This week, I’m behind, as I feel I am in all of my life. I have three sets (maybe four sets) of papers to grade, three classes to prep, some reports to write, and perhaps, just maybe, if I’m lucky, some sleep to get. . . . So here I am, doing “Write on Wednesday” on Thursday, again . . . at some point I will learn balance.
Today, Becca asks us to consider the following quote – “Words are a form of action, capable of producing change.” — Ingrid Bengis
It’s not hard for me to agree with Ms. Bengis here. I write because I want to make change – in myself, in others, in the world at large. If I didn’t think that was possible, I wouldn’t write – what would be the point?
Over the years, professors, friends, relatives, strangers have called me “idealistic,” claiming that I don’t know how the world really works, that I’m too optimistic, too hopeful. It used to be that such statements bothered me; I used to take them to heart and try to adjust my way of seeing the world by becoming less hopeful, more cynical. Eventually, I started to think that change wasn’t possible – “People don’t change,” the saying goes.
But while I am a little less naive (I do realize that many people do not want to change, or at least do not know how to go about doing so), I am returning to my old idealism, to the belief that change is possible on many levels. I hope I never get so jaded again that I begin to doubt that is possible.
So when I write, I write to make change. Usually that change is most profoundly in myself, helping me see what is in me, helping me know myself or my reactions or my attitudes more deeply. But occasionally, I think, my words might change someone else. Maybe in just some tiny way, so infinitesimal shift toward deeper revelation. At least I hope in that.
To me, writing is about witnessing, bearing witness to what is around and in us. Last night, I watched a beautiful film called The Secret Life of Words that centers around two characters – one who watched his best friend commit suicide after he (the main character) shared that he was in love with the best friend’s wife, and one who was a victim of the horrible crimes and engulfing genocide of the Balkans in the 90s. Here, in this film, the filmmaker is bearing witness to the pain of life, calling it to mind for us so that we can learn from it, prevent these things from happening again. I don’t know how to stop genocide – oh, if only I did – but I do know, as this film and others like Hotel Rwanda show, that I cannot pretend it doesn’t happen. I, too, must bear witness.
So for me, the only reason to write is to bring change. For who would want to stay this way forever.