We Are Not Alone

I think I have always had a special connection with words. I remember when I learned to read in kindergarten, I was immediately taken with books and by the end of the year was devouring novels. I have always liked how the way in which someone arranges words, and which ones they choose to emphasize, can carry an endless number of meanings. I like the process of story. I like it when people can put into words what seems too complex or profound to be anything but felt. I like hearing people's syntax, their phrasing, the nuances hidden behind a sentence or a word. It's one of the greatest gifts God has given humans, I think, the expression of language.

But even though there are roughly three-quarters of a million words in the English language, and even though there are no fewer than 49 synonyms for "home run," sometimes words aren't enough.

Sometimes words just can't contain all the meaning we need them to. When someone says "My grandmother died," we inherently know what that means; a person's life has come to an end. But those three words cannot encompass the complexity of that relationship. It doesn't explain the sadness of losing someone; it doesn't convey the lifetime of experiences and gifts and family functions and anger and hurt and real, true selflessness and regret and love. It can't. Words can never substitute for real, raw emotion.

Jonathan Safran Foer addresses this beautifully, I think, when he talks about the overwhelming complexity of telling someone you love them:
I love you also means I love you more than anyone loves you, or has loved you, or will love you, and also, I love you in a way that no one loves you, or has loved you, or will love you, and also, I love you in a way that I love no one else, and never have loved anyone else, and never will love anyone else.
It is impossible to ever really say what you really feel. It is impossible to ever write what you know in your soul. And yet we keep trying, because that's what words are for: to explain the inexplicable, to make what's happening inside exist outside of ourselves, a desperate attempt to connect with people to know we are not alone.

I love words because they let me know that I am not alone.



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