Category Archives: my relationship to words

The Persistence of Memory…

…No, I am not referring to the mesmerizing painting by Surrealist, Salvador Dalí, seen here. I was actually thinking about the persistence of millions of song lyrics, new and old, residing way down deep in my brain. Recently, my son Aaron and I were driving and blasting classic rock music, as we often do. He remarked that I knew the lyrics to every song we heard. (Have you noticed how classic rock has become the new “elevator music”!?) Later, as I reflected on the conversation with my son, I asked myself, “Why are those lyrics worthy of “deep memory placement” in my mind, in my soul?”

One simple answer seems obvious. We associate music with good feelings or bad, perhaps we even associate certain songs with a time period in our lives, or a particularly romantic relationship. We have all heard a lover claim that some ode was “their” song. Music delivers an emotional punch, so the memories and impressions associated with it become deeply implanted. When I began to assert my musical autonomy, I was a teenager, on drugs, and full of the typical adolescent angst. My mind was very tender, so the lyrical content and subject matter of songs I remember the lyrics to ranges very widely. As it is for many of you, music is the soundtrack of my life. Let’s exchange a playlist and broaden one another’s world. I’ll post a short playlist as a first comment under this post. I’d love to hear what you are currently listening to. 🙂

I recall lyrics as whimsical as those in Steve Miller’s, “Space Cowboy”, in which he claims to, “speak of the pompitous of love”.  😉 Yeah, that’s a good one. I am also moved to remember very romantic lyrics, like those in Nina Simone’s, “Wild is the Wind”, wherein the writers employ the metaphor of love, as wind, lifting the object of love, and flying in a dreamy freedom. In counterpoint, the same wind is later used as a threatening agent, blowing on a tree, trying to dislodge and blow away leaves, who are really lovers, clinging to their love for life itself! Phewww! I am haunted by the terrible, yet compelling, semi-autobiographical lyrics on the entire, double album, “The Wall”, by Pink Floyd. I can’t speculate how many times I have been encouraged to join AC/DC or Van Halen, or any random rock act in, “running with the devil”, on a “highway to hell”, or to some similar degradation. Candidly, I have to admit I still enjoy some of that devil music! Snoop dee ooh double-gee, Ice Cube, and Dr Dre, aren’t even waiting for Hell…theyr’e already aware that, “Pimpin’ Aint Easy”. 🙂 (although any one of them can currently be found pimpin’ for anything from bubble gum to Disney to personal computers! Ha!) Conversely, I have been inspired to, “Sing Your Praise to the Lord!”, who is an, “Awsome God”, by the late-great-though-he-would-be-small, Rich Mullins. I believe Rich understood the wonderful power God invested music with, and so, almost appropriately, he died at a time in his life when he was teaching worship music to Native American children on a reservation he spent much of his late life on.

Now that Rich and I have dragged God into the conversation again, I am back to the original “why”, I posed at the end of paragraph one. I do believe God created us with a significant need in our lives for music. In Revelation 4 and 5, we see the curtain pulled back on the throne room in Heaven. Music, specifically worship music, is a prominent fixture in that other-worldly scene; even among fantastical living creatures, and the presence of God on His throne, music still serves a front and center purpose! As a Master Artist, God has imbued in us, an ability to create songs which shine new light and some insight into our lives, the world we live in, and our relationship to God and everything else. I believe God very cleverly wrought in this way; when we sing, dance, or even just listen to music, several components of our physical selves, and our psychic selves engage. The “whole person” experiences music.

We sense music in our ears, the hum of it in our chest, the feel of it on our skin, the pull of it on our groins….we have a corresponding neurological reaction to that stimulus in our brains, our bodies react with an appropriate response. We are lifted emotionally, or perhaps made melancholy. Music enthuses us, we are swept away, and we even shake our asses! As our brain floods with dopamine, endorphins, and adrenaline, the music literally creates changes in our physical reality! Similarly, those neurological responses may even lead to “mood altering”. Are you addicted to music to change your mood? I am. 😉 It seems true that what we are listening to is informing us and changing us body and soul. Even though music ultimately belongs to God, I don’t think  he minds us rocking out in our own way as a cathartic act. I think it is good for our souls when we sing back a response to the world we grapple with. It may very well be a God-intended, psychological defense mechanism. God knows I find rest and refuge in music. Even in the loud stuff! 😉

I guess that explains karaoke and pre-diabetic people dancing. Sing on.. though you are out of tune! Dance on.. though you may pull a muscle! Sing your praise to the Lord! He is currently rejoicing over you with song!

Word!

Aaron inspires a lot of my thinking and writing!

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logophilic, bibliophilic, graphoholic, quite possibly logorrheic…

I love words and language, perhaps as much as I love anything. I am not sure if this is because I enjoy a particular brain structure, background, or touch from God, but words and language resonate with me the same way a Yo-Yo Ma, cello concerto might resonate with a classical music lover. Often, reading or hearing a certain word or group of words can induce in me a neural firing that is a physically discernible sensation. In the presence of a particularly powerful use of language, I can actually feel those dendrites and synapses waving around with acclaim and acknowledgement! Alas, words are so much more than an itch in the mind, or a pull of the emotional bow across the heart strings, they are truly the medium in which we live, move, and have our being.

Symbolic language is one of the most distinctive traits in the divide between Homo sapiens and the rest of creation. Words allow humans to transcend the limitations of a seemingly deterministic, physical reality and create! Since the Garden of Eden, when Adam named the animals God brought before him, mankind has been categorizing and cataloguing everything we interact with in this world by means of words, whether written, spoken, sung, or signed. We reflect on the world we encounter, ourselves, and the nature of existence itself through the clarifying and classifying lens of language. Indeed, words allow us the freedom to think beyond natural categories and enter into the world of philosophical abstractions, such as, justice, truth, or love.

The Koine Greek for ‘word’ is ‘λóγος’, (lä-ˌgäs), which can be rendered as ‘study or discourse concerning’. In English, we often use λóγος as a suffix for academic subjects. For example, biology is the study or discourse concerning living things, just as anthropology is the study of humans and human culture. Given this definition, wordswurdswirds aspires to be a study or discourse concerning words, language, how we use them, and how they move us from my perspective. Since I believe it is self-evident that language is culture, there are an infinite number of subjects this blog may attempt to address in future posts. Hopefully, this exercise in writing will yield some light that might otherwise not have been seen. I also hope it generates a little heat!

You can’t blog without log.

Word!