What's your favorite word?

Words are the musicians of the free. To the freeman, ears not muffled by bigotry, the ponderous Oxford dictionary that sits quietly on the shelf comes to life as a boisterous concert hall packed with restless musicians tuning their instruments, preparing to play various themes and multifarious interpretations on the age-old sonata, the quest for understanding. The musicians will argue with their notes and chords that when enough is said, when sufficient ideas are shared and hopes and fears are illuminated, when words have been exchanged freely and unfiltered, Truth can be reached by mankind. No, not today before dinner, perhaps not tomorrow before math class, but some day when enough people have access to accurate words the extent of human imagination can be revealed within the far reaches of the realm of human capacity.

My favorite word, more than my favorite baseball card or Crayola crayon, is my guide as I approach a world undiscovered, full of untapped potential and vivid dreams and fears. The word is “candor.” To me, it seems that this is perhaps the single most important word to a liberal society built on the lumber of free thought. However, it seems also that this is perhaps the most impoverished word within the lexicon of our politicians, businessmen, and mainstream media executives. The true story, built on candor, is, I would imagine, quite unprofitable to tell. The world I see around me as a young, decidedly idealistic journeyer into the arena of political truthiness and deception and chicanery is a web of decayed linguistics, purged of controversy, deodorized and disinfected. The CIA tells us in its core statement of belief that, "Objectivity is the substance of intelligence, a deep commitment to the customer in its forms and timing." We are told not to think beyond the two-dimensional image on our television set, to present our ideas on bulleted PowerPoint slides, “prioritized” and “context sensitive.”

However, any true comprehender of the power of words knows that he is no more the master of words than he is their servant and that the survival of democratic free thought cannot withstand the slovenly use of words which abounds in present day dialogues. Simply, words use us more than we use them, for we cannot achieve a utopian ideal if we cannot imagine it with words more hopeful than Las Vegas or American Idol.

Thus, I beat on against the current pulling me into the corporate machinery of soporific prose. British economist J. M. Keynes said that, "Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking." With this suggestion in mind, I want to live life breaking the “audible silence” that Lewis Lapham tells us has descended on a public coaxed into the complacent comfort of political correctness, intellectual objectivity and mental disinfection.

Words, when set free, are beautiful. There is a gentle irony to the haughty, multisyllabic word “sesquipedalian” that means, “a haughty, multisyllabic word,” or the lugubrious “terpsichorean” which means, “the grace and charm of a dancer.” A true story must, it seems, be given free reign over these beautiful words, over loose periodic sentences and sardonic tones. I want to live life betting my pot on a metaphor or a flip-flopping literary device. I want to live life knowing that subordinate clauses are not wicked and that parentheses are not elitist. I want to live life having faith in the meaning of words. The collective enterprise between words and writers and readers – exposed naked by candor – conjures up the creative energies that give rise to the mental freedom feared by so many. I hope, with this in mind, to live life respecting words and respecting candor and respecting Truth.



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