There’s this assumption in our culture that words ought to be good. Redemptive, not destruction. Honest, not deceptive. Moral, not evil. But on what grounds can we say this ought is true?
In my literary theory classes, I learned that words are signs. Simply put, signs point to something important, which we call the signified. A message. A truth. An idea. And signs fulfill their purpose when they represent the signified.
Perhaps all of language points to one signified. Perhaps all of language is fulfilled within one purpose. I believe that purpose is found in the person of Jesus Christ.
John 1:1 calls Jesus “the Word” and Revelation 22:13 reveals Him to be the “the Alpha and the Omega.” If this is true, then it explains why we have the notion that words ought to be redemptive, honest, and moral.
In T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, Eliot imagines seeing the ghost of a past poet roaming the bombed streets of London (an allusion to Dante’s The Inferno, where Virgil appears to guide Dante through Hell). The poet offers some wisdom, including these lines:
Our concern was speech, and speech impelled us
To purify the dialect of the tribe
And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight.
This is why I read and this is why I write.
All opinions are my own.
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