«Let there be light.» Not only words, but profound action. The words and the action recorded in Genesis are inseparable. In his song «The Final Word», musician Michael Card also sings of God speaking the incarnation «and so was born a Son.»
Reflecting on language in media today, it seems that the integrity of words has degraded to the point that they are devoid of both action and meaning. Many phrases are designed with the intent to deceive or, worse yet, parse the truth. My favorite is «It has been reported.» Next in line would be «Some are calling into question.» The author might as well say that the next sentence is unauthenticated and arbitrary.
What happened to language as created by God? Can it even be imagined?
Mexican author and Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz addresses the creative process in his book The Bow and the Lyre. In one section of the book he reflects on the original and pristine state of language. He believes there was a time when word and object were one the same.
At some point in history, words fell from this pristine state. An awareness arose of the manipulation of word, meaning and object. Language began a tumble into the self-serving phrases of exchange and persuasion that exist today. Paz does not hide his feelings toward the current marketplace of words: «Each time we are served by words, we mutilate them. But the poet is not served by words. He is their servant.»
Paz sees the role of the poet as moving language back towards its original, pristine state. Poetry is an act of redemption, with words being redeemed from the corrupting forces of human influence.
Interestingly, Paz does not reference the fall in the Garden of Eden, but parallels jump off the page. When the first creatures were given their names, word and animal were certainly one the same, with no element of confusion or deception. The knowledge of good and evil opened Adam and Eve’s minds for the potential of language to deceive and distort. Language would have been a key victim of the original sin.
Where do we go from here? Has the integrity of words been lost forever? I would like to believe that poetry can redeem language, but art lacks the power to wash sins away. As the old hymn goes, «nothing but the blood of Jesus» can restore the radiance of the first words.
Robert W. Mann