“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Words have become a lost art in our culture, but still the most important communicational tool. Often times, situationally, people are very unaware of the words in which they chose, those words can convey very different meanings, at times even creating a bias in an impartial argument.
Time and time again there are seamless thoughts that float between my group of friends, many of which are artists, who argue the uselessness of words. Some of these people have later repented and told me their aversion of words stems from their inability to grasp them. Nonetheless they stand firm in their convictions against words. Given my journey I walked down, I argued in opposition to their positions. As time dwindles on, more and more beautiful people who surround me, have similar arguments about the concept of words.
I recognize meanings are lost in translations, enlightenment is unexplainable, and repeatedly feelings are indescribable; yet for the limitations of the human form and ego, language and words are necessary. They are the only way in which to communicate.
Now words are tricky, tricky items, for one word not only has many meanings, but words mean different things in other cultures, languages, and time frames. Buddha teaches that by scrutinizing and fulling exploring any aspect, will we be able to fully understand it; thus words and language are no different.
I have found that people that think language is useless tend not to watch what they say, let alone how they say it. Often a lot can be conveyed in tonality, body language as well as the linguistics of word choice. People give themselves away in these subtleties, and by not paying attention to what they say, give something away they wish to hide. Otherwise people convey wrong messages, and get lost in interpretation as well. This causes more problems, especially with couples who fight. More often than not the fights, and disagreements that we find ourselves in could be completely avoided by just being conscience of the words, what and how we use them.
Through out history great speakers, and authors have understood the power behind words. William Shakespeare, even admitted the difficulty and the strong understanding with words. Naom Chomsky, a great authority in American culture, started his career and gained his prestige by the world of words. Chomsky introduced himself to the world as a linguist, studying the language and word choice of the world. Historically words and language is something that culture has been working to understand and master, it is by pure awareness that we are able to communicate and explain without misinterpretation.
One of my preferred examples of misused language is a single line that former president Bush used while giving a speech on the War in Iraq. He said, “This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while.” Well when the word crusade was used, many Americans did not raise an eyebrow, and why should they? In the American historical moment the word crusade is taught with a subtle indifference. American culture views the word crusade as a pushing forward, a righteous action, and almost a synonym to heroic action-at times equal to heroic in weight. Yet the rest of the world cringed as Bush uttered this fateful word. Europe and the Middle East, crusade means cleansing, killing and cannibalism. The whole idea of a crusade not only means increasingly negative feelings and motivations, but also the antagonizer having little to no respect for the lives of any people in the region of those in defense.
While many Americans, fretted thinking that the culture of the Middle East needed to let go of their hurts which came from hundreds of years ago and reinterpret this word, the rest of the world gained a different perspective on the war. One word caused almost a catastrophe of epic proportions, why? Two different cultures for centuries interpreted, taught, and weighted this word differently; one with almost indifference, and one with fear, and negativity. This whole mess could have been avoided, if only Bush’s speech writers had paid attention to the meanings of words, in all aspects and were aware of deeper aspects of language.
Additionally the whole of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 was powered and fueled by words. In his autobiography An Ordinary Man; (2006), Paul Rusesabagina admitted that it was the words of the radio station that allowed for the hate to spread. In his introduction he talks about the wide range and following of the Hutu radio station. It was the hate that was spread due to that station which allowed for neighbor to turn against neighbor, and friend against friend. Rusesabagina warned against the wrong use of power in words.
Journalists, historians, and writers are aware that their words equal power. Just by choosing the right word, tone and context, one can create a genocide, hate, love, change perspectives, and most importantly influence interpretations and impressions. By choosing our words and tones carefully, we can influence beauty. The yogi always teaches to watch the words and images one feeds their brain, as well as the words they feed the world. It is important to be aware of the way and how people talk, and how the information we find is worded, as well as how we interpret it and regurgitate. Only when we have reached full awareness can language drop away and the indescribable can become describable.