Why Words MatterDec 30, 2021 ● By Marlaina Donato
From witchy incantations in Shakespeare’s Macbeth to ancient Sanskrit mantras; from the stirring speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. to the divinely inspired poetry of the Sufis, words have bridged the chasm between the visible and the invisible since the dawn of human language. They have the capacity to conjure change, rock the boat, manipulate mood and alter the inner landscape.
According to language research center Ethnologue, there are more than 7,000 languages in the world. We use words every day to communicate, to learn, to teach, to bond with kindred souls and to win opinion wars on social media. We can use words as medicine or weapons, and we too often forget their power.
Many religious texts draw attention to the spoken word, especially in creation stories and the creative capacity of deity. In the Vedanta Sutra, an ancient Vedic text, the phrase anavritti sabdat translates to “by sound vibration, one becomes liberated.” Consider what it would be like if we each made a daily commitment to use everyday words as a conscious tool for healing—a practical form of spiritual discipline from which everyone might benefit.
In our age of rapidly developing technology and jam-packed schedules, the spoken word is becoming a casualty in the daily blur of abbreviated texts and emojis. Forty percent of the world’s languages are on the threshold of extinction, and so is the language of everyday courtesy and compassion. “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” the old saying goes, but words do hurt, chipping away at our mental health in the classroom, on the checkout line at the supermarket and in our social media newsfeeds.
Negativity-overwhelm has become the norm. If the mystics of old are correct regarding the energetic impact of our words, thoughts and self-talk, incredible power awaits on the tip of our tongues. With a little bit of attention and intention, there’s so much we might be able to create for ourselves and others.
Words are seeds, and we can sow life-sustaining gardens for generations to follow. Consider what to plant today.
Marlaina Donato is the author of several books and a composer of visionary music.