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Word Salad

March 17, 2021

28 of 40

A word is dead

When it is said,

Some say.

I say it just

Begins to live

That day.

Emily Dickinson

I write. A lot. I even received two checks for it this week. Rare.

But that is not why I write. Emily Dickinson received a handful of checks (I assume) for the few published works out of over a thousand she wrote. She wrote for expression more than reaction. I do, too.

When you do many things, some are not what you had hoped they would be. I frantically emailed and corrected transposed facts just before publishing a piece Monday. But even when you do your best, some do not like it, are even offended by what you do.

A piece I wrote 6 months ago was intentionally ambiguous. The language was both pointed and vague questioning reactions and motivations in a place of controversy (Brad Pitt’s houses in New Orleans). 40,000 read it, when 5,000 visits is considered a success. But the commentary of some to it was vicious, and in fact, one sentence in the piece was simply bad, so I changed it (it’s the internet).

I was accused of creating “word salad” by some because I used constructions that challenge, and sometimes require, intentionally, rereading. I get it. But when you pay nothing to read it, I am paid nothing to write it, and it is not required for anything but a few minutes of distraction, the price of idiosyncrasy seems fair. (The two pieces that I was paid for this week are crystal clear).

Word Salad is eaten or it could not cause indigestion. A great poet once told me that Emily’s words were “maddening”. Because she read them. As an architect who writes, fitting writing into into these silent mornings and weekends, I have low hopes beyond expression.

But words matter. A lot. They express in their apprehension, but they also reflect in their creation. Like art, buildings, music, even food. .

Word Salad is even more common when fewer words are used. We now live in images, not words. The Memes we love reveal the unnecessary reality of words in our connection, like the ancient cave graffiti that makes 10,000 years vanish.

But words mean something that pictographs and videos do not because words require processing to be understood. Drawing takes an idea and processes it into a rendering of manifestation. Words do the same.

I think after a Year Of Lent, we have seen more images than at any time in human history. I think we have more need to write too. Will we?

This second, a few thousand folk that care, to the point of devotion, are considering the words they use for another free, often idiosyncratic human reality: religion. Like so many shelved activities in sequester, church has lived in a weird screen space. But it still has, for some of us, head space.

For many the Latin Mass was word salad, as was any ancient orthodox tradition of any worship. When the elemental is offered up to the world it can easily become word salad. For me, it is a love of Thomas Cranmer’s 16th century words. Many I know think if it as word salad. Fewer and fewer find meaning there.

God lives in me, so I love church. Church is just us, manifest, so after the plague our changed perspective will be reflected in all our manifestations. Including the buildings we make. In the way we write.

I will continue to toss word salad and serve. Some will eat, most do not even know that it is there. A lot like religion in the Northeast. But like Emily, alone in her room for the majority of her life, we do not always do what we are told to do, even what we “should”, we do what we love.

Love is not lost, despite all the words. Love has a moment in this particular spring of Easter that has nothing to do with words – for everyone, and like the fear of plague time, everyone will simply feel it. And pivot.

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