How To Say "I Love You"

When I really think about, and sometimes even when I really don't, I am astounded by the power of words.

Words. This arbitrary combination of symbols to which we have ascribed meaning, and whose meaning is constantly being changed and rearranged and challenged, hold the power to change everything. Spoken, written, sung, texted, tapped out in morse-code; the methods of communicating words are endless. And to think that (fluent) speakers of a language all understand syntax, idiom, and grammar seemingly inherently is quite overwhelming.

Words change lives. How many people have claimed that a book has changed their entire world view? How many speeches and sermons have moved people to their knees? Have you ever watched someone's face when they receive a text? In 140 characters, you can make someone feel loved or break their heart or surprise and shock them. The lyrics of a song can reach into the recesses of the soul and make you feel completely understood. Words connect beyond physical.

And while the capability to convey meaning through words is astounding, there's so much more to it than simply using the literal words of what you want to say and expecting everyone to understand. There are many layers to communication. The sentence "I love you" is a statement with such seeming simplicity that even those with a very basic understanding of English can comprehend what it means.

But it's not as simple as that. One does not write or say "I love you" without a numberless array of meanings attached to it. What tone was it said in? Was it followed by a smiley face in a text? The conversation before it places it in context. The way in which the author intended it might not be how the receiver interprets it. Maybe the speaker was bearing his soul because he has never before placed those three words in that order and spoke it out loud, unable to ever recall it. Maybe she understands their relationship to be special that she believes he loves her deeply and in a non-romantic way. Maybe she has heard it so many times casually that she knows his sentiment is playful too. 

I've been thinking about the idea of communication, and how so much meaning is lost between the cracks of personal history. Sometimes, no matter how much you explain something to someone, they are just incapable of understanding your point of view. And about how sometimes two people meet and their pasts and comprehension of the world perfectly align and their words to each other are perfect symphony making beautiful sense to each other.

And with all these layers of semantics, it really is a wonder that we ever understand each other at all.


Jana said…
You are such a wonderful writer.
Lisa said…
Completely unrelated to this post, but have you read the Hunger Games Trilogy?

And what do you think of a book club? I want to be able to talk about my books with others...

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