Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones: And WORDS are their driving force.
Imagine you think in shapes and feelings. You feel the hot sun baking your back. You feel the shifting sand buoy you up only halfway with each step. Your hands dig deep in the ground, diving through eight variations of heat and cold to learn about your surroundings. Food is caught by instinct. Shelter shared by instinct. Children born by instinct. You cover your body with Earth’s fabrics to shield you from the elements. You sleep in Earth’s caverns and bathe in her waters. A guest exploring with your senses.
Suddenly, a figure approaches. You’ve never seen such fur before, dark and neatly matted down with nary a hair out of place. Folded in perfect geometry surrounding a white underbelly. Shiny black hooves appear below its fur as it gets closer, walking neatly on two legs, back erect. The creature has almost no hair, like a child, really. As it nears, it sings a song with no melody. Your soul is not moved by its tone or its notes. Not at all. And the creature holds out to you a thin layer of bark with strange markings. The offering means nothing to you. It is worth nothing.
But with words, oh with words, it is the world.
Somewhere in our culture, we, Earth’s humans started placing more value on the corporeal than on the ethereal or hypothetical. We convinced ourselves that physical harm is worse than emotional harm. That tanks are more dangerous than thoughts. That sticks and stones can break our bones, but words will never hurt us. Of course, we forget that sticks and stones rarely break bones until a person uses them to do so. And a person, of course, is driven by words.
Words create story. Story drives emotion. Emotion powers action.
When you wake up in the morning and choose whether or not to make your bed, it is because of the words you have heard and the story you believe (or don’t believe) about beds and cleanliness and order. There is no innate instinct that leads you to make a bed. When you turn on your favorite music or podcast on your way to work, it is because somewhere, at some time, someone spoke to you and introduced you to that music or that podcast and you believed partaking would benefit you in some way. And that job you are driving to? You chose it because of the words you have heard, and the story you believe about the world, yourself, and your place in it.
When you buy things, it is because of some of our most powerful variations of words: advertisements, and the story they make you believe about happiness and how to supposedly find it.
When you build things, it is often through some of our most helpful words: instructions or instructors.
When you vote, it is because of the words you have heard or read about a person, a mentality, a philosophy, or a stance.
We no longer walk the desert thinking in shapes and senses. We think in words. We dream in words. We create in words. We organize ourselves through story. We grow and develop through story. And we leave legacies through story.
Money is a story, for instance. Without words, it is just a piece of very thin bark with strange markings. Or, sometimes, just a few pixels of light on a screen. And yet, with story — with words — we invented its value, and we believe this story so much now that it creates a near-universal cooperative. We are different creatures now. A man in a suit hands us cash and we take it gladly. Because we share in the story that such is valuable.
Yes, the words you hear are powerful. They will shape your stories, and your stories will shape your actions.
They will shape your spending habits. Just ask the trillion-dollar advertising industry. They will shape your voting power. Just ask the campaign managers. They will shape your daily life. Just ask your inner voice.
Choose carefully your words, what you say, what you write, what you tell yourself and others. And choose carefully your words, what you hear, read, and believe.
Unlike what you’ve been told, words can break bones and not only bones but spirits, ideas, cultures, and worlds. They can leave some of the greatest scars, both corporeal and not.
Of course, words can also build cities, inspire freedom, breed art, create love. They can mend some of the greatest scars, both corporeal and not.
Words are inconspicuously influential, which means they can be both the quietest of weapons and the subtlest of salves.
If you liked (or learned from) this post
Please consider clicking the 👏 👏 👏, below, highlighting, commenting, or sharing with anyone who’d enjoy it. Thanks for reading!