Thursday, March 29, 2007

The problem with words

Words are often so empty I find; insufficient to carry the depth of meaning that may be desired. I wrote a post on this a while back and then deleted it, because i didn’t even have the right words to explain how inadequate words are! How ironic. I will attempt again today though.

I often worry that words can’t express something accurately. It’s like the difference between seeing a kangaroo yourself and listening to someone else describe what a kangaroo looks like. Quite clearly the two will be very different. I find I’m always trying to use words to express something much bigger than words will allow me to. I always feel like my words are bound to taint what I really want to communicate… or far worse they may actually portray it very inaccurately.

Words are subject to people’s understanding of them too and most people understand and interpret words slightly differently depending on their experiences. For a child in England the word ‘house’ may mean a large brick building with several rooms… for someone in Africa it may mean a hut. How do we know that the people we are talking to have a common understanding of a word? How do i know if i even have the correct understanding of a word?

I always worry too that I may inaccurately convey something just because of my experience. For example if I were to see a flower at night-time I would describe it very differently to seeing the same flower in the day-time. Which is the true version? I suppose both are in one sense. I think our experience or lack of experience often means we look at things in a very narrow way though.

I worry too that I may use words without really thinking about what they mean. I fear people do that all the time and it makes them almost empty and meaningless. I am perplexed at the ease at which words flow from people's mouths at times, including mine, and wonder sometimes if we always feel the weight of what we say. I am actually quite afraid of what I say and whether what I say is really what I mean or not.

I guess even the way we describe God to others is restricted by our words…. But God can’t be confined to words…. He is so much more than can ever be put into words… even the word ‘God’ is subject to our perception of the meaning of the ‘word’. Do I really know all of who God is? Of course not. It will take all of eternity to fully discover that. So when I use the word, I am using it partly in ignorance still. And when we hear it, we judge it on what is quite possibly a very inaccurate understanding. I guess this is partly why "the word became flesh" though… so that some-one who can barely be described by words could take on a tangible form to allow us a slightly better understanding of who He really is.

Perhaps I need to be silent more and let my ‘words become flesh’ in a sense. What I mean is, perhaps I just need to let the life of Jesus live in me more, rather than trying to use words to express it. I like silence anyway.

"Instead of a world in which bookshops sell volumes of sermons and poetry, i would like a world in which each man and woman is a poem of high thought, filled with melody and colour." - Richard Wurmbrand

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