I believe in the power of the spoken word. I believe in the potency of each vowel — a-e-i-o-u-and sometimes y — and in the remarkable ways they can energize their cousins, the consonants. I have high regard for the rhythm of punctuation. I admire the might of the question mark, exclamation point, semi-colon, ellipse, and the syncopated pause (followed by a quick surge of explanation) that appears in writing as open and close parentheses.
I first felt my love for the spoken word in a university philosophy class. During a lecture about the allegory of the cave, I suddenly realized a stirring had started behind my eyes. It felt like the lower edge of my brain swelled up and rose like a billowing sail. I told that philosophy professor that his lectures were like symphonies. It is true that I love the spoken word like other people love music. I don’t dislike music. I can just take it or leave it. It’s a green vegetable on the side – green beans or broccoli — while a pod cast story is a main course, and the perfect phrase spoken within that story is an exotic spice splashed on the edge of my tongue, like cinnamon, clove, or mint.
The intensity of my pleasure in hearing a small truth is equal to the degree of my agitation when confronted with the anti-logic required to sustain hatred, prejudice and fear. In my childhood, I would have described my reaction as similar to how I felt about hearing fingernails scrape along a blackboard, but now I’d compare it to the sound of a smoke alarm – piercing, intolerable. At these times, I am not patient. Not tolerant. I can’t stand this noise. It demands that I jump up. Run away. Change the channel. Pull out the battery. Open the window and wave a towel to clear out the smoke. I don’t want to be in denial, and maybe I could learn something by listening, but I really can’t hear over the clatter of my brain cells banging on the inside of my skull trying to get out. How can anyone stand to say these words? How can anyone stand to listen?
Love it or hate it, I still believe in the power of the spoken word. I believe in a-e-i-o-u- and sometimes y, accompanied by b-c-d-f-g-h-j-k-l-m-n–p-q-r-s-t-v-w-x and z. Twenty-six letters — each powerless alone — but with absolute power in gangs of two or more. They entice and chase me through time. They amaze and terrify me; they annoy me; they satisfy me. They are at the source of my being.
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