.
And still, two more things to go to complete my theme…
I just finished (tonight, actually) reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It was a beautiful book. And so much of it is about the power of words, for both good and evil. There were several passages throughout the book that described the power of words that I thought were just so interesting.
“‘Don’t punish yourself,’ she heard her say again, but there would be punishment and pain, and there would be happiness, too. That was writing.”
In my experience, writing is cathartic. Sometimes it is hard, it can be painful. But it is so rewarding, and sometimes I even make myself laugh out loud. (Because, as you already know, I am so funny. And humble, too. Hmmm… humility. I have a LOT to say about that. But one thing at a time.)
And then the last line of the Book Thief’s book. She writes:
“I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
Dang. Yes again.
Words can be so personal. They can be so personified. Seriously, I find myself falling in love with the words I put on the page. And when I find that magical turn of phrase, I simply can’t imagine it any other way. But then sometimes the words don’t come out right and they don’t sound like I want them to sound and I hate them for not being just so. Writing. It’s complex.
And in the midst of all this, because of all these words, I reconnected with an old friend who is now an English teacher. (Oh, I am going to say some things about what I consider the vocation of teaching someday. So important.) She told me she like reading along (so nice! she made me feel so good!) and we talked for a while about the power of words and she told me that people don’t think of English as a powerful subject and write it off as “touchy-feely.”
Words are crazy important. And the people that teach us to use those words are the people who give us power… yes, they give us the power to express our feelings to one another, but they also give us the power to inspire, to persuade, to share, to reason, to communicate. There is immense power in all of that. Think of just a few extreme examples: of Hitler persuading his countrymen to kill millions with words, of Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy persuading thousands and thousands of parents not to vaccinate their children against deadly and debilitating diseases with words… but on the other hand, Martin Luther King, Jr. used words to inspire thousands to take to the streets and march for equality and John Stewart uses funny words to make serious points about systems that are very broken. Do you see how powerful words can be? (Do you also see how italics and heavy use of parenthetical statements and elipses (that’s the dot-dot-dot) make you read my words in the same way I would speak them to you? Cool, huh?)
So that, friends, is my thing with words. (See, I did it again… yes! title for the win!) It’s a recurrent theme, these words, and I hope you like the way I’m using them. I also hope that someday my teacher friend will take me up on my offer to share her words, too. Because I know she’s got some good ones inside of her dying for an audience!
Update 9/9/13: SoMeOne, who shall reMain nameless (seriously, how clever am I?), pointed out that there are several typos in the post above– ironic considering it’s all about words. Dang! I was going to read it again, find them, and correct it, but… when I actually got here that all seemed like an awful lot of work. So, the typos remain. Please accept my apologies!