Our Words: “With Great Prowess Comes Great Responsibility”

6275825-a-pile-of-reference-books-isolated-against-a-white-backgroundI have a friend who said to me, “Words are powerful things.”  It was quite some time ago, but I believe I was saying something hurtful at the time.  And, as a writer (one of my few true skills), I had the ability to make my words really sting.

I’ve heard that there are studies in which the power of words was tested by saying “I love you” and “I hate you” to dishes of freezing water to see if there was any effect.  Reportedly, the ‘loved’ samples made beautiful crystalline formations, and the ‘hated’ samples made very fractured-looking structures.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I DO know what words can do to a person.

It’s rather hypocritical of me to be hurtful with my words, since I can still remember the things that were said to me as a child by my peers.  And let’s not talk about adolescence.  It’s because of that lingering pain that I have felt the need to amp up my words into a full-blown arsenal when I feel slighted.  It’s the desire to one-up the other and dish out more than you’ve received.

Words are indeed powerful things, and just as I’ve seen the hurt I can cause and have been caused, I’ve seen what KIND words can do and what my own have done for others.  I’ve had someone very important to me tell me how I always seem to say the right thing, the best, most perfect thing to help them stay grounded in that moment and maintain perspective.  You know what?  I like the feeling it gives me to have THAT effect on someone better than the scarring one.

I’ve mentioned a few times in this blog that I’m in a couple writers’ groups.  We ALL have this power, and ALL have this responsibility.  Even if you’re not a writer, the pain that words can cause can still last.  I’m sure the people that hurt me from childhood and on weren’t exactly Shakespearean in their verbal skill.  So may we all bear in mind the power of words, and pause before we do some damage to someone, because oftentimes that damage lasts far longer than it took to even speak.

Words: “With Great Prowess Comes Great Responsibility”   

  

Someone once said to me, “Words are powerful things”.

They can be used to help, or to hurt, an array that each one brings.

I’ve used my words in scathing ways, cutting deeply as I could;

I’ve also used them to let one know their pain is understood.

     I hope that when my time is up, what’s left when mine are heard

     Is something benevolent and sincere or else be deemed absurd.

     May others feel the light of love that’s hopefully interred

     Every time, from here on out, within my every word.

I have a gift to use my words in all the ways I do;

I’ve often been praised for all the shapes that I can mold them to.

But I must revere that power that I know they each contain,

Remember all the times they’re used, intent to cause one pain.

     May each sentence that I share leave no darkness that’s inferred,

     And if I fail in that regard, leave the recipient undeterred.

     Unless productive, taking flight like a paradisiacal bird,

     May no harm and only help be born by every word.

© Jordan Alan Fox 

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National Tattoo Day

June fifth is National Tattoo Day, and I was asked to write about the tattoo topic.  I had previously posted about why I got mine, so I think I’ll cover some other, broader aspects.

Tattoos, of course, have a negative connotation due to various cultures using them to mark criminals, the times criminals (or would-be criminals) marked themselves as a status symbol, and the fact that anything that breaks the norm is usually scorned.

However, in today’s world, the tattoo taboo isn’t as great.  Tattoos are actually fairly commonplace, and are seen everywhere.  Many women have them on ankles, shoulder blades, or have the infamous lower back “tramp stamp”.  Men get them on arms, legs, backs, and chests.  But why do they do this?

Well, starting with the criminal element, tattoos can mark loyalties (especially to gangs) and acts committed.  I don’t think I need to cover this realm further; I’m sure you get it.

Members of the military have gotten them to show loyalty as well, or pride in their service.  Tattoos have also been done to honor fallen comrades.  One of the coolest tattoos for military (and sailors in general) is a pair of birds.  I believe the birds are swallows.  My understanding is that when one is sent overseas, they get one swallow to mark that they arrived safely there, and get the matching piece done when they arrive home.  I think it’s an awesome tradition.

Many get representations of loved ones and pets.  And some cultures, such as the Samoans, are tattooed as a right of passage.

Of course, a lot of people in the Western World get inked because they’re trying to be cool or present a certain image, but this should not be allowed to take away from the millions of works of art created every day that have legitimate meaning, if only to the person bearing them.  And this is indeed an art form.  One apprentices before they can get a regular gig as a tattoo artist.  They have to earn their dues.  And even the finest graphic artists would have a hard time doing what they do via a vibrating needle and oft-times moving, wincing, flinching canvasses.

I realize some may think of me in a certain light because I would have to wear long sleeves and pants to cover all of mine, but every tattoo I’ve gotten had thought put into it and means something to my life.  And this is the last reason I’ll give as to why people get work done:  For many, including myself, these works of art are landmarks.  They signify where we’ve been, what we’ve been through, and where we want to be.  The only one that brings me a twinge of regret is my ex-wife’s initial on my shoulder.  It happens, but I could always cover it up if I choose to do so.

I hope this was informative.  And maybe you’ll get one of your own now if you haven’t already–welcome to the establishment!

