I’m currently at Alpen Rose in Holland, Mi awaiting a friend of mine that is meeting me here for coffee. I always try to get to meetings rather early, a generational lesson and gift handed to me by my grandfather prior to his passing. Since I usually show up to meetings before my cohorts, I typically try to bring some reading material along that I can enjoy while I wait. Today, I started a book entitled I Asked for Wonder by Abraham Joshua Heschel, a famous Rabbi who died in 1972. A beautiful book and man who’s entire life was dedicated to helping people think, feel, and act in a way compatible with our being created in the likeness of God. A man who encourages us to be people of awe and wonder.
As a writer, and a person who delights in all kinds of good literature, I was struck by one section of Heschel’s book on the power of “Words.” Here is one portion of his thoughts from the book:
“What do most of us know about the substance of words? Estranged from the soil of the soul, our words do not grow as fruits of insights, but are found as sapless cliches, refuse in the backyard of intelligence. To the man of our age nothing is as familiar and nothing as trite as words…We all live in them, feel in them, think in them, but failing to uphold their independent dignity, to respect their power and weight, they turn waif, elusive-a mouthful of dust…Words have ceased to be commitments.”
Words tell a story. We choose and arrange words in order to deliver them in a way that expresses ourselves. Words are powerful, and I think I’ve even heard once that they can speak an entire universe into motion (See Gen 1). I know that I forget this power in words. I find myself speaking flippantly much too often and I’m saddened by the known and unknown effects that have come from this (just this morning I got frustrated with Bekah and said something I’d like to take back). I was talking to a friend recently and we both decided that we must start taking more responsibility for our words in order to be good husbands, fathers, leaders, and citizens. We have the power to both destroy and create with our words. Heschel understood this fact and hopefully we will heed his call to uphold their independent dignity. Maybe we just need to ask ourselves whether we’ve created or destroyed today? What commitments have we made?