If humanity is divided between “words people” and “numbers people”—as I happen to believe—there is no doubt to which group I belong. I stand solidly with the former. For proof of this, I can look way back to elementary school, where I used to make up stories about numbers to break the tedium of addition and subtraction drills. (This might also explain why I often came up with equations like 2 + 5 = 8.)
While math presented its challenges, I excelled at reading, writing, grammar—anything to do with words. And years (and years and years) later, words still hold a fascination for me. Individual words, combinations of words—I’m intrigued by their meanings and messages and even their sounds as they roll off the tongue. And I’m in awe of anyone who can use them effectively. Because, be it for good or evil, words wield power.
When I taught high school English, I risked the wrath of the math, science, and history teachers by telling my students their English classes were the most important ones they would take. Of course, all teachers feel—or should feel—this way about the subjects they teach. But in the case of English teachers, it’s true. And here’s why. “Math, science, and history are extremely important,” I told my budding scholars. “But no matter how much you know about quarks, quadrilaterals, or the history of Qatar, unless you can communicate that knowledge, it does you or the world very little good. Nothing is accomplished without words. And with words, nothing is impossible.”
In his account of creation, Moses wrote, “God said, ‘Let there be light…and sky…and land…and sea… And so it was.’”
Did you catch that? “God said…”
If you feel a slight tingle when you read this creation story, you are most definitely a “words person.” According to Moses, when God made the world, He didn’t work out an equation or formulate a hypothesis or propose a theory. He didn’t go to a lab and run tests. He had no history book to explain how worlds had been created in the past. He didn’t grab a hammer, roll up His sleeves, and get to work. A divinely inspired Moses tells us that, in order to bring light and beauty and order to cosmic chaos, God said.
Regardless of your beliefs—whether you believe the Bible or don’t, whether you believe it literally or metaphorically, whether you believe in intelligent design, evolution, or the big bang theory—it’s hard to deny the profound historical impact the Bible has had on the world. And it is evident that Moses—one of the earliest authors of that influential collection of works—associated words with ultimate power.
Can words be used to change the world? Moses believed words were used to create it.
Dee Dee Chumley — After over twenty years of teaching, I’m filling my retirement days with traveling, reading, writing. In my blog, Gems and Gimcracks, I share reflections about life, with useless trivia thrown in…or maybe the other way around. Please pay me a visit at www.deedeechumley.com.