Do Words Matter?
July 9, 2011 32 Comments
Do words matter? Sometimes I feel like words are just words. They diffuse into the air like an exhalation in winter. The wind sweeps them away and the cold robs them of whatever warmth they carried. And so often, only the speaker remembers what he said; the listener was never listening and never had anything to forget.
Yet I know this only to be true part of the time. Words also harm, and their sting lingers long after they’ve been uttered or printed. They sometimes gladden. Not all of them disappear. Some of them last.
Words tell stories, and when they tell stories words really are more than words. They paint pictures. They convey tragedy and joy. They touch people. When words tell stories they are life itself. Identities, whole histories, cultures, and peoples are bound up in them.
I didn’t go to Chile. There was a hiccup in my job search. I don’t have adequate words to express the state I’m in. Confusion, sadness, doubt, frustration—these speak to part of what I’m feeling inside, but they’re just words. They don’t tell the story. But maybe this post as a whole will succeed where they fail. Maybe it will convey my ambivalence, this sense of not knowing what to feel or what to say, of not knowing what’s going to happen or where I’m going to be in two days, this aching worry about loved ones and the need to do right by them–and always the question: Did writing this help? Did it matter?
Yes, it did.
This is life. It ain’t always perfect, but it moves on anyway.