Entering the world through words

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Photo by Peter Burleigh

There’s someone sitting at one of the black wrought iron tables on the Due Santi piazza reading Antigone. It’s an old book, one that has been handled by years of Lit. Trad. III students. The binding might be loose and there might be a wine stain on a corner, but the story inside is still the tragedy that UD’s education includes. 

Whether they tell a happy or tragic story, words take us deep into the world around us. 

Back on the Irving campus in line for the Cap Bar, your phone lights up: it’s a notification from Apple News with a developing story on a shooting. Or, it is a blurb on a natural disaster. Or, it is another politician who got it wrong again. But, if you drag your finger to the left, it’s cleared from your lock screen, out of sight and out of mind.

I’m a big fan of fiction. Fictional stories that take the mind away from popular news pieces and occurrences of the real world are admirable mediums of entertainment and learning, and one I will often read or write to pursue. 

Why shouldn’t we find a way to avoid the notices that light up our touchscreens to announce another death, another crime, another moral or political argument? Don’t we deserve a respite from our update-saturated life? 

I would say yes, but to a very distinct point. I read and write to discover, so that I can better understand the next time I see tweets about the newest scandal. I don’t read them to enjoy the details of sins, but to understand the humanity behind and around them. I read to realize that the world has some dry, dirty patches that can be put in the spotlight by popular media, while also holding hands with those who are experiencing tragedy. 

Words have the ability to take a mind away from the present, but also to immerse a mind in the moment. 

The present is something we all have, and we can use words to better focus that lens. 

So, when I write loose poetry that I pretend somehow mirrors the whimsy of E.E. Cummings’ playful poems or listen to songs that remind me of some forgotten highschool memory, I also hope to see them as a chance to feel the very moment in time that we are living in. 

But, you and I are members of this world and are built to exist in it. It’s a world of wonderful and terrible experiences. As modern students with nearly infinite connective resources, there should be some sense of responsibility to inform ourselves on the events of our brothers’ and sisters’ lives around our community, and our world. The gift of media and journalism is meant to tell those stories that we would otherwise miss entirely. 

However, the word “gift” is something many disagree on. The fear of hearing “bad news” or “leftist media” seems to weigh on us as we consume it, making it simpler, and less painful, to turn our eyes and ears to something, anything, but news. 

Ultimately, this is a severance of ourselves from the world. This is not because we might choose to spend less time diving into a thread under the president’s latest tweet, but because we are forgoing the opportunity to develop empathy for the very real, true stories about the world. 

These stories are not meant to make us despair, but instead to inspire empathy and action. Reporters do not write to tell a story about evil for the sake of evil but to give a true narrative about the world around us.

Writing, journalistic or otherwise, is man’s greatest creation. 

Language is all we have. To put nonphysical ideas, stories and information from one person’s intellect onto physical paper in hopes of reaching another human being’s mind as clearly and accurately as possible is nothing less than a magical ability. Language enables us to access our own thoughts and feelings, which ultimately connects us to those around us and immerses us into the community for which we are made. 

I hope when we watch romantic comedies that make us feel warm inside, that we can take this feeling and apply it to romance around us, ours or otherwise. I hope that when I read a blog post about some faraway travel destination, I remember to treat my own daily college life with an air of adventure. When we read harsh news from around the world, I hope we give ourselves in empathy and turn our emotions into action during our day. 

Words have the power to make us more human. Tragic or otherwise, they are worthy of our attention. The stories of our world, our country and our community are our privilege to read and engage. 

Don’t turn a blind eye to those around us. Enter the world with words.

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