Oration Adulation

On Friday, Feb. 17th, I did my first public reading as a poet.  I had read my work to friends and to each of my writers’ groups, but never truly before an unknown audience.  It was a really cool experience (mainly because it was so well received!).

One of the women in one of  these groups asked me if I’d ever done love poems, because she wanted to set up a performance of he said/she said tales of Valentine’s Days past.  It would have a male and female poet (the two of us) reading original poems written about several stages of relationships.  The stages were, in order: Meeting/Games, Lust, Love, When Problems Start, When It’s Over, Regret, and a Finale which would be about still having some hope for the future (she didn’t want to end it on a downer).  We were to read at a bakery with which she was acquainted, Apron Strings Bakery in Millville, NJ.

I fortunately had at least two poems that fit each category, and our two sets of poems overall actually meshed very well.  The audience turned out to be only six people, but they really loved our work, and that’s always a great feeling.  What was especially awesome was having them say how refreshing it was to hear a male perspective on these topics that actually showed emotions and deep thoughts that they weren’t accustomed to being privy to.  This, I believe, was the point to the whole reading.  It was even called “He Said/She Said”.

I originally had accepted my friend’s invitation to being the “male voice” as a favor, but it turned out to be a very rewarding event.  I’ve been thinking lately about trying to get an anthology published, something to which I’d never given any serious thought before.  After the positive reactions I’ve gotten from both writers’ groups on my work and now from a true objective audience, I’m wondering if it’s time to pursue it.

The Written Word and Words Yet Written

In one of my writers’ groups, our main focus is writing exercises, wherein a “prompt” is given, and we would then take 20-40 minutes to write something based on the prompt.  You don’t HAVE to write on the prompt; you can take just part of the prompt, or do your own thing entirely.  This isn’t a strict environment; it’s a way to spark the creativity and get people to actually write even if it’s something they won’t use later.  We have a 30 minute or so period at the end in which we share what we’ve written, if desired.

An example of prompts we’ve been given in the past are: “satisfaction”, “superstition”, “Her laughter broke the silence….”, and “How to make a dragon”.  The last one had a specific scenario about a scientist doing all of this DNA stuff to create his/her own dragon.  I don’t really write stories, so I used the dragon as a metaphor in a set of lyrics I created.

And that’s what I want to focus on here today.  No, not dragons or metaphors based on them.  It’s the fact that you can give a prompt to 15 different people and get 15 different creations.  It’s amazing.  What makes imagination and creativity work?  And what makes it work differently in each individual?  It’s miraculous.

There are the “mainstay” members that are there almost all the time, people that sporadically show, and others that come once or twice and never again.  But everyone that’s come even once and shared what they’ve written has conjured something no one else has.  Every one of our “core” group that shows up definitely has their niche style.  One guy writes fictitious slapstick humor that’s so over the top that, if made into a movie, only Jim Carey could play it.  One guy has a sci-fi/horror bent with a twist of sexual thriller.  One likes her romance, and another likes her lust and violence in equal measure.  Those are just some examples.  But they can all change it up on you.  The Jim Carey guy, for example, every so often will break out something that’s surprisingly tender and genuine.  Frankly, I’m in awe of his skill.  The lust and violence writer will write a very personal poem every once in awhile.

My own contributions, as I wrote in a post that seems very long ago at this point, are poems and lyrics.  I really don’t deviate from this; it’s what I do.  There are an incredible amount of pieces I wouldn’t have written if not for the prompts, and many concepts that the prompts inspired simply would never have come to my mind otherwise.  I owe the group a great amount for that.

The other writers’ group I’m in focuses on more technical aspects, such as scene structure, character development, finding an agent, making sure your manuscript is ready for submission, etc.  As I said, I’m not a story writer, but I like to go to those meetings for the camaraderie, and who knows?  I may write a story some day.  This group had a meetup last weekend, which was the character development session.  I’m a bit blown away by how much work it is to do prose.  I’m overwhelmed at the moment.  I’m not giving up on it, but it’s eye-opening to see how much research and groundwork must be done.  Quite the opposite of what I usually do, which is very emotion-fueled.  I write my lyrics which (hopefully) get a reaction from the reader/listener.  I write as a reaction to something I’ve lived or seen, and I do most pieces in a single sitting.  I’ll create most of my prompt-based work in the 20-40 minutes given, and a lot of the time my first draft is my final draft.  Or, at the least, very few revisions are ever done. It suits my attention span to write what I write!

I have a new respect for the “story tellers” now.  Not that I didn’t respect them before, but now I see what they have to go through to create what they do, if they’re going to do it convincingly.  Power to them.  I still could jump into that realm, and it would be a good personal challenge, but I think I know where my bread is buttered.  My lyrics.  It’s where my true talent lies, and I actually NEED to do it.  It’s how I process my world, and how I purge my demons.

Everyone in these groups has their own style and preferred genre, and I’ve got mine, it seems.  Creativity is an incredible, inconceivable thing, and what’s more incredible is how everyone has their own voice.