I believe in the Divinity of Words
I believe in the divinity of words. I believe that language is imbued with the mysterious, and I have made it my life to worship it. I was blessed to discover my first love early. It was in Mrs. O’Brien’s fifth grade class. I couldn’t wait for story time. And though I wasn’t a fan of The Wind in the Willows, the age appropriate book we spent most of the year on, in the humid, lazy days of Carolina summers, my love and devotion blossomed, starting with my mother’s condensed Reader’s Digest books. And then, I became smitten with all things Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Mildred Taylor, and later Alice Walker and Toni Morrison.
Today, that devotion remains, and I believe, more than anything, that my purpose is cultivating the love or at least the appreciation for the majesty of language to my students. I take the charge seriously. I have taught English for the past eight years to, at times, less than enthusiastic audiences. But I teach it anyway, like an evangelist charged with spreading the gospel and converting the masses, I teach. Not everyday with vim and vigor, but with the knowledge that language and words matter.
As any good disciple, everyday I marvel at the power, the beauty, and even the cacophony of words and the art of writing. With words we can, as Gandhi extolled, “be the change we want in the world.” We can name evil and define good—and it will be so.
Well crafted language has the power to compel us as did Paine when he asserted that his was the time that “tried men’s souls and as did Thoreau who decried to his reader in “Civil Disobedience to “Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.” Sam Cooke harkened that a “Change [was] going to come” and Bob Dylan declared that we would find it “Blowing in the Wind.” And if we are to believe Mantra meditation, Hindi and ancient Sanskrit, then all the troubles we seek to ameliorate can be found by invoking the sacred syllable: Om, and all suffering results from the denial of one truth: Soham. I am that/ I am divine—“Ah to be human!” and to be god.
These forms of our own creation twirl and move through the world, through the atmosphere, through the universe and remain forever with their own weight, mass, and life, giving birth to more ideas and actions. Words, depending on the dogma of your beliefs, were arias that sung us into existence. And while we ask our politicians, our leaders to move beyond lofty speeches and pretty words, I believe that those same politicians must begin like African griots, like Native American wise men, like street corner preachers, like rhetoricians of antiquity with the ability to enlighten our spirits with their thoughts translated in words, transformed into meaning, and transubstantiated into change.
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