Sunday, February 8, 2009


Sticks and stones can break your bones
but words can never hurt you

Except they can.

Words can rend and tear and slash agony into spirit and heart. Words can nibble away at self confidence and belief in certainty and nudge indecision into thought and ambiguity into action.

If the word has the potency to revive and make us free,
it has also the power to bind, imprison and destroy
~ ~ ~Ralph Ellison

Words can crush belief and erode trust and confidence until the essence of who you are spills out in a veritable stream of pain and esteem and belief to pool on the ground beneath your feet and trickle into the crevasses and crannies, detritus of your broken thoughts, which trip your feet and make you stumble on the reality of your life.

Humans have found, throughout history, a comfort, a belief, a passion in words. Words which hurt and words which uplift, words incandescent in their sublime visions and words which baldly, cruelly embrace the frailty of human endeavours.

Incantations, invocations, ritual – all use words which the credulous feel bestows at least a semblance of order over a universe whose randomness can sometimes confuse and frighten.

As a teenager I used words to bamboozle and confuse younger siblings in an attempt to prevent sticky fingers and curious eyes from invading personal space. Aleister Crowley, Madame Blavatsky, the lurid, purple prose of Lovecraft, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, books of spells and herbal tonics ... I convinced them their sister was a witch, a caldron-stirring, powerful mage with untapped magic and though I laughed at their credulous awe, I secretly yearned to be an initiate in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

Words are powerful and the proper usage and correct ritualistic incantation is seen as a key to the opening of a doorway into another realm.

And not just by the seekers of esoteric lore (or indeed, perhaps it is, for what else are the great religions but another form of magique) – for words in the established institutions of our day continue to bestow power on words... “eat my flesh, drink my blood’ and unleavened bread, bad wine become the flesh and life-giving blood of a god and open the door (the belief is) to immortality.

Most of us hoard certain words to our heart and soul, secreted away in pixels on the laptop, or folded sheets of promise in our wallets or next to our heart, threatening disintegration each gentle time revealed to read the words within, words written indelibly on heart and soul, never to be forgotten nor dismissed, words saved and savoured time and again, corporeal proof of our desirability, our worth, our credulousness and our yearnings.

I find myself amazed that the scribbling of black scratches on a pale sheet take form and metamorphsize from shape and two dimension into thought and form, burgeoning, swelling into life as my fingers fly across a keyboard and impart meaning to their birth.

You can taste a word.
~ ~Pearl Bailey

For words for me are silent in the throat, held prisoner by inarticulateness and fear, swollen prisoners clamouring beneath the pale column of throat, throbbing reminders of failure and cowardice and an inability to set them free. But my fingers speak for that silent voice, they give resonance to the thought and emotion that impregnate their form and shape the moment and create the meaning and impart the emotion I seek to set free.


So many thousands of the children of my heart lost in the maelstrom of angst and agony and rage. Gone, mourned, unforgotten and irretrievable.

Words... to be silenced yet again?


Buffalo said...

Your silence would be a travesty.

moonheart said...

This is deep....
I agree: words can do so much more harm than a slap in the face.

Words are powerful. Very powerful. As i tell someone not to think of cows, what is he/she thinking of?

I have to come back to read this again...

M:e said...

The last thing I think I would ever describe you as lovely one is inarticulate.

Let your fingers speak when your voice cannot, always make sure you have a voice.....there will always be someone to listen.

love and hugs xxx

aphron said...

Of course, words have power. There can be doubt that most of the good and evil that has been done started with words.

On a more individual scale, words can tear down or build up. That is why one has pick and choose his/her words very carefully.

selkie said...

you see, I'm torn, of two minds about words; there is, in my mind anyways, a dichotomy about words. I think everything I say above- that their power can be incandescent - for good or evil.

But words can be facile, easy as well - a perceived panacea to deflect responsibility assure with no intention of follow-through.

i.e. words can mean NOTHING becuase there is no true honest intention behind the words.

I sense another rant coming on...

Anonymous said...

As always, I find your writing thought provoking.

I have copied off a few segments I'm sharing with my staff ("Look folks, someone said this, doesn't this make sense?")

It amazes me how many adults are still in junior high and how pettiness destroys confidence in each other and in one's self.

Maggie May said...

A beautiful questioning post. I read IRis Murdoch for the first time last year and was engrossed

selkie said...

tallgrass. glad you liked them- I like things that make me think too ...

Maggie May (love that song!) - I was ENTHRALLED with Murdoch in my salad days - way back when - recently reread her - some of her material stood up very well, some didn't - some was very dated and other works passed the test of time...

regardless, she was an absoutely fascinting woman and seems to have enthralled the men in her life.

Anonymous said...

Hi Selkie
I have read this post at least 3 times and I will probably be back again to read. There is so much here to think about. I agree so much with everything you've said here, words are so powerful, they can heal, and they can start wars. When I was reading this I was reminded of the Four Agreements, and the section on the power of words. One of the qualities that I really like about blogging is that I can take my time with my words and be a bit more careful with how I use them. I am so grateful that I have found you thru M:e, it's a special treat to come hear and read.
Take care

selkie said...

AG, thank you so much for your kind words.

I'm not familiar with the Four Agreements? Can you enlighten me?

I often have to remind myself how powerful words can be - as I tend to write and post quickly; thoughts will fight in my mind and clamour to escape ... then later, sometimes I go back and think that could be taken in a variety of ways -I should have taken more time and thought about this....

Anonymous said...

Hi Selkie:
The Four Agreements was a book that was popular for a few years it was by Don Miguel Ruiz. Here is a link for it at that describes the book better than I could. The Four Agreements
Personally I think that from what I can see by your writing, that you already know and live by these principals. It's a very sweet book tho and you might enjoy it. If you are unable to use the link and just want me to describe it to you I would be happy to do so. Just leave another comment
Take care

Amos Anon said...

I’m glad you’re interested in The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Here’s a link to a Guide that covers this book and other books of the Oxford Tibetan Series.
If you find this useful, please mention it on your blog.
p.s. cool blog; too bad i'm alergic to readheads