The power of small
“Four things on earth are small, yet they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people without strength, yet they provide their food in the summer; the badgers are a people without power, yet they make their homes in the rocks; the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; the lizard can be grasped in the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces.” Proverbs 30:24-28
There are plenty of proverbs (both Biblical and otherwise) that point out the strength both physical and mental of something apparently tiny and weak. In many cases it is through working together as a team that they make their achievements, in some they work alone but the point is that the appearance is deceptive. Just because something looks weak or its challenge looks impossible doesn’t mean that it is.
We all have the same words, granted some people invent their own, Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll were particularly prolific word generators and there is hardly a family in the land that doesn’t have its own shorthand for even the most everyday items. We, for example, put our dirty dishes in the washdisher. But on the whole we communicate using a prescribed set of mutually understood words. There is nothing special about our words. They have no innate power to change. But change they do.
It is when they are placed together in a certain way that they power behind them is intensified. Furthermore, once spoken they cannot be taken back.
“Speak that I may see thee.” Ben Jonson knew his stuff, we reveal so much of ourselves when we speak. Not so much our accents or even dialect, but our tone, the words we choose to use and how we use them.
It is said that at the end of the Second World War the Allies sent a message to the Japanese demanding surrender. The reply from the Japanese was the word mokusatsu. The dictionary definition of mokusatsu is v. take no notice of; treat (anything) with silent contempt; ignore [by keeping silence]; remain in a wise and masterly inactivity. The Allies took the response to be a rejection of their demands, whereas it has been argued that in fact it was a standard political response of “no comment”. Within days Hiroshima was flattened.
We may not have quite such profound and tragic effects with our own words, but we will have powerful ones and it is a wise person who thinks about their language, their vocabulary, the tone of their voice. We say so much more than just the little words that make up our conversation.