7 Inspiring Ways Of Thinking About The Power Of Words

50571433208_1ee2b2964f_oJack B Yeats – The Poetic Morning [1945]. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr

  1. Words Can Be Crafted and Honed To Near-Perfection.

“I stalk certain words… I catch them in mid-flight, as they buzz past, I trap them, clean them, peel them, I set myself in front of the dish, they have a crystalline texture to me, vibrant, ivory, vegetable, oily, like fruit, like algae, like agates, like olives… I stir them, I shake them, I drink them, I gulp them down, I mash them, I garnish them… I leave them in my poem like stalactites, like slivers of polished wood, like coals, like pickings from a shipwreck, gifts from the waves… Everything exists in the word.”  

Pablo Neruda.

29095003101_e4f982423b_oFrançoise Gilot – Two Friends Reading Poetry [1953]Gandalf’s Gallery, Flickr.

How wonderful it is to be able to craft words into beautiful prose and poetry, as Pablo Neruda and so many others have done.

Like sculptors, such writers can shape words into beautiful and mellifluous works of art.

“I would write ads for deodorants or labels for catsup bottles, if I had to. The miracle of turning inklings into thoughts and thoughts into words and words into metal and print and ink never palls for me.”


John Updike

“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.”

Emily Dickinson

Words can be beautiful; put together with other words, they can create stunning pictures in our minds, produce powerful feelings inside us, stimulate wonderful thoughts and ideas:

“A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going. And dusk crept over the sky from the eastern horizon, and darkness crept over the land from the east.”

 John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath.

Claude_Monet_-_Twilight,_VeniceClaude Monet. Dusk In Venice. Wikimedia Commons.

2. Words Express Powerful Emotions.

“Words are events, they do things, change things. They transform both speaker and hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it. They feed understanding or emotion back and forth and amplify it.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

What is this power that words have to stir our emotions? Think of Martin Luther King’s  ‘I have a dream‘ speech and how inspiring that was.

He knew well, not only how to craft his words, choosing a powerful phrase that would go down in history, but also how to use tone, intonation and verbal expression to deliver his well-chosen words.

The emotion in his voice is palpable, as is his genuine belief in the message of his words.

He knew well that if he repeated his powerful group of words, their message would be even more stirring, even more moving:

“If words don’t have vibration behind them, and a real feeling behind them, then they’re just words.”
Charlotte Rampling

3. Words Can Be Magical.

“The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.”
William H. Gass

Léon_Brunin_-_The_AlchemistThe Alchemist. c.1900.Léon Brunin .Wikimedia Commons.

“Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic.”
 J. K. Rowling

How is it that words can be so magical?

Words can transcend boundaries, they can free us from restriction, perhaps mitigate some of the pain of a crisis such as the pandemic we are all enduring.

The creative act of putting words together in different ways is truly wondrous; for words can make us laugh or cry, help us to develop new ways of thinking, make us feel afraid, sad or happy.

They can transform our mood, whether they be written or spoken words.

Berthold_Woltze_-_Der_BriefBerthold Woltze. The Letter. Wikimedia Commons.

“There is something like an explosion in the meaning of certain words: they have a greater value than their meaning in the dictionary.”

Marcel Duchamp

“Words are never ‘only words’; they matter because they define the contours of what we can do.”

Slavoj Žižek

DvorakReaderThoughtful Reader. Franz Dvorak. Wikimedia Commons.

“don’t ever let me hear you say that words are just words.
that 
words don’t leave a mark,
make a change,
create where once was nothing.”

Upile Chisala

4. Words And Silence.

Sometimes, however, silence can speak louder than words. 

“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”

Elbert Hubbard

We need silence in order to think, and to produce words that can be creative and useful. Silence gives us the space and time to be reflective and contemplative about the words we use.

“Everything that’s created comes out of silence. Thoughts emerge from the nothingness of silence. Words come out of the void. Your very essence emerged from emptiness. All creativity requires some stillness.”

Wayne Dyer

“I’ve begun to realise that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own…… It has a strange, beautiful texture.”

