Friday, January 27

The Art of Language

Have you ever been elbow deep in a book and forced to wonder if publishing companies still employ editors?  Or if perhaps the job description for editors has been revised? I often find my fingers itching for a pen while I read to start circling the blatant gaps that should have held transitions, theses and other distractingly absent fundamental building blocks of  sound writing. Favorite English professors come to mind, and I imagine the outrage and migraines that would envelope them should such lackluster specimens cross their paths.

On the other end of the spectrum, I was reminded recently of how incredibly powerful language can be when wielded by someone who truly understands wordcraft. An attentive wordsmith can frame flagrantly politically incorrect or socially inflammatory ideas in a delicate balance that neutralizes the incendiary response without robbing the point of its impact.

Case in point (paraphrased from something I read and was impacted by recently): If we scientifically examine all the evidence about educating and raising children to flourish, the single most defining factor  -by far - is an intact, stable two-parent family.

Therefore, the most effective thing anyone can do to improve the education system and state of our children (and therefore our nation) is apply pressure (at the individual and collective levels) to reduce the social acceptability of single parenting, divorce and children born out of wedlock. 

Framed that way, the idea forces you to stop and think, doesn't it?

It casts no aspersions to rail against, does not promote a particular form of activism to be disparaged, and preempts arguments on the relative value of other alternatives. It is not a call for anyone to act, simply a statement of empirical fact.

It is sadly ironic that as people of all stripes clutter the airwaves and tv channels with verbal lunges and riposts, so few exhibit even a shred of true craftsmanship with their words. How much more incisive and intelligent would our national debates be if they consisted of carefully constructed and thoroughly informed assertions instead of the standard rhetoric?

And how much more soul searching would we all be forced to do if issues were reduced to such a kernel of clarity that one could no longer pick apart the flaws of an argument's frame and run in a tangential tirade away from the true point? 

I've been blessed to unexpectedly encounter some gifted word crafters this past week, and as I head into the weekend my mind continues to chew on the question of what I am doing with my words. I speak or send off so many in the course of a week; how few do I take the time to sculpt and shape before I loose them? What does my carelessness cost, and how many opportunities sit before me even today to speak with impact or share the precious blossom of a timely, articulate blessing with another?

Have you been blessed by devoted word-crafters? Do you consider yourself one?

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