I believe in words.
Yep, words. Ink on a page. Symbols scratched on parchment and stone. Sounds hanging in spaces between people, between centuries, between points of view.
I believe in the strength, beauty, and transforming magic of words.
That endowing an idea with form and voice makes it live.
I believe our words, even more than our thumbs, are the true engine of our intelligence and the most potent instrument we use to shape the world.
When I was little, my Mom read to me every day, introducing me to the expanded universe of imagination and knowledge that can be discovered between the covers of a book.
Eventually words became a career. Working in politics, I was paid to gather and weave words to form speeches, letters, legislation, policy positions, strategic plans, you name it.
At their worst – and my own worst – I chained words like slaveship oarsmen, forcing them into unworthy service. Using them to say things that lacked principle or reason. At our best, I felt real passion when I marshaled words that stood firm to a purpose. When they captured and ultimately inspired something that ought to be.
But nothing made me appreciate words like waiting for them. As a writer, I’ve spent long hours staring at a blank page or screen, frowning, pacing, fidgeting and then finally flying with knitted brows when words start to flow.
Funny how belief always seems to make you wait for revelation…
I smile now while I wait for words. I smile because the words I’m waiting for belong to my baby daughter.
I’m told her first is likely to be either “Mommy” or “Daddy”. This is quite amazing. Think about it. That first word will not be “me”, or “mine”, or even her own name, but rather a step toward defining and engaging the world beyond herself.
More words will come fast. I’ll watch her forehead crease with understanding. Watch her lips wriggle with new sounds. Watch her hands learn to conjure letters that she will build into words and sentences to frame her own belief.
She’ll learn that words are ribs for her dreaming wings. That they give strength and sinew to what she thinks and imagines.
She’ll learn that communication is itself a universal truth. That words make reality simply by bridging the distance between her own vision and that of her fellow human beings.
She’ll learn that words, like all things of power, are a responsibility. That the shaped charge of articulate thought can both create and destroy. That the splendor of words is both magnificent and terrible.
Eventually, I hope words become for her like those famous hands in the Sistine Chapel. Those hands that reach toward one another to show humanity created in the image to which we aspire.
I hope words, like Michelangelo’s hands, become for her something both familiar and divine. Beautiful tools that she will use to sculpt her own curiosity, dignity, passion, and purpose.
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