This I Believe

Caroline - Greenfield, Massachusetts
Entered on August 25, 2007

I read books about aliens and evil nanobots, I watch and love shows about space ships, and, yes, I have been to more than one science fiction convention. You should not be surprised, then, when I say that I firmly believe in the power of telepathy.

My life, perhaps even more than yours, is about words. Every day when trying to deliver a punchy line to nail a debate opponent, eliminate the passive voice from a history paper, or just understand a confusing phrase in my latest alien novel, I find that words are difficult. Very difficult. Masochistically difficult. For a stutterer or dyslexic, words are impossibly difficult.

Perhaps you, you in your infinite experience with essays just like this one, will object here. Perhaps you are thinking about your favorite poem or speech, and can feel the power and beauty in that rushing river of language. If you are one of these people, I now ask you to pick up the nearest piece of writing. Does that language whoosh around you like a tidal wave or trickle by like a muddy stream? How often, really, does a turn of phrase hit you with real clarity?

Let me tell you about my English class. First, we learned about the rules of words. There are tons of them, because fitting words together involves lots of patchwork with commas and periods, then some rearranging and revision. There are also the general rules, like Do Not Use Passive Voice and Do Use Metaphors. I put some metaphors in this essay, though I remain skeptical of their effectiveness, but the passive voice slipped in by itself.

But afterwards, once we learned how to put the words into a pretty little sentence, we read other peoples’ sentences. We read novels and poems and essays and textbooks, and then we spend the next day or week or month of English class discussing what the author meant. I finish a ten-word poem and then proceed to write a two-page paper on its message. And so I submit to you my belief.

If that poet could not say what he wanted in ten words, and I could not say what he wanted in two pages, then we must be really bewildered by communication. So consider my world of telepathy. Merriam-Webster would go out of business, and the Oxford English Dictionary would go to a museum. Students wouldn’t have to learn a foreign language. Boyfriends everywhere would be rid of the infamous trick question, “do these jeans make my butt look big?”

Imagine this world. Imagine the rapid transfer of ideas without the need to chop them up into words. Imagine your life without the semantics. Imagine your life if, over 400 words ago, I had told you that I believe in telepathy, but I had wasted neither breath nor words and still you understood the true essence of this essay. That is what I believe in.