There is a reason why Rudyard Kipling said words are the most powerful drug used by mankind. Here’s why:
I am not who I seem to be, yet I am exactly as I appear. I am the wind, invisible and changeable. I am a cautious turtle, retreating into the safety of my shell. I am a hawk, hunting prey. I am a tiny ant crawling dazed across the floor. I’m a furry caterpillar and a furious beehive. I’m a steamroller, flattening anything in my way. I am the warm sun, strong against your back and the steel knife that neatly eviscerates the carcass of an animal.
I am the lips of a friend who comes to ease your loneliness and the caustic tongue of an enemy. I am the giggles of a two-year old and the angry thunder that makes you pull the covers tight around your neck. I am slow as a snail and swift as a cheetah. I am the quiet wings of a butterfly and the excited shrieks of a chimp. I’m the voice in your head that cheers you on and the doubt that gives you pause. I follow the law and break the rules. I use words to say exactly what I mean to say and sometimes more. I am everything to someone, but nothing to most. Words describe me, limit me and break me down. But they can also seduce me and build me up.
I’m the freshmen who nearly failed college English. I am proof that tests only measure what you do not know, not what you are capable of. Some days I am weak, some days I am strong, some days I am both. I am evidence that all things are possible with grit and perseverance.
I am this and more–and you are, too. As Carl Sagan once said we are all made from the same star stuff. We are all part of one river, one universe. We were made from the same ingredients, under the same temperatures and conditions. We are more similar than not, no matter how much we believe that we are different or unique. I am your sibling and your parent and your child and your spouse. I am Debbie Mitchell, but I am also you, your coworker, your countryman, your friend and your teammate.
I use words to build stories and to create arguments. I use them to ask questions that have many answers and sometimes no answers at all. My words are not just mine. They are yours and ours, too. We share the same language, the same thoughts, the same boundaries and the same potentials. Your words may sound differently, you may speak in French or Russian or Spanish or Farsi, but we say the same things. We feel and think and believe alike.
For me, words are medicine; they bring structure and order to the chaos in my mind and in the world around me; there might be an app for that, but there’s a word for that, too. Did you know that the little stars you see when you rub your eyes are called phosphenes? We are not only continuously inventing new words, but also redefining and recycling old words. Language is alive, just like we are, and it will outlive you and me.
There is a reason why words are the most powerful drug used by mankind. They are certainly powerful for me: they entertain and explain; they define and they limit; they forgive and they change; they hide us behind lies and they expose our lies. They can make us cry, make us happy, even divide us, but their greatest benefit is that they can bridge and unite us, too. Words can be salves, medications, painkillers and remedies. They can even make us smile.
Our words can be hurtful or helpful. Today, let’s use them to heal and unite us. Let’s use them to make peace and spread love, no matter what we believe about God or the afterlife.