Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Words Do Have Power

While I've far from a full-fledged writer, one of the things I recognized is the fact that words have power. Great power in fact. It's no surprise that when it comes to religion (and no matter how much you may despise religion, one cannot deny the influence it has over world affairs), words play a vital role. In Christianity, for example, "the Word was made flesh". And in other religions, while words don't have that kind of personification in their doctrine, mantras, prayers, and invocations do play a vital role. And naturally, they involve using words.

Perhaps the most important value of words is that it enables us to communicate with each other. The story of The Tower of Babel just shows how important communication can be. Various types of relationships (whether it be boyfriend-girlfriend, cliques, parent-child, friend-friend) are ruined just because of simple miscommunication. In diplomacy, proficient translators are needed lest misunderstandings arise and cause conflict between nations. Personally, part of the gulf between me and my parents is the fact that I don't know how to speak Chinese. They expect it from me, even though they never really taught me the language (or perhaps a better explanation would be that my parents never taught me using a method that was optimum for my type of learning). Words enable us to communicate.

Communication, however, is limited to how many people you can talk to and how much of it is recorded. Perhaps what gave words significant power is when we developed more efficient ways of recording what was said. At the dawn of mankind, we depended on sheer memory. Several centuries ago, we developed the art of writing (and we can thank Plato for his records of Socrates). Now, the written word has multiplied its power several hundredfold thanks to free speech, publishing, media, and the Internet. A single phrase can cause ripples in the very world we live. All it takes is a single mouse-click, and millions of people will have access to what was just said, no matter how enlightening or ignorant the statement. Not only does words enable us to communicate with people, but it also keeps track of what was said. What makes my blog more effective than a diary is the fact that potentially millions of people read it (although in reality, I actually get less than a dozen).

In the past (and some still do practice it now), people who were incapable of speech (whether temporarily or because they were mute) were labeled as dumb. Why? Because our words reflect who we are. Words define our very person (although it is definitely not the only element that comprise our being). How I would say something would be different from how you would describe the same subject matter. For some of us, parrots aren't as evolved as human beings because all they're capable of is repeating what was said (and are incapable of producing original statements). The words we use have an effect on our person. Which is also why we have to watch what we say. They're called self-fulfilling prophecies. If we think and say to ourselves that we are failures, for example, we will become failures. Our words reinforce our existing ideas, and they in turn reinforce our words. It's a cycle that perpetuates itself. Which is also why it's important to learn "good words", statements that we want to be true. But naturally, our words have to be backed up by actions as well.

Speaking of truth, words also have the ability to destroy. Lies, deception, and ignorance, for the most part, are achieved through words, whether spoken or written. A few decades ago, roleplaying games (RPGs), specifically Dungeons & Dragons, were considered evil and satanic by a lot of people. This was perpetuated by the media such as news reports and newspapers. Was it true? Well, some might behave that way, but for most people, RPGs were just a game. Even now, lies and deception abound in the very news we watch everyday and the newspapers we read. A few weeks ago, there was an incident regarding this Filipino girl who got less attention than Jasmine Trias even though the girl gained acclaim for the Philippines. And this was published in a newspaper. Later, it was discovered that the article was merely a hoax. I won't even go into all the bogus information that's roaming around the Internet. I'm not saying that the people who write these stuff intend malice. But ignorance begets ignorance in other people as well, and nothing can be more effective than the written word, especially when it's published in a place that people look to in terms of authority. Suffice to say, words have power as to illicit such reactions from people. Which is why we should also be wary of the words other people use and say (including mine).

So are words merely shapes and letters? Well, they do have a huge impact on the world we live in. Even if we're mute, blind, deaf, or illiterate, words can affect how we perceive the world, and how the world perceives us.


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