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Lewis & Quark


Actions Over Words?

Repititio mater studiorum, repetition is the mother of learning--and what a caring parent. To the end, she will have her way. And they say saying a thing again and again doesn’t make it true, which is only half the miserable and longing truth. They also say--but it is not really they who say it anymore--”be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” In other words, the actions of man matter more than the words they ingest. The bold interpreter, in the name of the ever bolder hermeneutic, takes a step forward: the actions of men take precedence over the words they say.
And why not? Lies slip from the lips sometimes without even the barest consciousness of it. Mankind will even tell their own self lies. To handle words is to enter a confusing trapeze of metaphysics, in a word--everything. Words that refer to Platonic concepts and the invisible. Words of double meanings and potential misunderstandings. And still the mouth flaps on eternally. No one can stop. To cease language is to cease life. As if life could be so casually defined. Actions are only slightly more straightforward. The term itself is vague--the accusers of words propose a fine paradox. What is an action, but an exertion of force upon this world? Let the subtle Christian recoil at the idea of force. “The Lord tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.” (Psalm 11:5 New King James Version) Allow placation--a soul changes the world in some way. That requires some measure of power, and therefore force, over one’s body first, and over something external to even that. “World” lengthens the pattern of vaguenesses. The natural world? Plato would roll in his grave, and the Augustinians who followed them both into their disdain for what and who we might touch.
And why not? Our Lord Himself as fully human and fully God rails on about the kingdom of Heaven at length, contrary to the things of this world. Actions, at least on this account, have proved insufficient. Perhaps altruism will plead “kindness! To our fellow man? Of course, a yes may be found here too.” We could not be more right to extol all who praise men for their giving of money, their kindnesses of material things, their actions of, of--and did not Jesus speak more against money than any other thing? Kindnesses at least take the form of words, of consolations in the darkest hour, deserved compliments to a friend, the boldest and most frightened “I love you,” the intellectual clarifications, the mind working itself out to share what it really wants and needs to show.
Why not call words an action? Unless--no, it cannot be--we are afraid. “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.” (James 3:5 NKJV) And who am I to disagree with God? Indeed, words have the highest of powers. Books--stories--are weapons to cut, parry, and break. Rhetoricians or the men of rhetoric, have more power than anyone in a given social agora because with their words, they hold the wheel of the ship. They point people, the masses follow in their persuasive wake. And after so much talk of that which can be used, morals must save the day. The ends become evident in the personality of who possesses the gift. Will ignorant proletariat be turned to good by the rhetor, or evil? If his power is great, then only he will decide. How terrifying to the layman. What would guard against this, but a strange doctrine, charged against words themselves, and not those “base” enough to do what the poor man would do if he had the ability--remake the world in his own image.
Perhaps that is asking too much of fools--that they might perform that much lateral thinking. What more--fearful to all--someone intelligent creating it for the laymen. In a lapse of clear thought? One might propose that this would come at the heights of intelligence. But we stray from our path. The main definition of actions was that which influences, really anything. Words, used capably, ride on a golden carriage above all other powers, as all other actions bow to it--they change the changers. As aforementioned--the rhetorician controls society. Furthermore, what action has not been at the behest of words or thoughts that take the form of words, except the most horrible or most instinctive?
To the point--ignoring words will not make them better. Lowering them does not delete them, only make those who must use them more oblivious than they cannot help being. Then the plebian fear will come out raging--moral-free words? Of such are devils and Screwtapes. Who would desire such an outcome, but to their advantage? Consciousness and thinking people demand that good words cannot grow out of negligence and ignobly be thrown aside for, dare it be said, literally-metaphorically fool’s gold. Even then, everything wiggles at the thought. What if--if only--only my truth. Imagine a man--weakness of body, a lack of desire to progress beyond the head, quasi-Platonism. Naturally, someone who does not use their body throws words to the heights of heaven. Perhaps this man will find himself vindicated by the logic and reason, and not mankind. As a result, he will live in eternal doubt and a species of misery. A life condemned in theory, but useful in practice. But then, he need not speak of it.
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