Abroad upon her errands to and fro.
-James Howell (c. 1594-1666)
The quotation above stopped me dead in my tracks today; it’s an aspect of logophilia I hadn’t really considered carefully, until now.
I’ve always told people- those close enough to me to ask the question, anyway- that the reason I am so careful with- no, obsessed by- words is that they’re a form of magic.
They always have been. From the very earliest days, humans have been careful about who knew their names, for names have power. Words have power. They capture the essence of a thing, fix its existence in a world which changes, atom by atom, in every second. Prison it with breath and flesh.
Make it real.
We are what we think. And because the vast majority of us think in words, it is words that make us what we are, that fix us in reality, shaping us to their meaning and price.
That’s what I used to tell people who asked me about my fixation. But the quotation above, though tangential, is one that’s particularly relevant as I publish thoughts that anyone may access.
This page is a cry, as is every word I utter to the people around me. Even my polite banalities are breaths of who I am and how I feel- a reflection of the world of my mind. I am careful with what I say- well, I try to be, and mostly succeed- but even with my acknowledgement of the world-etching nature of language I seldom acknowledge that communication from me is an attempt to draw other people into the circle of my thoughts and definitions and being.
Words shape reality, and our inner reality flows outward from us on a stream of words.
Orson Scott Card sums that interaction perfectly. He once wrote a character who described the sum of human research and knowledge as a cry of “Know me. Come live with me in the world of my mind.”
An invitation I continue to issue. As do all of you.