In Homage to the Written Word...
A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art. It is the work of art nearest to life itself. It may be translated into every language, and not only be read but actually breathed from all human lips;—not be represented on canvas or in marble only, but be carved out of the breath of life itself.” – Henry David Thoreau, “Walden” (Free on Kindle / iBooks)
With the rise of self-publishing, and web shenanigans all 'round, can the written word still be considered a great art?
Look through the bestsellers in Amazon and iBooks any given day, and you'll find dozens of popular fiction novels. Genre fiction or just junk fiction? And nowhere is this more true then in the top digital book lists. Perhaps the rise of the $2.99 ebook is ushering in a new age of popular junk fiction...
Now, I have no judgment against popular fiction. I've found it as entertaining and illuminating at times as the very best of film and television. (Of course, we're talking about film and television here.)
There is one thing about the written word, though, that no video, film or TV episode can claim, and that is... Agility.
The written word is agile, light and fast. No other medium can convey a message as effectively and nimbly at the same time.
Not to shun the multitude of other great art forms, or imply that they're somehow inferior, but for someone who is keen on creative self expression with a tangible impact, there's something undeniably simple, beautiful, powerful, clean about the written word. At least, the essence of it (and that is what I adore). Perhaps that's one reason for the sheer number of blogs and articles online, albeit the vast majority of them driven by the hand of commerce.
Take music, for example – my other muse – that wonderful, deeply rich art. If you want to share a song you wrote, it requires some kind of equipment to record on. Then you'll want to adjust it at least a bit to balance out the mix and make it sound right. It's common to spend weeks perfecting a mix, and the resulting sound files are data heavy too, even when compressed.
Then there's photography – a medium I love and adore, with such great potential in conveying a message deeply. Yet if you were wanting to express some truth of your soul through the medium, some inkling of what you were experiencing at any given moment, would you not have go on a photo hunt of some kind? Or search through your existing photo library to find the perfect piece, and then wonder if it really conveys the message or experience you wish to express? Not to mention the processing, editing and organization, and the storage space demanded by a serious pursuit of the art....
Finally, film and video – perhaps the ultimate medium of creative expression and Soul flow, especially when delivered through the web. Films combine words, music and visuals for a cumulative impact that's undeniably powerful. And it is the most complex, unwieldy, and data heavy format to create, process, share and store. I spent years working with this medium, and it was the greatest of love-hate romances! Meanwhile, millions of people with slow or non-existent internet connections have no way to access your work. :/
So, I say...relish the beauty, simplicity and power of the written word. Honor and adore it -- stripped down and pure as it is.
Can we make an effort not to waste these precious words as we carve them from the depths of our Soul, bearing precious truths through our very hands? Not to subject them to the cruelty and wrath of our small minds, but to shape them with love and kindness…to give them the care of a mother hen with her brood of newly hatched chicks?
But then, you know – there IS something to the combination of words and photography to convey a feeling. Those memes that everyone loves to share online, for instance – why else would they be so popular? Or, these lovely duckies I found the other day, the babies swimming with their mama and later snuggling under her feathers on the shore...
And you know, it didn't take me long to prepare the image on my phone, export it to my email program, then download and resize it, and then upload it here.... maybe 5-10 minutes? (I think it was worth it...maybe! I hope...? :))
I couldn’t resist adding this image into my homage to the written word, because I can only hope the image of those precious little ducklings, combined with these words, helps you remember...
Not to subject your words to the cruelty and wrath of the small mind, but to shape them with love and kindness...to give them the care of a mother hen with her brood of newly hatched chicks!
Perhaps as much of an homage to words, this was really meant to be an homage to receiving love and beauty –to caring and tending to it, as much as you love it...as much as you let it shape you, as it breathes its way into your life.
In the end, the beauty and power of the written word, the most agile and universal of art forms, with the power to transcend time and space – as testified by the greatest works that have survived through the ages – lies in its pure essence. An essence that cannot be ruined...will not be tainted by civilization and its discontents!
Let us not seek to find meaning through the distorted lens of a mass popular culture -- a system of astonishingly shallow values -- so much as through our own Soul's cry. One that is made more beautiful through the filter of our own heart and mind and hands...through the dialogue that emerges as we sit in front of the blank canvas, carving some great truth from the breath of Life, and her quietly whispering muse!
I can think of few greater pleasures.