Lest we go too far in our reduction of words and concepts to empty, dried-out husks and sloughed-off skins of the once vital vegetables and animals of living thought and perception, we would do well to remember the creative power of speech. We needn’t take this idea to the super-human level of the ‘divine Logos’ (“In the beginning was the Word”). We might simply muse upon the magical power that poetry and prose exerts over some of us. We need merely recall the transporting effect that passages from Shakespeare, the Bible, the Koran, or Plato have upon our minds, hearts, and imaginations—and all through the conjuring power of words! To be sure, there must first be suitable ground within our souls in which to plant and germinate these seeds. Our psyches must, therefore, be capable of meeting words halfway—of unlocking the ideational and imaginative power packed into their ‘chromosomal’ material. Words, like temples and palaces, octogenarians and very old trees, have long and often interesting histories—and therefore, stories to tell if we are but sufficiently patient and attentive.
And there is a socio-political function of words and verbal commands: it is precisely because—or to the extent that—we obey words and verbal directives—because we place our trust (and sometimes our very fate) in their power to mean what they say—that words indisputably wield real power over tangible reality, over happiness or regret, life and death. There is no getting around this. Words and perceptible, material phenomena (and consequences) are intimately intertwined with each other—so far as humans are concerned. Thus, to fail to acquire competent use of speech is to fail to develop fully into a human being. It is obvious that one who never acquires a language is effectively cut off from those distinctive powers and abilities that are characteristically human. What is less obvious is that one whose command of language is poor or grossly deficient is to that extent hampered and crippled as a cultural entity. Thus, the dilution, homogenization, and radical simplification of ordinary language use inevitably contribute to the barbarization, stultification, and mental homogenization of human consciousness. And who does not see compelling evidence of this distressing trend?