Note: This was posted at The Rabbit Room recently. So, you may have seen it there. Do not read it twice. It’s like seeing yourself in time-travel. –sam
Last night I wrote a fable. It’s fabulous. And by that I mean it’s a fable.
Words really mean things. I want to be some one whose appreciation of this fact fuels more intentional investigation on word origins.
I only have one book on my shelf that I can think of right now about word origins in English. That book is pretty amazing (now I’m thinking of what amazing history the word “amazing” might have), but I ought to have more. I almost have aught.
I remember hearing Ken Myers talking to some fellow about how he was grading a student paper where it was said that a boat had “arrived half-way across the ocean.” The fellow was objecting to this use because the word “arrive” has in it the notion of coming ashore. So one cannot arrive half-way. It means to get there. Specifically to “come to shore.”
Walt (I call him Walt, because I was close enough to yank his pony tail –but I didn’t, amazingly) was amazing. <—– I haven’t looked that up yet.
I felt a thousand things as he spoke, which I feel incapable of putting into adequate words. I feel like a clever monkey trying to explain to Beethoven (who is deaf and dead) the joys of flinging poo. I felt validated, inspired, full, hopeful, peaceful, joyful and the list goes on and on like a long, long list.
But here is one thing. Walt knows words.
He inhabits language like the oldest local. He speaks as one with authority, as if in his naming the thing may finally –again– be itself. It was not that words were used by him, or that he was commanding with them. I can aspire to that. It was more.
He cooperated with words. Co-operated. He and the words were on the same side. He has arrived on their side after a long, literate life’s journey.
His relation of the history of schap (forever on the chalkboard of my mind) was a significant life event for me. Because, in so many words, he told me who I am.
I am a schap. A shaper. This is how he talked about storytellers.
And words are the tools of my trade. I will use them, care for them, add more to my bag and hope that one day I will do more than use them. I will inhabit them. Know them like an intimate friend. Partner with them. Conjure up with them a vision for those without eyes to see. And tell stories.