Words to Live By
It’s time for another confession. I am a logophile. Now don’t go hiding your kids, it’s merely a lover of words. As such, and as a writer, I feel the words’ burdens on my shoulders. Words are so powerful and shape the lives we live. Yet, oddly, words cannot be touched or grabbed--they just evaporate in the air and where they land know one really knows. That is why words need a place to land, that is why those of us who want to remember history or change the future must keep pitching out our words with the assurance that they will eventually be caught by those who can make a difference. To surrender to the silence with the belief that you’ve spoken up enough and are fed up fighting for your beliefs is nothing short of traitorous. Haven’t all our mothers told us at one time or another, “For the hundredth time, I’m telling you blah, blah,….” Why do they do that? Because when you love something, whether it be your child, or America, or the State of Israel, or freedom, or the Constitution, you never stop talking.
Indeed, there are days after heated moments in the blogosphere that we log off and in Glenn-Beck fashion say, “Ah, useless. I’m just arguing with idiots.” I have news for you, God felt the same way too speaking to his stiff-necked people. But, not shockingly, the Almighty was very wise and thus said to the Israelites: “And these Words which I am commanding you today shall be ON your heart.” He didn’t say IN. One cannot ram things into a person’s heart for it will only be met with resistance. But if the words are placed upon our porous hearts and reiterated, sooner or later they will sink in. However, though truthful words need a place to land, they are not destined to have a resting place. They must keep moving. And so after they are placed on our hearts, God further instructs, “You shall impress them upon your children, and shall speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Further it says, “Teach it to the children of Israel. PUT IT IN THEIR MOUTHS.”
Thus, as I wrote last week, preaching to the choir is also very important because sometimes our hearts know the truth but or mouths can’t articulate the arguments. We lack the words because those who are supposed to teach us are falling short and we ourselves are reluctant students. So we go hot-headed into battle with empty guns.
Have you ever seen the movie Fahrenheit 451? In it, books are outlawed and burned and anyone caught having a book is imprisoned. Yet there is a “resistance” group called the Book People who live in the woods and each commits a book they've chosen to memory. In essence, they become the books. “It just so happened that a man here and a man there loved some book. And rather than lose it, he learned it.” And they continually recite the book they know to a younger person so that the book will live on. But after committing it to memory, they too burn their books because they don’t want anyone taking anything away from them. It reminded me very much of how Judaism survived despite the endless persecution of Jews and attempts to blot them out. Judaism survived because of its focus on teaching its history and religion to its children-- “it put [the words] in their mouths”--so that when the Nazis and others burned their holy books and tried to destroy the religion, they could not because God’s words live in perpetuity.
It’s taught that when Moses, upon seeing the Golden Calf, threw down and destroyed the first set of tablets containing the Ten Commandments, the stones crashed, but all the letters and words flew back up to heaven. You see nothing really is written in stone because when the stone crumbles, when the Constitution is flouted, when the media is complicit, when the government censors, what happens to the words we counted on? They are still there, because truth never dies unless it dies with us. I remember seeing a book about a former Canadian prime minister entitled, “What Trudeau Did for Canada.” When you opened up the book, all the pages were blank. When the time comes for history to write our book, “What They Did for America and Israel,” will our pages be blank too? Or will we go down to death in argument and leave mankind with words to live by.
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