Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thrive Thursday: Without words, there is nothing

This is a on going series that is posted on thursday's, to answer the question: "What helps you to thrive in your environment?" The series is written by myself, and a variety of guest Contributors. This week, the topic is, once again, words.... but, with a different spin. The contributor today is Megan O., who is a life-long friend of mine, from West Virginia University, who lives (and writes) in DC. Her (hilarious) blog can be found here: She states that she was at work, when she sent this email. Thus, the photo is a little out of focus.

When Amo asked me to do this, I thought, “Yes! Writing! That is a thing that I can do! I am in school for that!”

But as I thought about it I realized….this is a really difficult question. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve gone through a few things that I thought make me thrive, but nothing really clicked. Sure, for the moment that I was experiencing a particular thing it made me feel alive. But on a regular, day-to-day basis? I couldn’t really put into words the things that I love. Which was discouraging. Not having words is like not having a mouth. What do you do without a mouth?

And then today, completely out of nowhere, I came across this Adrienne Rich poem, “From an Atlas of the Difficult World.” So I looked back at Amo’s “rules” and saw that it can be a piece of art or a quote or whatever and so I will take the easy way out and give you someone else’s words:

I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains' enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.

I don’t know what it was about this particular poem on this particular day. Maybe because I am at least three of the people she is describing at any given time. I know what it is to hunger and thirst for words, whatever they may be. Maybe because on days like today, when I struggle to find words of my own, I turn eagerly to anyone else’s. These are the days I wind up with an armful of new books because everyone else says it better.

I guess the answer to the question “what makes you thrive?” for me, is words. But Amo already covered that. So how do I say it differently? I agree that there are power in words. They have the ability to convey an emotion, an idea, or a belief in a way that can leave me wanting to shout from rooftops, “Yes! Yes! This is exactly what I was trying to say!”

Words can change people or things. They can raise up or tear down nations. We are a world founded on words. It wasn’t until God named things into existence that we had day and night and man and woman and land and sea. Without words we would still be formless and empty.

The right words can make us feel like we aren’t the only ones who feel a certain way. The right words can make us feel like we belong to something bigger, like we are a part of something. We need words to survive. Without words we are nothing.

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