Believe in the clout of words

Aug 4, 2016 By Betty Starks Case

From them come our questions and, perhaps, answers

I sometimes hear teasing comments on this column like, "She'll get you if you misspell or misuse words." In reality, I'm not that accurate or self-confident.

And yet - words do matter. Call it opinionated, if you like. But what do we think language is for if not to communicate?

Because I love words and reading, world events catch my attention. I confess that my brain appears loaded with whys.

To begin: Why does the world condone the idea that men, being men, must fight? Why accept that they must always find reasons to kill one another, to ruin all hope for a happy life with a family and a healthy place for their children to grow?

Yes, I'm aware that fighting men have existed since Cain killed his brother Abel. If that's an example of manhood's beginnings, does it imply we must accept male fighting as a built-in frailty?

We'd never accept such behavior in women. Women are expected to uphold some semblance of human ideals. No, they don't always do it, but don't we always hope they'll be there to intercede with a strength of their own when needed?

Why, then, haven't we found a plan for something better than battle for men to settle differences through the ages?

Are we somehow conditioned to see killing as the final answer to conflict?

Another question: Why do we accept words describing those who join ISIS as having been "radicalized" by someone? They did it to themselves. They chose it and adopted it and live it. If we speak of the condition as if someone did it to them, it plays into the "poor me" syndrome, the "I couldn't help myself" attitude that asks nothing in personal strength and responsibility.

Words matter where drugs are concerned as well. I've long disagreed with the use of the common terms, "recreational drugs" and "drugs of choice," as if all those destructive, dangerous products are light response to a playful or innocent decision. In truth, they're life-enders for many.

Might those casual-sounding terms have been created by the marketers of such drugs?

Yes, words do matter. And each of us makes decisions on the ones we'll use to determine our life's direction.

We become the words we hear ourselves say. Our expressions print a picture of ourselves in our brains, just as electronic devices accept our input and feed it back to us or others from memory.

Musician Ben Harper may have offered some understanding of the matter when he observed, "People are the only animals on the planet that are in denial that they are an animal."

Most male animals fight. But only for reproductive priority. Not for a whole variety of ideas that boil out of their brains as reasons for them to try to prove, "I'm bigger, stronger, faster, smarter, than you!"

Didn't God make us stronger than that?

And aren't we supposed to be the more highly developed animal?

Words. I was fascinated by them as soon as I got my finger out of my mouth so I could speak them and learn how to use new ones. I pored over my mother's college textbooks on the German language, expecting to find one magical word that might open a door. It didn't happen.

So I went to school and learned and loved English. Words clung to me like honey. There may be some bees or bears around however, because those sweet words don't fly in quite as freely as they once did. Words do, however, continue to lead me to exciting and challenging learning experiences.

I frequently deny reading my daily horoscope, but if it's a good one, I quickly clip it from the newspaper and post it as a reminder when I need a boost.

This morning's horoscope was a "clipper" for sure: "Your blessings are remarkable and unique," it reads. "Your awareness of them is possibly the greatest blessing of all because it brings more goodness into your life."

Why wouldn't I believe in the clout of words? Some have downright magical powers built in, some are fraught with dangerous, cloudy meaning. So shouldn't we be aware, employ the ones that can help us, and let them fill our minds with doubt? Then, I think, there will always be purpose to our days. And just maybe - answers to our questions.

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