“Words are wind…”
Anyone familiar with the book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin or the television show it inspired, A Game of Thrones, is doubtless familiar with this phrase.
But what does it mean? Is it suggesting that all words are airy, insubatantial, and meaningless?
Perhaps. Or perhaps just words with no action behind them. Or perhaps that we should always “trust, but verify” what we hear, especially if we want it to be true.
If you’d like to delve deeper into this, and don’t mind spoilers (HINT: Everyone gets murdered), OverthinkingIt.com has a good analysis, including the distinction between the spoken word and the written word.
I’m more interested in the idea that words somehow do not have power. I’ve written before that words by themselves are not magic and cannot do, or make people, do things on their own in the legal realm.
But let me tell you…I’m starting to change my mind on how much power they actually have.
The right words–written or spoken–can unlock what is already there in people, or make them think things they otherwise might not, inspiring them (hopefully) to good ends.
If words were just wind, what of Jesus? Buddha? Moses? What of Homer? Plato? Aristotle? What of George Washington? Thomas Jefferson? Martin Luther King, Jr.?
Yes, there are also dark forces who use words for evil purposes (do I really need to give examples here?), but I would say, to clarify my previous, more legalistic interpretation of this phenomenon, that words tap into latent feelings that just needed a spark to ignite.
Words, in a way, are one of the most powerful things humanity has ever created.
Think about stories in general…
Words can make us do one of the most difficult things a person can do: They can make one look at things differently.
I think of this lately because my son needs glasses. He is four-and-a-half, the same age I was when I got glasses.
And he is not happy about this.
My mother found a book for him called Arlo Needs Glasses about a dog named Arlo who needs glasses (spoilers, sorry).
And you know what? My son loves the book. And now he can’t wait for his frames to come in.
This is a small example, but it shows the power of words. All it took was a story to change my son’s mind about his glasses.
I’m starting to understand a bit better the need to reign in rhetorical excesses. I generally think people are adult enough to discern between words and calls to action or incitement to violence, but given recent history I’m not so sure.
I mean, we have people going to comedy shows and freaking out because of offensive jokes.
This is why context is important. It’s a comedy show.
I don’t want governmental censorship, or stifling coming from other institutions. I would just like more self-control and awareness of the situation.
There is a time and a place for everything, even words.
Words are wind in the sense that a hurricane can knock down a skyscraper. That’s a power that needs to be judiciously used.
And if you are going to make a promise, make sure you back those words up.
And check out my Instagram here.