My friend Michael sent me the above cartoon last night. The most powerful weapon in the world is language and, more precisely, words. Language is the system by which we communicate, but the tool – our smoking gun – is our word choice. And, ironically, as this cartoon shows, even the same words can produce an entirely different meaning in their arrangement.
Obviously, I’m a fan of words. I’m a writer. I had dinner with my friend Stan Thursday. Stan is an artist. He helped a friend paint some murals for a new restaurant here in town. Neither one of them had ever painted anything on that scale. They adjusted their attitudes and methods to create an enormous artistic replication of a couple of photographs. He learned a lot. They had to get scaffolding. They had to paint and then step way back in order to “see” what they were painting. Ultimately, they have decided to start a business painting murals. They liked it, and it’s fairly lucrative as a business opportunity. Their art is a tool to make a living. Their art – their expression – creates an illusion that patrons are in Mexico. That illusion is what the owner is purchased. I’m sure he could care less about the art.
“Your mouth can spit venom or it can mend a broken soul.”
~ Mohammed Quatani,
Toastmasters 2015 World Champion Speaker
Wisdom at its root depends on having the skill to decipher between the illusion and the reality. If you read my blog, you know I’ve had a less than ideal experience with relationships. My primary problem with those failures was my confusion about the importance of words and actions. I am impetuous and I am passionate. I am easily moved. I am also extremely sensitive. I married a journalist and a wildly successful salesman – both highly skilled in the use of language. My love of words is my most profound and crippling addiction. I never understood that in judging the workability of a relationship I had to slow down enough to determine if a person’s words aligned with their actions. The illusion sucked me in, and I was sucker punched by the reality.
It took a couple of years after my second divorce to understand how my preference for words blinded me. And it was the words spoken during our marriage that wounded me to my soul – too many of them …. the wrong ones ….. delivered in harmful ways. For wordsmiths, words are the ultimate assault weapon. And we are not afraid to use them. In my recovery, I have learned the power of words to heal.
I stumbled across this short and powerful video this morning after I was awakened by a relentless waterfall of words for this blog.
My friend Chris is a speechwriter. He lives in Watson now, but he was in D.C. for many years and wildly successful. He has crafted speeches for many of the big political players in the Democratic party. I love talking to him because he has the inside scoop on how the political engine really works. I know – because I’m a former journalist and from a newspaper family – that what we see in the media is smoke and mirrors. And I’m forever curious about what’s behind the curtain. I would like to try speechwriting. I think it would be fun and challenging to arrange words that move an audience but that are delivered from a different person. I’d like to participate in the illusion.
I was born into a family that “crafted” language. It came naturally to us. We are all writers of some sort. But I have an untrained, wild skill. Ironically, language is at its best when used sparingly. Sometimes I nail it with a phrase that cuts right to core. It’s especially rewarding if it playfully or powerfully rolls off the tongue. Just as many times I struggle to find the right word or phrase to express myself. Sometimes language – and my beloved words – fall miserably short. Writing is my craft and my relentless driving demon. I love the struggle. My mind wakes me up in the middle of the night hungering for the fight.
When I was a journalism student, we were pounded with the instruction to restrict bias. Covering the news was a responsibility, and our greatest personal task was to drive that mission and not our personal agenda. Even with that, media bias has always been present in what is covered and who is interviewed. Today’s media has no morals. Everything is driven by clicks, and I wonder if anyone is focused on eliminating bias anymore. As in my relationships, I want to make political choices based on actions – not words. And it’s increasingly harder to see beyond the illusion.
I urge you to look beyond the words of whatever you are reading in the media. I promise you that the majority of what you read or hear is a manipulation. Whether the writer wants you to “click” or part with your money or vote or get angry or scared, they know exactly what they are doing. Writers know how to use words as weapons, and they can be used for our good or our destruction. If you don’t want to be a pawn of the media, seek out unbiased sources. They are hard to find, but they do exist. It is more important than ever to be discriminating with what we consume. Our very lives depends on it.