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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Geek Chic

IMG_1903I guess you’d say I was a late bloomer; I hung onto my childhood vices of reading comics, watching and reading science fiction films, programs, and books, and playing role-playing games well through high school and into my 20s.  In fact, I’m not a great artist, but I’m above average, and I credit comic books for teaching me most of what I know about drawing and anatomy.  But this was something you didn’t divulge back then in the ’80s and ’90s….unless you wanted to be even more publicly ostracized than you likely already were and make those teenage years of being an artistic geek rather than a football player even more of a living Hell.

Flash forward 15 years, and I was driving past the comic shop I used to frequent, and, out of a sense of nostalgia, I picked up some comics to read while on vacation. The next thing I knew, I was back to reading them regularly.

The difference is that now the universe has turned on its ear, and geek culture is about as mainstream as anything can possibly get.  There are gym rats working out in Captain America t-shirts, adult-sized hoodies that look like superhero costumes, sci/fi and superhero movies are the hugest box office hits, and people don’t think twice about any of it.  Target, Old Navy, and various stores at the mall sell Star Wars and comic book t-shirts, hats, and accessories.  Somehow, inexplicably, even the British cult television show Dr. Who has made a major surge into American popular culture and acceptability.   Would a show like Big Bang Theory have had such popularity and such an impact on merchandizing 20 years ago?  Would Game of Thrones be the best thing on T.V., viewed, discussed, and anticipated by so many?  I can’t honesty see either as having happened, but somehow escapist fantasy has taken over.  It’s so weird to see the things for which I worried about getting beaten up becoming ‘the new black’, to see Geek Chic become the norm.

But I want to be clear that I’m not too bitter about this development.  I think it’s wonderful to be able to wear an Iron Man t-shirt, or say that I loved Guardians of the Galaxy, without being looked at as an immature man-child.  It’s relieving to see things I’ve enjoyed for most of my life finally becoming something everyone loves.  There are folks that like to play at being some rebel, liking a band when hardly anyone knows them, but resenting that band once they achieve a measure of success.  I think that’s a pretty pathetic mindset, and I won’t have that attitude about the Realm of All Things Nerdy opening its portals to the masses.  I instead choose to rejoice in the fact that my childhood and teenage loves got their due.  I even got back into the role-playing games 2 years ago, and hardly anyone bats an eye when we meet in the food court at Wegman’s to play.

I suppose that it’s all because Star Wars as a franchise has thrilled so many despite the terrible ‘prequels’.  Or maybe it was that, as later generations picked up on the Star Wars franchise, they also had their imaginations piqued by Harry Potter, the fantastically written and portrayed series (I consider it the Star Wars for their time).  Maybe it’s just the fact that so many of the superhero movies are so entertaining.  Perhaps it’s because of a major confluence of all these things, and more.

I’m not sure how it happened; I’m just glad it did, that things I’ve enjoyed for most of my life are finally getting their due and being enjoyed by so many.  I love that NERD is the word, and that GEEK is chic.  You know what?  Maybe this means that I was actually an early bloomer after all….

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.