The loveliness of words


Pellucid, limpid, felicity . . .

Although I occasionally stumble upon very descriptive words in modern fiction, typically I must dive into classic literature to find words that challenge me. Why use a word such as “pellucid” instead of clear? Because it is so much more descriptive, and evokes a depth of meaning and, in my opinion, an emotional response, beyond the literal meaning of the word.
I am not a snob when it comes to reading selections. I love fast, entertaining fiction. At the same time I consider it junk food for the mind and soul, fine on occasion and as pure entertainment, though it should not comprise the majority of reading selections. For if one reads merely popular fiction and never takes the time to delve into the depths of good literature, one is deprived of true nourishment for the mind and soul (that last sentence looks so literary and classical, doesn’t it?).

We can all agree that if I attempted to exist on cheese puffs alone I would eventually become ill (I’ve tried it and know firsthand), definitely grow rounder (yep, that happened, too), and finally die from malnutrition (thankfully, I have not had this happen). I must at some point eat green vegetables, healthy protein, and complex carbohydrates if I want to nourish my body properly. Good literature does this for our minds and souls. I don’t care how religious or non-religious you are, I think we can almost all agree that we are more than brain cells and memory. There is this emotional part of us, seemingly comprised of our morality, attachments, and belief systems (worldviews) that lend themselves to the concept of a soul. So we can read the dictionary to gain knowledge of more difficult words, but we read good literature to gain soulful growth. This is what I believe, and I’m sticking to it.

If you want to read beautiful prose I highly recommend James Joyce. The subjects of his writing are not always lovely, but, darn, his writing sure can evoke intense feeling and sensation from a few words. His stories will make you think, too. I went through a Louisa May Alcott stage in my mid-20s where I read everything she wrote. I loved her human optimism, her delight in the goodness of mankind. While it wasn’t all “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,” to draw from “The Sound of Music,” people did get sick and die, but they died such noble, lovely deaths. The responses to those deaths were noble and lovely, too. Although I did go through a short Jane Austen stage, I didn’t stay there long because those books were just too silly for my serious nature (or cynical nature). I later discovered that I just don’t like romances. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl are separated by a series of events and attitudes that create conflict, something occurs that brings it all to a head (climax), and boy finally gets girl. Good grief, what a pile of baloney. See, I just don’t like romances. But within those silly books that millions love are some beautiful delights, turns of the phrase such as: “Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains?” (Jane Austin, Pride and Prejudice). Austen is worth reading even if just for her prose. And let us not forget that she was a woman author when women were discouraged from any type of industry that did not include housekeeping and child rearing along with worshiping at the feet of her lord husband or father (if she dared to remain unmarried).

Let us conclude with the present. I can be really blunt with words. I was raised by blunt parents who never failed to tell me what they thought of me. I then spent 30-something years being very quiet. Hell, no one asked me what I thought so I figured no one wanted to know. The thing is that people really don’t want to know what we think. They want to be tintillated, entertained, surprised, shocked, moved, to hear a bit of gossip (so they can secretly or openly ridicule another), and to be heard. All of that was supposed to lead into the use of lovely words in the presence of others as a means of uplifting them in some way, but I got distracted.

I love when I meet someone who states, “It is a beautiful day, isn’t it?” I really do like this. Because as often as not I have been so engrossed in the muck of life such as how in the world I am going to afford to buy food or put gas in my car so that I can drive to school that I forget that it is a beautiful day. An earthquake has not shaken apart the earth. A hurricane hasn’t blown through in over a year. We have electricity (though the heat is out AGAIN). Honestly, the stuff I am dealing with, though life-changing on some level, is not characterized by catastrophe. It is little stuff (though eating is a pretty big thing and I guess when it is 10° out heat is pretty important but I am resourceful so neither of these things will keep me down for long).
Lovely words. The loveliness of words. I will leave you with this: As I glance out my south-facing bay window into the woods, I see hundreds of slender trees swaying in the wind to a song that I cannot hear, drowsily waiting for the warmth of spring and the kiss of the sun to awaken them from their slumber. With eyes closed and arms raised, they hum a sleepy accompaniment to the central melody that is time. Spring is coming.


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