I’ve never really understood the phrase “actions speak louder than words.” Who thought that was smart? Sure, actions can speak plenty, but words . . . words scream. They yell and cry and refuse to be unheard. The right words can awaken the beast, open up the skies, conjure the storms. They solidify thoughts and emotions that otherwise would go unspoken, leaving them to dissolve into nothingness as if they never existed.
Words hit home. When you read the right words in a story or hear them in a song, they pierce through your heart and ignite sparks in your brain as you find shelter in them. In this purgatory, words set us free.
In reading certain passages from certain novels, my heart flips and tumbles. I stop in my tracks and reread the sentences over and over as I absorb the image painted before me – the emotions brought to life around me. I recognize the reverence Willem holds for his friends as he asks himself, “Wasn’t friendship its own miracle, the finding of another person who made the entire lonely world seem somehow less lonely?” in A Little Life. I understand Catherine’s war with herself in Wuthering Heights when she’s asked, “Where is the obstacle?” and fiercely replies, “In whichever place the soul lives—in my soul, and in my heart, I’m convinced I’m wrong!”
The written word is glorious in its own right. In a similar yet remarkably distinguishable sense, there’s lyrical writing. Songwriters have an extraordinary way of setting a lovely string of words to a tune that gives them a greater meaning, maybe even alters it. Even if I’ve listened to a song a dozen times, the effect it has on me is always the same. My mind flashes memories of the people I love most as Gang of Youths sings, “Remember the pact of our youth. Where you go, I’m going. So jump and I’m jumping, since there is no me without you” in “Achilles Come Down“. I can’t help but smile listening to Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young” when he says, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints – the sinners are much more fun.” The cleverness and profoundness found in these lyrics and passages strike me speechless every time. Imagine possessing such a power––imagine leaving someone without a single letter on their tongue, but with a head full of thoughts using only words.
In the midst of any negative emotion, be it frustration, sadness or anger, I pick up a pen and scribble everything that comes to mind, my hand struggling to keep up with the rapidity of my thoughts. Though no one shall ever see them, I will likely never look back on them myself, the words I’ve just carved into paper are a sort of proof of my existence; proof that I once lived among the other specks of life on this planet. My pen is my sword; its ink runs through my veins as I bleed words.
Thank God for words. Thank the heavens, the earth and everything in between for these precious treasures that allow me to feel, to understand, to communicate – to feel alive. Thank God for words, for life without them could only be best described as no life at all.
“Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them! They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?” – Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray