On the importance of words

On Sunday it was cold, and we all huddled in the living room close to the fire. I played the piano, and Brooke read. At one point, our ten year old asked if I had written words to the song I played. I said yes. Macia, who is seven, followed with another question: “Did you write the piano words?”

We laughed at this phrasing, but it rings as truth now. Children have an economy of words because of their lack, and this economy demands creativity. Thus, children are artists because they are creating mental constructs at all times, and they are finding and making new connections.

These mental constructs of how the world is — these are formed and reinforced with the words a person knows. This means that as we face new constructs, we need old, familiar words with which to engage them. It also means that, when we have no mental construct, or no words for something, that something may as well not exist.

The writer works, then, to bring existence to the world, to give words to what is so that we can know it is.

Scott Cairns on the Power of the Text

So long as we understand our literary texts to be merely tokens referring to our prior ideas, we are denying the efficacious power and presence occasioned by our words…When we come to appreciate that our words have power, presence, and agency to shape our persons, we get a glimpse of the inexhaustible One in whom we live and move and have our being.  –Scott Cairns