Benjamin Franklin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Words are powerful things; they have the power to change history, to create revolution and to mend broken hearts. I was reminded of this fact this morning when I gave the following quote to a friend:
There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.
The quote is a tab bit hard to understand unless you take the time to see the words as they are. When I first read it, I read it as only two things, stealing a diamond and knowing thy self. I missed the nuance of the punctuation, and of course my mind replace steal for steel. This friend also did the same, but in order to “fix” the problem they wanted to rewrite the quote, or better yet, reorder the words. They wanted
There are three things extremely hard: a diamond, steel, and to know one’s self.
Yes, it makes the reading a bit easier on us, but it is not what Mr. Franklin said, and not how he wanted it stated. For anyone who knows Ben knows that he loved the English language and was a master at it. I do not know for sure, but I would venture to guess that he placed the words exactly as he did for a very specific purpose. Regardless, his words should be represented as he stated them. Words are very powerful indeed, and rearranging them or substituting them can and often does cause issues.
Misunderstandings are often the result of misplaced or missed used words. The Founding Fathers understood this, and knew the power of the written word, the permanence of them and the importance of each word. The Catholic Church is known to spend years debating the simplest of words, knowing that a simple, yet very important distinction are between using one word over another. Nuances in communication is extremely important, politicians know this, this is why they hire speech writers and practice there talking points, a simple slip-up can cause them to lose the election. We often call the gaffes, but what they really are, are moments of truth.
Words, spoken or written have the power to shape our destinies or destroy our past. Historians understand this, they understand how they can write about our Founders, telling the truth, yet leading you to a conclusion that is anything but the truth. The omission of words alters the facts, but leaves behind the basic truth.
We recently saw this in the Trayvon Martian case. The news media played the tape, the call from George Zimmerman, but by omitting one seeming simple line of conversation, the narrative changed. Words have the power to unite or to divide.
It seems to me, that we have lost the art of words; we have simplified them, dumb them down and turned them into meaningless letters. For example, take the word “Fair”, we hear it almost daily, “Fair share” “Fair Play”, as is “All Americans deserve a fair share of the American Dream”. I agree, but I would venture to guess that my understanding of Fair is not the majorities understanding. Most would think of fair as equal, as in, if one person has the dream, to be fair about it, all should have the dream. Not so, fair does not mean equal.
free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice: a fair decision; a fair judge. (Source)
To be fair only means to offer the same,
Take your time, read the definitions and you will notice the nuance, the words have meaning…
We need to return to the day when words had meanings, when the power of words were understood and respected. How did we get to this point, I am not sure, I have my own theories, but they are just that, mine. I would place the blame on the dummying down of America, instead of keeping our standards high and expecting people to reach for them, we have lowered the standards, all in the name of fairness, so all can reach them. Our newspapers use to be written at the 9th grade level, now many are written at the 5th grade level, our leaders use to be statesmen, speaking and writing as such, but now they strive to be everydaymen. Our schools use to expect excellence but now promote fairness, is hopes of being inclusive and accepting of all, to offer a fair chance for all to excel, yet most will not.
Our Founders understood something we have seem to have forgotten, they understood that we all deserve a fair chance at success, but we all will not achieve it. They understood that my success is not your success that each person is unique, that success is individual, not communal that fairness does not equate to equal, and that the guarantee of The Pursuit of Happiness is not the same as the guarantee of happiness. Our Founders understood the power of words, and based on them a new nation was born, a revolution declared and lives placed in the balance to defend them.
The United States was and is a Nation based on words, based on the nuances of the words and many a brave man and woman have spilled their blood upon the ground in defense of those words.
So is it really a big deal if someone reorders or replaces a word, to simplify the words, to bring them down to make them more “accessible”, Yes, I think so, I think words have meaning, have power and purpose, and to lower them, to bring them down, even in the name of understanding, is wrong. Instead, we should be striving to raise ourselves up, to strive to understand and to learn. Our Founding Fathers, many of them self-educated, saw the power in them, understood the need for them and knew that this new nation would rise up to them, and defend them or die. Patrick Henry understood:
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! (Source)
Words have meaning… Words have power… Make your word count…