Words! Words! Words! I'm so sick of words!
Never do I ever want to hear another word.
There isn't one I haven't heard.
~Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady
The Bible proclaimed, “In the beginning was the Word.” Since then, many words have been spoken. Words are the tools with which we express our thoughts and emotions, our means to communicate with one another. However, as Voltaire pointed out, many a time they also act as an effective mask behind which we hide ourselves.
I sometimes wonder at the words we use in our daily lives, those that allow us to sound intelligent and be vague at the same time, once the hallmark of a bureaucrat. They always remind me of the speeches made by the pragmatic and wily Sir Humphrey and the bewildered expression of Jim Hacker in the ‘Yes Minister’ series.
Why do we sometimes hide behind our words? Why are we unable to communicate even if we have a whole host of words to string? Does the thought of opening up and revealing our inner selves to another person scare us to such a point?
In his book ‘Images – My life in film’, Ingmar Bergman talks about this mask rather eloquently while describing his relationship with Kabi Larete. He says:
Sometime ago, I watched Bergman’s ‘Autumn Sonata’, where he had made use of this personal realization.Between the two of us, we had developed a complicated staged relationship. We were confused and at the same time exceptionally fond of each other…we spoke about everything and anything that occurred to us. But in reality we had no common language. We couldn’t communicate.
The more Kabi and I watched the erosion of the collaboration into which we put so much effort, the more we tried to improve it with verbal cosmetics.
In the film, Victor, while conversing with his wife Eva, says to her “I nurture some unrealistic dreams and expectations, and some kind of longing too for that matter. I long for you.” To which Eva replies, “Those are beautiful words, aren’t they? I mean they are words that don’t mean anything real. I was raised on beautiful words. The word ‘pain’ for instance. Mother was never mad or disappointed or unhappy; she ‘felt pain’. You too have a lot of words like that.”
Maybe someday we will feel safe enough to connect with one another without creating a barrier of words? I sincerely hope so…