Above, a quote from one of my all-time favorites, My Fair Lady aka Pygmalion.
Still, as dismissed as words are in Shaw's masterpiece, their importance is stressed in the Inkheart trilogy from Cornelia Funke.
It was a story of words within words. Of stories within stories. Of characters made of flesh and of ink. And to a girl who used to read in her closet with a flashlight; who's best friends growing up were Caddy Woodlawn and Abigail Adams - these stories and friendships were close to heart.
Over 1800 pages I grew to know and love Mo, Meggie, Resa, Dustfinger, Farid and, yes, even Fenoglio. I discovered why I loved Jasper and respected Rosenquartz. I imagined the Nests in the Trees and believed that the White Women are the closest humanity will ever come to understanding Death.
So, yeah, I've spent a lot of time in the Inkworld. And, while I cried publicly at the end of the tale (not a popular activity in Gloucester), it also left me thinking about the impact of words.
We say them every day: "I'd like a coffee." "Let me get that for you." "Bless you." "Fuck off!" "Fuck you!" "How are you?" "What's happening?" "Are you shitting me?"
So many words. So many ideas. Put together, they have so many meanings. Torn apart, they have even more.
I used to scoff at people who played semantics. But maybe, just maybe I'm starting to believe it's time we started paying attention to what we're saying, how we're saying it, and why.
I'm not encouraging an outrage or an uprising or a flashmob. I'm CERTAINLY not advocating for uber-"PC-ness" - I'm just saying ... words mean a lot. They can make things reality and unmake things. Not unlike the Inkworld. It's just a crazy theory from a woman who was once a girl who read books in her closet by a flashlight.
Yet, as the Inkworld showed me, even words meant for good can cause unknown pain. And sometime the words we pay the least attention to can save our souls. But above all, if we mean them for good, good will come. Eventually.
It cycles me back to a theme I've often revisited: We are all but drops on a sunlit sea." The words we utter - and the energy behind them muttered - can change the whole of the world. Not just OUR world. But THE world.
I have the privelege of knowing my friends mutter good words. And I hope that I do so as well.
It's like one of those pay it forward games. I give to you good words, given to me by wonderful people. How will you use those words?
Yes, it's theoretically and philosophyical and blah blah blah. But it makes me feel better. When I ask someone "how are you?" and they seem surprised that I mean it. I like it. And when I offer a sneezer a "bless you" and they look up surprised, it makes me happy. And, yeah, I don't mind I'm doing a good job and its appreciated.
Words help us. They are emotional ties to the things we've done right and the things we've done wrong. They are no match for the personal and/or physical reassurance we as humans need. But they help. Everyone needs, at the end of the day, a pair of arms to wrap around us. But if they know the words that we need to hear, that might prove just enough.
Be kind to your brothers and sisters. They may just be hearing those words for the first time.