where the writers are
Danger! Words! (Part 3)


                                      Arriving at Point B (Via point C and *)

Now here is the point where I connect the dots. This is point B. We started at point A gon through Point C, taken a detour to point 5 and travelled a bit of time on point *. Words are powerful very powerful.

They are more than the coordinated movement of of vocal coards, air passages and your tounge. They are more than the chemical transference of ink or graphite to a piece of paper to a symbol that our brain deciphers sound by sound until it has a meaning.  Words are, simply put the most powerful thing in the universe. Words mobilized millions of Germans to slaughter their neighbors and try and take over the world. Words inspired a the United States  not only make racism one of the most repugnant  forms of ideas but then convinced them to elect a African American president then made the fact he was African American of distant importance behind other reasons for dislike or admiration.

To put it another way, and to extend the self soothing sound of my voice for a few more minutes,  the difference between good words and hurtful words is the same as the difference between  dead ly anthrax and a cuddly puppy. When you get down to it the neurons, protons and electrons that make anthrax is no different from the neurons, protons, and electrons of a puppy. The only difference is how they arranged. Words are the same. Depending how they are arranged they can be an attempt to reconcile and father or son or by switching the order of a few words (while keeping all the words the same just moving their order) a very obvious threat to accept humiliation or be kicked out of the family , neither of which offer reconciliation.

Just like you would be very careful to arrange the atoms to create a puppy and not anthrax; Placement of the words, knowledge of their use and how they are delivered can mean the difference between love and hate, fear and security and all too often life and death.  The world is abound with examples were mere words have caused people to die.

Salaman Rushdie lives in constant fear for his life because of words in the form that took the form of innocent story. His “mere words” earned him a death sentence in Iran and one his greatest works is banned in his home country. Mere words  caused this to happen.

Words is what destroyed the life of an ordinary kid whose greatest hopes in life were to be average and throw an opening pitch for his beloved Red Sox. They shattered him. Drove him to dark places no person should be forced to visit. They also rebuilt him. A six minute conversation , six minutes of words, successfully fixed three decades of self doubt and self destruction.

This being a website about writing we know the power of words. We create worlds, record history and share ideas across time and space. This  is why when we write we have an obligation to be careful of the words we pick. Because once the graphite or ink leaves on impression on a piece of paper we are no longer in control of the words we created. These words can do harm, they can be fatal if misunderstood or, sadly, understood. They can inspire people without hope or create a personal sense of satisfaction that can’t be replicated by other means. However, we don’t know what will happen until a person whose thoughts and emotions we can’t control receives the words.

We writers have a unique power. Well we have two unique powers , we have the power to drink inhuman amounts of coffee and not need to move or use the toilet. But we also have to change the  world.  Just like you wouldn’t flippantly play with a nuclear device you also shouldn’t play with words. Both can do harm beyond imagination if it is used in the wrong way. It is an awesome mind blowing power given to us with no particualar qualifications or even a owner's manual.

I am now going to enjoy the thoroughly average life I have always dreamed of. It is an average life that mainly seems to center of looking for a job, trying to figure out how to read comics on my computer and napping.  I am going to give my words a much deserved rest hoping that they have made the world a little better before they were transformed form 0s and 1s into what you are reading now. Average is decidedly good. I hope my words are good  too.


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I just want to thank all the people who have encourged me (and put up with me also) over the years. For the people who offered me encouragement time and time again despite me not seeming to "get it" I do now and thanks I can't express how much it helped me. Your advice on writing, teaching, and all the bits and parts of being human that goes into being alive has always been appreciated and always welcome.


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Solid Write

I read this (all 3 parts) with great interest, Joshua, and with great admiration for anyone who attempts (& succeeds) such detailed introspection.  As someone who has lived with and worked with/worked for "different" individuals for the past quarter-century, I can attest to the validity of many of your observations.  I worry, a little, about your level of concern about finding the right "label",  because it's certainly clear to me that labeling--even attempting to label--individuals only inhibits, diminishes, demeans, and restricts them even further.

I'm in substantial agreement with many of your thoughts about the power of words, but am also acutely aware that words, however skillfully applied, are mere tools--for good or eveil--of those who employ them.  Incoherent or demonstrably insupportable thoughts or ideas, no matter how seductively propagandized, will inevitably be proven false. Sadly, this is often a lengthy and bloody process.

Smooth style, though, and clear presentation.  Thanks.


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Joshua, I was absorbed in


I was absorbed in reading the three parts of your story. This last part has left me with goose bumps. Thank you for sharing. Very powerful, inspiring—Well done. I can hear and feel your passion.

All the best to you.

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Thank you

I wanted to thank both of you for your comments. I think in response to Ron the main thing I have always wanted to do is get away from labels. I had gotten to a point where I had been defined more by my labels  (self inflicted labels and others given)than actual person. But I think you are spot on about the restrictions and limitations of labels and that is what I was trying to get away from .

What was a little weird in writing it is I had actually started intending only to write part 3.  Then as I wrote part 1 and 2 I nearly ended up forgetting part 3.

But that is neither here nor there. Thank you so much for your kind words. I am humbled by your compliments (in a good way)

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I agree with you and Ron completely about label and powerful words.  We humans are much more complex than that.  How can we label such complex being?  The other day, I was reading a political writing, and it's almost hilarious to see so many words with -ist and -ism in one paragraph.   The book is "The Arabs and The Holocaust" and it is a good book.  I talked about this in my blog, Words Mistranslated.