Words matter

This was one of the 5-minute presentations at the Hot Potatoes open mike session on 17 January 2019. By Nigel Matthews

I take it as an elemental truth of life that words matter.
The word tolerance for example, is widely used to reflect a world within which we wish to live. Tolerance does not welcome however. It allows, endures, indulges. Tolerance was and is a baby step to make pluralism possible, and pluralism, like every ism, holds an illusion of control. It does not ask us to care for a stranger. It does not even invite us to know each other, to be curious, to be open, to be moved or surprised by each other.
Here are some words I love, words that describe presence rather than means towards an end: nourishing, edifying, redemptive, courageous, generous, winsome, adventurous, curious, tender.
Peace is strangely divisive. Justice is somehow partisan. I’m unmoved when we celebrate diversity by putting it up on a pedestal and avoiding its messiness and its depth.
Of course, all words are just containers on some level, but that is really the point. The connection between words and meanings resembles the symbiosis between religion and spirituality. Words are crafted by human beings. They take on all our flaws and frailties. They diminish or embolden the truths they arose to carry. We drop and break them sometimes. We renew them again and again.
We are starved, and ready, for fresh language to approach each other.
Words matter.

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