“Writing and Reading decrease our sense of isolation.”
“Books help us understands who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; show us how to live and die.”
Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird
Okay, I’ll admit it. I am on a slide-backwards. All my goals for new beginning and new year are fighting to slip through my hands. In the chest heavings of winter and daily frustrations, I have driven through Sonic for too much drink, ate a greasy hamburger at Steak and Shake with DH, sneaked into a flea market for a fast and brief tea cup fix, ordered a used paperback online, and waved goodbye to my writing muse as she shook her head at my threatened exit.
Going to bed last night, I promised myself a fresh start this morning. But I overslept by an hour and got up to frigid floors, frosty air and dark skies out the window. I knew snow and more cold were coming. I made tea and headed for my SAD light with all intentions of leaping up and jumping into the day. Ah, and then I began to read…..
I picked up a yellowed paperback that has been around here for years. I decided I’d either read it or throw it away. It was Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and I had never read it. It had me from the first chapter. Steinbeck’s sentences have a rocking flow that lures you in like the gentle swaying of an anchored boat near a breezy shore or the easy pitching of a train rumbling down a track. His vocabulary is sharp and vivid and pokes the reader with interesting words.
Becoming lost in Steinbeck’s words, I thought about the worries that books will be come obsolete, of being replaced by digital readers. I have a bigger worry—that vocabulary is being lost by tweeting, emailing and texting. Shortcuts and lost letters take the lead now; the beautiful language, not to mention the metaphoric imagery, we used to use for speaking and writing is becoming a thing of the past too.
I took a break from Steinbeck to watch CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood, always a treat with articles of arts and literature. This morning there was a profile of David Sedaris and his popularity as a writer, his great success both writhing and reading his own written words. Ah, something was lost for me. I didn’t get his charm or his vocabulary or his humor. I wish I knew what I was missing. Can someone explain my shortsightedness?
Now though I “need” to do many things, I am going to pour more tea, ignore that dryer buzzer and return to Depression Era California and “see and hear” those days through Steinbeck’s well chosen vocabulary.
The shootings in Arizona, more sorrow and heartache…more indication that we are not the people we like to think we are. How long can we be assaulted by horror and not grow numb to it, not become like characters in a sci-fi book that have lost their emotions?
I won’t rant and rave on the topic as many better qualified than I will speak. But I do have one question in my mind. Can at least some of the issues we face like bullying, hate crimes, even random acts of violence be a direct result of vocabulary or lack of it? Have we narrowed down our speech, our words to ones that are only shallow and hateful and finger pointing? Has the “right” to say what we want, to express ourselves, overpowered that old adage of “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?”
There are no simple answers for sure, but I would like to live in a kinder, gentler world, and I think that it starts with kinder thoughts, gentler words. Yep, I know, Pollyanna at her finest here, but is there really any alternative plan right now?