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Rantings, thoughts, diatribe. Anything that captures my interest and hangs around long enough to capture on a keyboard.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Are Words Not Enough?

I was in conversation with a friend recently, talking about the power of ideas and words. She was of the opinion that all the theories and ideas and words in the world are useless if they are not applicable. If they cannot be used in some practical way. For her, the power inherent within words can only be unleashed if they cause some sort of an action or impulse.

Is this true?

I thought about our conversation for several days afterwards. I decided that I disagreed with her.

I think the purity of creating and sculpting a vision, idea or theory using words is far too precious to be compromised in terms of what the outcome will be. Like any creative or scholarly endeavour, if you concentrate too much on what the outcome will be, you are not present and engaged in the process.

Sure enough a lot of times the outcome is crap and no good and that is why drafts and editing, revision and breathing space are so important. But that comes later. It comes after you have let the words out.

Sometimes the power of words cannot be measured by a tangible outcome. Today I read The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock for the umpteenth time. Whenever I am feeling unsure about work and career and fate, I find solace in the evocation of desire, despair, melancholy and lingering hope that T.S. Eliot gave to the world through that poem. It makes me feel more human and not so alone.

...There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

How could anyone think that words alone are not enough?
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