We hear it said that words are symbols, as if in a sense they were lined up on one side, with reality on the other, and us in between — dirty things tainted by their own meanings, useful as a daily sort of common currency, but basically crippled as a means of expressing life in its great profundity and mystery, which are best trusted to silence. This is very much like saying, Money is the root of all evil, when in fact, the evil resides in the hearts of those who use it; whereas, understood in terms of its noblest use, namely in trading to meet our needs in an atmosphere of mutual care and love, money is a beautiful thing — a symbol, yes; but a symbol of that which binds us all and gives us wings. Seen in this light, words too are the sacred coin of the realm. If they seem to fall short of our conception of reality, it might be that what we see as their limitation is really our own, and that they grow in beauty and effectiveness according to the depth of our vision. Words do not keep us from reality. They are another part of reality. But when we see ourselves as something distinct from reality, words die in our hearts and live only in our mouths. And in one degree or another, so does everything else. Then even silence is just a word.
July 30, 2020
In the Language
What joy it is to meet in the language, in page and street, to trade in words older than ourselves, strange, familiar, sweet, such coin of the realm as lives and breathes, and ever seeks to greet someone.
Recently Banned Literature, January 17, 2014
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