Friday, May 5, 2017

Joel Belz on Words (from WORLD Radio 4/26/17)

Mark Twain once said the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. Tis the difference, he said, between the lightening bug and the lightening…

When God called on Adam to name all the animals, our Creator was putting on a dual demonstration. On the one hand he was showing off the penultimate aspect of his incredibly imaginative handiwork. But on the other hand, God was also apparently eager to show Adam the critical importance of language and words as tools for the stewardship of the new creation. To this day both are wonderful gifts from God – creation itself, and the words to describe, analyze, understand, develop and enhance it. Words are intended to make distinctions. That’s why you need so many of them. For Adam aardvark meant one thing, antelope another, ant still another, and ant eater meant something radically different.

It is key to the human experience to use words to make distinctions. By contrast think about the distinction between words and other art forms. Great paintings, concertos, ballet performances and even baseball games are typically powerful not because of the specificity of what they portray but precisely because of their ambiguity. “I see this in it,” says one observer. “But I see something totally different,” says another. Words, too, can be ambiguous, but in the end are meant to distinguish, sort out, to help us to say “this,” not “that.” It’s the reason after all that we run for the dictionary. It is also why we crave wordy critics after visiting the art museum, going to a concert, watching a ballet, or going to a baseball game. Words crystallize the blur of our experience.

(Thoughts from Joel Belz excerpted from WORLD's daily news podcast)


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