Most of us are perhaps oblivious that today (23rd November 2010) is set aside as the International Day of the Word as a Bond of Humankind, being the creation of the Museum of the Word, which is set on the first route of Don Quixote and in the province of Toledo. It is imperative to share with us today, the extent Word can go in our societies. It can bring people together or separate them, especially in the recent times of uncertainties. As a people, we know that a Word is the smallest form in a language, but what do we do with it?
Whatever we understand that Word is might not be of great importance. What is of paramount importance is what we do with Word. Do we use Word to make people – our friends and family members – or do we use Word to mar them? This is the reason somebody was quoted as saying that we should preserve our words in the heart of people because we never know which would be magnanimous to us. And I quote: “Keep them short and sweet. You never know, from day to day, which ones you’ll have to eat.” In the same vein, we shouldn’t forget that Words have power. This is why research has this to say, and I quote: “In some myths, spoken words create worlds, creatures, and human beings.”
If we believe in the assertion above, some famous writers have always made mankind to understand the importance of Word. Kahlil Gibran in Sand and Foam was quoted as saying: “All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.” And Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying: “As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.”
We can’t run away from the potency and power of Word. This is why George Gordon Byron warns that, “But words are things, and a small drop of ink/falling like dew, upon a thought, produces/that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.”
Does your Word make people to think or cry? Does your Word make people to be happy or unhappy? These and many more questions are what each one of us must be asking himself or herself. In the good words of Jean Baptiste Girard, we are meant to know that, “By words we learn thoughts, and by thoughts we learn life.” And Edward Thorndike summed-up what Girard had said: “Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure.”
It is very sad that in recent times, many people hate the truth and wise words which Thorndike had said endures. But Ingrid Bengis was of the opinion that, “For me, words are a form of action, capable of influencing change. Their articulation represents a complete, lived experience.”
What Change are you bringing to your society with Words? The Bible in Luke 6:45 said: “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
It is nice we know the nitty-gritty of any Word that comes out of our mouth. According to George Herbert, “Good words are worth much, and cost little.” We shouldn’t also forget Barbara Walters admonishment: “Many people think that polysyllables are a sign of intelligence.” And Buddha added: “However many holy words you read/ however many you speak/what good will they do you/ if you do not act on upon them?”
Imagine you seeing a letter has been dropped at your doorpost as you walked back from somewhere. What draws you to pick the letter is not actually the paper you saw, but the intuition of what the content could be, and the content is the Words. Somebody anonymously said: “If language is as inextricably tied up with consciousness as it seems to be, then the continuing diminishment of our inclination to use it to express in letters the times in which we live could mean that an element of human consciousness itself is on the verge of disappearing.”
What do you do with your Word? Are you the one who believes in the words of J. B. Phillips? And I quote: “If words are to enter men’s minds and bear fruit, they must be the right words shaped cunningly to pass men’s defences and explode silently and effectually within their minds.” Are you the one who believes in the ugly theory of the Fascists that teaches that war brings endless peace?
We must always apply the words of the patriarch, the indomitable Nelson Mandela: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
Having said these things, I feel the need we inculcate using Word against violence in the society. I feel the need we apply the words of Robert Southey, which say, if you would be pungent, be brief; for it is with words as with sunbeams–the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. I feel the need we always use the words of Lewis Mumford, which say, it has not been for nothing that the Word has remained man’s principal toy and tool: without the meanings and values it sustains, all man’s other tools would be worthless. I feel the need we always use the words of Thomas Jefferson, which say, the most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do. I presume, by applying the above outlines in our daily endeavours, Word will be the Bond of Humankind. Thank You.
This is a Speech delivered to the members of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) by Odimegwu Onwumere, Poet/Author, Media Consultant and the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), on the occasion of the International Day of the Word as a Bond of Humankind on 23 Nov. 2010, at Ivory Guest House, Oyigbo, Rivers State, Nigeria.