Discovering the Relevance of Words
The phenomenon of the internet meme has done something interesting to our concept of art.*I will now briefly digress before returning to my original topic sentence. In order to understand the opening hook of this piece, you will need to be familiar with memes. To give an oversimplified explanation, memes are those bad cartoons, pictures with words at the top and bottom, and things that are funny for being funny whose joke you may not understand if you don’t understand the meme (or character). Fortunately, I do not need to give you a deeper explanation that that since we are on the internet, and as Doran Simmon has already eloquently pointed out, in the age of google there is no need to explain anything – you’re an adult look it up. If you need a good diving board into the world of memes try reddit, quickmeme, or tumblr – if you feel lost go to www.knowyourmeme.com (but, hey, come back, k?)
The phenomenon of the internet meme has done something amazing to our concept of art. On the internet, in the world of fifteen second fame, content drives the market. No one looks at Y U NO guy and asks “is this a good representation of his Springs Period?” If something is funny it plays. A drip and splatter of spilled paint is spilled paint, not a Jackson Pollock. Finally, what is said is trumping who is talking.
Very rarely do people let the content decide.
How often do you vote against your political party?
How many pictures with quotes on them are on your Facebook wall, and how many of them would be just as powerful without the giant face shot of the speaker or 14 pt. byline?
I used my Facebook page for a social experiment during the 2008 election. Unfortunately, this was before the days of screencapping everything so you’ll have to use your imagination and I will try to paint you a word picture. Unfortunately, I forget many of the exact words that were used. I’ll give you the gist. A gist picture.
I looked up a quote by Barack Obama regarding national security and a quote by George W. Bush about taking care of our less fortunate citizens. Then I flip-flopped the names.
“Words actually spoken by Barack Obama.” ~George W. Bush
“Words actually spoken by George W. Bush” ~Barack Obama
It wasn’t long until Republicans were insisting Bush’s words, of course cited with Obama’s name, were that of a socialist and, likewise, Democrats were tired of the right wing warmongering of Obama’s words.
Yes, I found quotes that were vague enough that without proper context could be taken… out of context. Sadly, the only context people needed to form their opinion was who said it. I am disgusted with the devaluation of words that has taken place. Words are not just words.
We typically discuss the repsonsibilty of the author, the speaker, the poet to choose their words carefully and use them precisely, but the power of words does not exist only with the dealer of words. Just as the power of government is dependent upon the consent of the governed, the power of words is dependent upon the consent of the masses. And it is looking more and more like Emojis are the words of the masses.
People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
– Maya Angelou
So as to not get off on a tangent about emotional memory being one of our strongest avenues of memory and, therefore, prove Ms. Angelou’s quote, I will instead claim that its truth is being misapplied.
Instead of looking at who is talking, why don’t we look at what is being said? Why can’t we really listen to what is being said? The words and their inherent thought, truth, and logic (or total lack thereof) should be what is important—whether that logic, that truth, or those facts agree with our predisposed world view. Instead, we only want to agree with facts that make us feel good.
Stephen Colbert has a term for this: truthiness.
I don’t know about you but I really don’t want my doctor standing at the operating table to say, “I know what the literature says on this issue, but I feel that using anesthesia will cause this patient to become diabetic– get him a few ice cubes and hand me that carving knife.”
Sadly this happens. Maybe not to this extreme.
We live in a society where people will argue against Global Warming because it is cold in the winter.
We live in a society where many people can’t tell how the ice cube machine in the fridge actually works, but will argue for or against evolution from a “scientific” viewpoint.
We must thirst for knowledge, rather than respond with fear, confusion, or anger.
Look for the truth in the words instead of the this-or-that of the speaker.
Use your words. Use the words from your heart; use them with your brain.
Listen to others. Listen to their words first with your head before you allow them to harden or permeate your heart.
Use your words to express truth instead of emotion. Even the L word. To truthfully love someone is so much more powerful than to emotionally love a person. To love truthfully is to love completely, honestly, and to the core of the other person –not just how she makes you feel. Loving with truth requires sacrifice and compromise.
I have often wondered how domestic abuse is possible.
How can someone abuse a person he claims to love? As disturbing and disgusting, and uncomfortable emotionally as this is to discuss, the answer to that question is simple vocabulary. It is a misuse of the word love.
What about hate? Do you use that word properly?
People don’t always do things. Or never. Stop being so lazy.
While language exists for many more reasons than to woo women, there may not be a better way to get a group of teenage boys to become emotionally invested in the utility of language.
So- why do you use your words?
How do you use your words?
Do you use words that are true, words that are relevant, words that matter regardless of who is speaking?
Let the content of your language overshadow the author.