Language wants to be beautiful.
Or hideous. Or terrifying. It wants to inspire you. Sometimes, language wants to make you feel sick inside. Or put one of those smiles on your face that just won’t go away. It wants to blur your vision with tears brought on by a spiky cocktail of emotions you can’t even identify. Are they tears of elation that all the joy in the universe cannot be contained, or sadness that all of it, that everything, has to end? You don’t have to know. You just have to feel.
Language is just like us. Is this any surprise? We created it. We brought it to life so it could carry buckets of meaning from one person’s well to satiate the thirst of another. But like any child it has grown beyond the selfish, small minded needs of its parents. It has its own needs, now. It still serves and assists us, but we are foolish to think it will do exactly as we wish just because it is ours.
Language wants to be a hundred billion things, just like we do. And just like us, there is only one thing it does not wish to be. Only one, though there are many ways to describe it. It does not wish to be boring. It does not wish to be meaningless. It longs desperately to matter. To be significant.
So why is this so rarely the case? Why is almost every use of language, every time, trite and stilted and dull? For exacty the same reason most of us never fulfill our dreams.
Language is afraid.
It is afraid of standing out from the crowd. If it sounds like all the other language, then no one will call it out. No one will point and laugh at it for wearing that lurid metaphor in public. No one will falsely crown it prom queen just to pour blood on its head.
It watches other language getting out there, strutting its eccentricities with pride, and longs desperately to be like that. But no. The scorpion sting of rejection always threatens.
It is afraid of trying too hard. Significance is difficult. Language isn’t lazy, it tells itself. It just never seems to have energy left at the end of the day. Who does? It wants to flow into the nooks and channels already carved out for it. Sometimes it starts out with huge ambitions. It tries to be beautiful and magnificent and glorious, but once it spreads out on the page it is dull. It has to exercise its way into shape. It has to hone and cut and reform itself, over and over, through failure after failure, to get itself right. Who has the time and energy for that?
Language is afraid to find out that it doesn’t matter. That it’s vision of itself as that quiet, beautiful poem, or that frenzied speech that purees the emotions of its listeners, is just a fancy. It can leave its raw, fermented dreams in the closet forever where no one will ever taste them. Better that than expose them to the critical tongues of the world and find out they were flat and bland all along.
Language needs you. It needs your fingertips and your voice. These are it’s appendages, and without them language can never dance. It can never burst into the wild, ecstatic expression that sleeps within it, aching to escape. It might look dull and insipid when first you put it on the page. Don’t be deceived. Don’t give up. Your words aren’t boring and meaningless. They just aren’t done yet. They are just afraid to be what they wish so desperately to be.
Just like you.
I have terrible handwriting. Just god awful. If you compare my handwriting to that of a dyslexic eight year old, you’re likely to come out with a new respect for dyslexic eight year olds.
It sounds like a terrible thing. A character flaw that negatively affects my life. But it really isn’t. Having bad handwriting is great! It has gotten me out of so many jams over the years.
When I did bad on spelling tests in school, it wasn’t a reflection of my intelligence. Sometimes the teacher read my answers wrong, because I had bad handwriting.
Sometimes in my old job at the sandwich shop, the guy that normally wrote the trivia on the blackboard was sick and someone else had to do it. It was time-consuming and annoying and everyone was busy. But I never had to, because it had to look good, and I had bad handwriting.
So you see? Bad handwriting isn’t my enemy. It’s one of my oldest and most reliable friends. There have been many obstacles in my life that would have challenged and frustrated me. But instead of having to deal with them, I had a note from my friend, bad handwriting. All I had to do was whip out the note, and then I didn’t even have to try!