The Best Words

I wrote in a Wallkill Valley Writers workshop last week, and one of the prompts was the poem “The Machinery of Evening” by Tracy K. Smith. I took a couple of lines as my starting point.

“I am looking for my best words… If I find them, I will understand…” 

I am on a search for understanding. Understanding where truth lies.

Where truth lies… There are two ways those words could be understood. And somehow that brings to mind the title of a book I haven’t yet read: Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. How does one care for words? And what are the best words, the words which tell the truth and do not lie? Words wherein truth lies on a firm foundation of reality?

  • Let your yes be yes and your no be no.
  • Speak the truth in love.
  • Let your words be few, for when words are many, sin is not absent.
  • A word aptly spoken is like an apple of gold in a setting of silver.

These are a few loose paraphrases from Proverbs and other books of the Bible. A few years ago I read through the book of Proverbs in the Bible and underlined in red all the admonitions about how not to speak and in green all the exhortations about how to speak.

  • Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

That one isn’t from Proverbs, but maybe it gives a clue to how understanding may come. Perhaps the best words could be the ones I listen to, rather than the ones I speak.

I want to listen, and listen well and deeply to all there is to hear. To listen to the words others speak and to hear in some way beyond their words to the words they haven’t spoken. And to hear the speech without words of the rocks and trees, the skies and stars, the wind and the sea. To the songs of the birds that speak of the joy of this moment and of their zest for life. To the buzzing of cicadas, serenading all with ears to hear of the beauty of a simple summer day with sun warming meadow grasses and wildflowers. To the purring of my cat speaking peace and love and comfort. To the night song of the cricket, telling me I am not alone in the dark. To the call of a Loon echoing through early morning mist on a mountain lake, proclaiming that a new day is dawning.

These are the best words, the words that give understanding. I am listening.

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