This clip from the radio program "Hearing Voices," which plays really early on Sunday mornings on NPR, is really fantastic. I hope you listen to it and feel you have relived the year 2008 in words.
Words matter. I love words, and I love language and languages. I love English, but also other languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, French. Words give power. Speaking a foreign language gives one a lot of power. I hate to say this, but the British speak better English than we do. Anyone with a British--I will throw in Australian-- accent in this country can get a job in TV or radio. We love English actors and intellectuals, and prefer American intellectuals when they sound British. After all, it's THEIR language. By the way, I learned this week that community colleges in the State of Virginia no longer teach literature. What a shame.
Sometimes we forget that what differentiates humans from other animals is our capacity to express ourselves in words. Words allow us to have an advanced society, write our history and think about and plan for the future. Words allow us to understand most things. But words are tricky. People misunderstand and misuse words. Words are used to influence, convince and threaten others. People fight and even go to war over words. That is a scary thought. Every day I hear people trying to express themselves, but a lot of the time, they are talking past one another. Hello! and with all due respect, I work for the military. Enough said.
The 2008 elections were all about the use of words, words being spun, words being twisted. Words being used to offend others. For Mayor Giuliani, Barack Obama was just "a community organizer" not nearly as qualified to be President as "a mayor." Nuance is lost. Personal experience shapes the way we hear things. Peacemakers and visionists must be experts in the use of words and language. They must be linguists. We live in a very visual society. It is becoming more and more so. People are reading less and wanting slides and videos. TV, the internet and all those other devices are promoting this. Listening to the radio makes us use language as a means of understanding the world around us without having to see it. Reading uses our power of vision to simulate hearing without actually seeing the subject we are reading about. Reading the written word allows for greater depth and complexity than anything we can see on a screen. But we live in a world of visualization and there is great value to images. They can also be a source of great joy. Hey, I love movies, good documentaries and a well put together slide show now and then. We need balance, however, and must avoid becoming a totally visual society. BTW, I skipped the visualization piece for this blog posting. Didn't want to be a hypocrite.