The Power of Words
The words we consume determine who we are.
Three authors that most influenced the life that I lead include Alvin Toffer, Maya Angelou and Buckminster Fuller. All of them were outsiders. Their rebellious points-of-views changed the world. Periodically, I like to share the best of them as a meditation of how words can impact and positively all of us, sometimes in a moment.
Early in her life, Maya Angelou moved from job to job. She was a fry cook, a nightclub dancer, a prostitute and madam in San Diego. When Maya Angelou passed away, she had become a Pulitzer Prize winning author, a spiritual figure that moved nations and a friend who touched the lives of virtually anyone who listened to the power of her words. Her artistry is an extension of sheer unpretentiousness.
“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Buckminster Fuller was thrown out of Harvard twice for being a “non-conforming misfit.” In his twenties, Fuller was dying from alcoholism. He talks of being visited by an “entity” that gave him the following command:
“You think the truth. You do not have the right to eliminate yourself. You do not belong to you. You belong to the Universe. Your significance will remain forever obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your role if you apply yourself to converting your experiences to the highest advantage of others.”
It doesn’t matter whether a voice was actually coming to him from an entity or it was alcoholic delusion. Because, the results were spectacular. After Fuller’s “awakening,” he invented recycling, the hydrogen fuel cell and laid the foundation of how to save our environment. Much of his innovations took place over 80 years ago.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Buckminster Fuller:
“We are born geniuses and for most of us, the process of growing up can take much of that away.”
“Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value.”
“God is a verb, not a noun.”
“Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable.”
Last year, we lost the world’s greatest futurist, Alvin Toffler. I was a teenager when I read his seminal book Future Shock. The year was 1970 and he laid out in vivid detail how the advancement of technology would produce accelerating change. He told us that change would rise in bigger and bigger waves. He also predicted that by the turn of the century, most of us would be in a state of future shock which he described as trying to “absorb too much change in too short a period of time.” Oddly, I wanted to be a part of that future.
For years, Alvin Toffler was a celebrated journalist with Fortune Magazine. Part of his brilliant point-of-view emerged from years as a factory laborer with his wife Heidi. I continually suggest that people read his work because it makes so much sense of the challenges we face today:
“The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn.”
“One of the definitions of sanity is the ability to tell real from unreal. Soon we’ll need a new definition.”
Their words shaped and influenced my life. In many ways, these individuals crafted such impactful narratives that I became a writer. Words have the power to uplift, transform, educate or destroy us. They can fill time with cheap information.
When Toni Morrison accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature, said,
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
The words that we embrace can become the measure of our lives. The care and thought behind the words we give to others can change their lives.
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