Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Wealth of Words



26 letters. Kazillions of words. Multiple languages! We make of symbols a myriad of meanings. And conflict is at essence in every story, or else we have but description, exposition, and instruction. Yet even here we might give pause; our constructs are such that they can become inviolate. Especially if handed down to us by tradition.

Stories comprise the six themes of conflict: person versus person, self, society, nature, supernatural, and the artificial. And the tale to be told usually follows a traditional pattern of climbing and descending a mountain, with the exposition, the inciting force, the rising action, the foreshadowing and crises along the way to the climax; then the descent of the action, with suspenseful crises en route, until its denouement satisfies, or as in Romeo and Juliet's case, is a lesson. Most of us know these terms. We have a clear concept of protagonist and antagonist and characterization and narration and purple patches everywhere; they are the stuff of the educated. Yet there is many an author who knew not the academic tools by which to build a story; the artist just created from an innate ability to yoke the sentences together, to embroider a tapestry of words full of similes and metaphors that did not clash, but revealed us unto ourselves.

Magic. Wicked. Radical.

Words may take decades to change their meaning; 'making love' ain't what it used to be. So too are the strings of words that go to make up memory. Yes? Verbal phrasing changes as one repeats one's story, except mayhap where the rhythm or rhyme of the pattern is regular. Hence the old tradition of memorizing verse, like 'The Rime of The Ancient Mariner'; the passing on of a tribal history. But between the foul script and the published product is many an editorial intervention. Still, the printed word is taken for truth. And we are affected by our stories. "What boils my blood" an old friend used often to say. At his deathbed he did not go with acceptance; he raged against the dying light.

Acceptance. We accept the stories and the laws and the idioms and the icons of others in our meaning-making ways. We suspend our disbelief and we take for truth fictional lives. We feel for and with them. We even cry at their distress or demise. And we care so deeply that even if the new character in the new story as seen on our screens is yet again a real Brad, cheeky Tom, irascible Clint, or a mayhap a marvellous Meryl, we accept such as an altogether different person, a different construct. After all, the venues of imagination have little room for reality. We are easily ontological, without knowing it.

It is The Word that might best be examined. Any word. Impeccability of word choice is ascribed to Jane Austen, Edgar Allen Poe. Some liked Hemingway. But still, their stories may be retold, rendered anew, even in the semantics. The elements of a story may wear different clothing, speak in a different tongue, make meaning with different sentences, and yet still have Romeo and Juliet die in the end of having followed the exact same plot. Such is the power of language. And of The Book. And of ideas.

Read. Write. But beware of thinking it all, well, right.  Or have I not stirred up some conflict?


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