Words Mean Things

My mind was blown and my soul touched by Amanda Gorman’s recitation of her poem, The Hill We Climb during yesterday’s inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of The United States. Her words were inspired and inspiring. Her tone, honest and hopeful. 

The text of Miss Gorman’s poem can be found at a number of places online, here is one:

https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-0121-gorman-transcript-20210120-5ojxffrfb5cybjabhgiffgiyhi-story.html

I encourage everyone to read it. I encourage everyone to soak it in and to soak in it.

I happened to hear an interview last night with Miss Gorman during which she was asked if she visualized images as she created her poem. Her response, paraphrased, was that she is a poet working with words and text, not images. She went on to explain how she had wanted to re-elevate the simple power of the word after an era when words have been both misused and used to mistreat, and to mislead.

This resonated with me. Words mean things. Words can build up or tear down. They can bind up invisible wounds or they can cut deeper than a sword to create jagged, pain-filled new ones. 

Words are containers of meaning. Speakers and readers of the same language use abstract sounds or squiggles and marks on a page to transmit an invisible part of themselves to their hearers and readers. This transmission of oneself into another by the means of communication is an invitation to a shared world (or the casting out from one); a window to a shared reality (or a slammed door); a link that bridges the gap between two souls (or a wall of impediment). 

Miss Gorman’s carefully chosen words, some of which I have excerpted below, are a blueprint of an America that I believe in. 

I want to live in and be part of creating an America where:

”…we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.”

”Because being American is more than a pride we inherit; it’s the past we step into and how we repair it.”

We each have a chance to step away from the brink and into a new way of speaking to and listening to one another. Though we are not all poets; we can, and we must, choose our words carefully, the ones we speak and the ones we listen to. After all, words mean things.

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