When we have put it into words

Another day of surprises in British politics – and a new Prime Minister lined up for Wednesday evening. I wish outgoing and incoming leadership every possible success. The burdens of high office are immeasurable – and are incalculably demanding across any and all party boundaries.

As I’ve suggested many times before, it would be the sea of words that would most get to me. Something in me insists on reaching deeper than mere words – and it’s a reaching inwards that I aspire to, every bit as much as a reaching outwards. Richard Holloway has perhaps put a finger on why:

… we are creatures who use language and sometimes only know that we know something when we have put it into words. We are, therefore, destined to struggle with language and concepts, to find the words that approximate to the realities we encounter. We must recognise a fundamental difficulty with this at the outset: language can sometimes suggest the reality of the thing to which it refers, but it can never be the thing to which it refers. This is true when we are talking about one another and human experience; it is trebly true in our attempts to describe spiritual realities. Language is analogical, it describes by likening one thing to another; or it is metaphorical, it operates by using dramatic figures of speech that suggest the reality of the thing described in an image or a sound sequence, such as Tennyson’s

The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.

Language is revelatory. It can bring us close to the reality described but we always have to remember that it is not itself the reality. It is an interpretation, a way of thinking about something, but never exactly the thing itself; it is flesh made word.

Richard Holloway
The Stranger in the Wings

So be we president, prime minister, prophet or observing person in the street, any and all who write, or place their hope in human manifestos must also “hear” them, deep within, if ever we’re to believe that flesh made word might truly be turned into word made flesh.

Yes: leadership on the one hand and “ordinary” human lives on the other are tough calls! Talk is not the same as action – and shouldn’t always be allowed to trump the wisdom found in deep reflection and silence. And too hasty action can sometimes be worse than none.

There are no easy answers to be found when it comes to the governance of nations, nor even of our own governance of ourselves. All humankind then ought to do everything it can to reach deeper than mere words in sincere attempts to encourage one another along life’s way.

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