Chaim Potok.

theravada-buddhism-3483708_1920

“Silence is a source of great strength.”

Lao Tzu

When we use words, they emanate from our silences. We cannot speak all the time, so we create natural breaks in our speech, during which we give ourselves, and others, time to breathe, pause and reflect.

“You can’t be silent and create silence in being silent. So you have to create silence or, rather, the effect of silence, through words.”

Peter Handke

“You can have a silence full of words. A lute retains, in its bowl, the notes it has played. The viol, in its strings, holds a concord. A shrivelled petal can hold its scent, a prayer can rattle with curses; an empty house, when the owners have gone out, can still be loud with ghosts.”

Hilary Mantel.

“Most of the problems of the world stem from linguistic mistakes and simple misunderstandings. Don’t ever take words at face value. When you step into the zone of love, language as we know it becomes obsolete. That which cannot be put into words can only be grasped through silence.’

Eli Shafak

Silence can also give us the ability to quieten our internal voices so that we will be able to listen more clearly to other people’s words.

The quieter you become the more you are able to hear.”

Rumi

46950972185_ae55e0b77e_oOscar Rex – A Quiet Word [1894]. Gandalf’s Gallery.

“Silence is one of the great arts of conversation.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Words as A Defence.

Words can be limiting, for they can be used defensively. They can become an  ‘activity as a defence against feeling.’ 

This is often termed a ‘manic defence,‘ a largely unconscious mechanism that is experienced often in psychotherapy, when there is a fear in the patient of facing the real, perhaps despairing feelings beneath the words.

“Words, like nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within.”
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Thus, a person might use a barrage of fairly meaningless words, become flippant or jokey, or intellectualise excessively, all to avoid saying, and facing, what is troubling or disturbing them.

“I prefer silence. Then you can hear thoughts and see into the past.
In silence you can’t hide anything … as you can in words.”

August Strindberg

“The body often contains emotional truths that words can too easily gloss over.”

Esther Perel

 

5. Words Have The Power To Heal.

“Words are the physicians of a mind diseased.”

Aeschylus

William Sieghart,  writer of the book The Poetry Pharmacy knows well that words can heal. He uses his poetry as prescriptions, balms for people’s psychological ailments.

In the same way, words are the main component of a therapist’s healing skills.

“If you have the words, there’s always a chance that you’ll find the way.”

Seamus Heaney.

6. Words Can Injure.

SONY DSCThe Bitter Potion. Adriaen Brouwer. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr. 

“Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Buddha said:
 
“The tongue is like a sharp knife… it kills without drawing blood.”

How well do we all know that words can be hurtful and injurious to ourselves and others. The old phrase ‘sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me,’ is just not true.

The power of words to do harm is enormous; they can be used to degrade, insult and even destroy. It is therefore important that we think before we speak, especially if we are angry, or feeling hurt ourselves.

“When your rage is choking you, it is best to say nothing.” 

Octavia E. Butler.

7. Words Can Have Many Different Effects, Meanings And Interpretations.

Words can have hidden meanings, innuendos and implications. They can be hard to pin down, and can change according to context, culture and the personality and intention of the speaker.

“The writer must be able to revel and roll in the abundance of words; he must know not only the direct but also the secret power of a word. There are overtones and undertones to a word, and lateral echoes, too.”

Knut Hamsun

“A writer lives in awe of words for they can be cruel or kind, and they can change their meanings right in front of you. They pick up flavors and odours like butter in a refrigerator.”
Anonymous

4744721905_9198f656ef_oMia Araujo – Two Spirits. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“The same word we love and hate, leaves in different directions, taking different paths.”

Dejan Stojanovic

woodtype-846089_1920

“Words
are powerful
forces of nature.

they are destruction.
they are nourishment.
they are flesh.
they are water.
they are flowers
and bone.

they burn. they cleanse
they erase. they etch.

they can either
leave you
feeling
homeless

or brimming
with home.”

Sanober Khan

©Linda Berman

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Many thanks to each and every one of you who has read this post. You are appreciated. Linda.

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