What words can do

Closing Blog, June 2023 – with appreciation – M. Hines

Words have always been tools and it seems in our society today there are no limits when it comes to their creative usage, describing and identifying everything.  Trying to keep up can be a corporate marketing nightmare: who will be first to find the ‘next best’ phrase?”  I’m not sure if this is something exclusive to capitalism in America, or if other countries are just as possessed.  Maybe it’s an aspect of human nature –something that evolved with us through time as part of our survival. 

Communication is a live entity–constantly growing and adapting–restrained only by lacking imaginations (and a ‘few’ rules governing grammar).  Words identify, quantify, recognize, and categorize.  Words create comfort and contribute to a sense of belonging and security. Words help us identify what something is and determine how to respond; based on how we were taught and influenced.

We all use words but not always in the best of ways.  Expletives and labels categorize and limit things and people; separating some from the general perception of society’s ‘main-stream’ (a short hand phrase used to identify“acceptable” or “normal”).  That same phrase also excludes anyone challenging our perceptions of who fits within our perceived society as a whole and, more personally, who fits within my ‘comfort zone’.

Fear and faith could be America’s ‘Ying and Yang’, but without the balance.  Despite the many pontifications and accolades describing the US as a ‘faith-based’ society; when ‘push comes to shove’ for the general population,  fear seems to be the stronger motivator.  Many live with a perpetual ‘what if’ looming in the back of their minds.  Scouts and other groups compensate with mottos such as ‘be prepared’.  It’s ‘stand-alone sound advice’. But sprinkle enough fear in the mix and those innocent words go from, “have an emergency grab bag” to “build that underground bunker with enough food and supplies to outlast the apocalypse.”   If and when Armageddon comes; we’ll be ready!

(Personally, I prefer to acknowledge the words used by the late Robin Williams, “The things we fear the most have already happened to us.”  

Words can either describe or defile the truth.  Some truths can be ‘proven’ using the scientific process: “Water is wet,” “the Sun is hot”(integrated facts universally accepted). Basically it ‘goes as follows’:

(1) Ask a question

(2) Take our best guess

(3) Search for answers

(4) Review the information we found… and

(5) Use what we found out to determine if what we thought (or were told) was right.

In a separate venue, Faith steps in for those areas the scientific approach can’t answer or may deem, ‘inconclusive’ (another word with multiple interpretations): “Does God exist?” “What is the meaning of life?”  The scientific method may not be able to provide the answers sought for ‘faith-based’ questions, but the removal of either method for processing or determining truth limits our ability to quote, “prove all things and hold fast to that which is good” [Thessalonians 5:21].

Politicians and leaders use words to influence, sway, and instruct supporters. Repetitious, easy to remember phrases are convenient tools that often ‘water down‘ facts or ‘glaze over‘ problems and reality. They can be very idealistic; educating, uplifting, and inspiring us to do better. Or, they can be caustic, divisive, and deceiving; creating climates where no one trusts anyone or anything different.  Using words to ‘divide and conquer’ is a tactic as ‘old as mankind’.  One thin reed by itself can be easily snapped, but combined together with others it becomes much harder to break.

United is the concept that has made us a unique country. We are the ‘sum of many parts’, and every part has contributed to our strength and uniqueness.  Removing or censoring any of our parts makes us dull, vulnerable, and weak. 

Words are collected and prized by writers, lawyers, salespersons–all.  Carefully selected and utilized, as valuable as a carpenter’s prized tools, the right word in the right moment can be ‘life changing‘.  We seek advice searching YouTubes and Ted Talks for answers. We buy the latest products,  but  if ‘anything’s possible’ and if ‘anything can happen in the future’ (where nothing has happened yet), why is our default always set to seek the awful scenarios  instead of embracing ‘the best is yet to come’?  Why do we see challenges and change as threats instead of opportunities?    

Maybe  in using our words and phrases we’re hoping for control (or the ‘sense of security’ that makes us  feel we’re in control) in a world where ‘change is the only constant‘.  

It can be a struggle, and somewhat frightening, but if I can close with some words from former President Obama that have provided some solace when other words have failed:

“We are not here to fear the future. We are here to shape it

And from my grandmother:

“Always keep your words soft and sweet. You never know when you might have to eat them.”

If a ‘picture is worth a thousand words‘, then this says it best:

“Thank you Gloria, Deagan, and my Tahoe Call Center Family, for always having the right words and support all these years.”