–George Henry Lewes
I recently just finished Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, written around 1857, I think. It had both romance and debauchery- two elements my needy soul craves in a story. But what I la la loved about it wasn’t so much the tale being told, as the way it was told. And I have often had this reckoning when reading other works born in that period of time. It’s in the very language: flowery without being fussy, calculated yet seemingly natural, as if from the beginning of time, words were always meant to be dispelled in exactly that way. When I read things like this, it makes me long for a time in which I’ve never even existed; when one’s words were their very brand, their instrumentality for distinguishing themselves amongst everyone else. A very good man once said, “Sloppy language and sloppy ways go together. Those who are truly educated have learned more than the sciences, the humanities, law, engineering, and the arts. They carry with them a certain polish that marks them as loving the better qualities of life, a culture that adds luster to the mundane world of which they are apart.” (-Gordon B. Hinckley)
Truly a votary of anything eloquent, I agree with that very good man with all my heart. How we speak, and what we choose to speak about, can either beautify or tarnish the way we are perceived by others. How charming is it to be in the company of someone who speaks not only articulately, but with the polish that inevitably comes from quiet confidence and a subtle but apparent appreciation for the “better”? I know that whenever I converse with someone who speaks eloquently, intelligently, and with optimistic undertones, it revives my desire to do so. Regretfully, we don’t have to search very far to find conversation which revolves around the negative, the harsh, the cynical, the base, and the everyday vulgarity that seems to proliferate like Nobody’s business. It is effortless to indulge or even instigate the casual kind of discourse that revolves around nothingness and is propagated by cheap and pallor-ic cadences, for the path of least resistance is quite easy to succumb to. But nothing that comes easily is really ever worth having. (Nothing LASTING, I should say. For if I’m going to be honest, there are a good many things that come puh-retty easily which I do consider worth having: eclairs, Pepsi, lemon bars, Cafe Rio, cheeseburgers, naps, mascara, laughs. And yeah, after “cheeseburgers” I had to really stretch the imagination so as not to seem like a total obese-tress.) But are we really better off after engaging in such trite conversation? Do we stand more firmly footed, walk more assuredly and with more direction, and find more nobility in ourselves through speaking insubstantially and even crassly at times? Doubt it.
I’ve said before that I believe in the power of the individual. If every living man and woman strove to achieve, a little more each day than the last, their own personal level of greatness, even by the smallest measure and irrespective of means or circumstance, just imagine the different kind of world we would live in. It’s hopelessly idealistic, I know. But, so much power lies in mere words! If “words can never harm”, then my name isn’t Brittany Anne with an “E”. Humor me with this naively arcadian notion, but do we not all speak words, all the live-long day, every live-long day? And if by the simple act of choosing to speak them with simple sophistication, and about things that are actually meaningful and pleasant and important, wouldn’t the world, even by the ever-so-smallest measurement, be just a little more lovely?
Please know that more than anything, I am chastising myself in the guise of altruism, but if there’s anyone else out there who speaks like a pirate-hooker and knows better, I lower my glass to you, too. Mediocrity is a rampant epidemic, but it doesn’t have to be. Seek to emanate the goodness that inspires you by speaking about it. Choose “better” words, words that reflect a meaningful existence. Let us all “be the good we wish to see in the world”, if only with our words.
Peace and Love.
Artwork: La Primavera by Boticelli