Winston Churchill was a renowned politician and leader. He was also a prolific reader and writer. Churchill is well known as a man of many delightful quotes, and his way with words was no mere talent. It was intentional. He lived in a world of words and relished it. (Read more about him in Paul Johnson’s excellent Biography.)
Churchill once remarked “Words are the only things that last forever.” Forever is quite a long time. That’s a powerful sentiment and is enough to make one think, to ask questions. It calls upon those who participate in words to do so with responsibility, care, and passion.
Do I realize that those words I consume are leaving a forever impression on me, an indelible impression, that they are shaping me? Every passage that passes the eyes leaves it’s mark, maybe barely perceptible or maybe deep and bold, but a mark nonetheless.
Do I recognize that those marks left on me influence those around me? Words shape the reader who shape their surroundings. Who I am makes a difference to those near me, and what I read helps make me who I am.
Do I write with the thought that my words are leaving their grooves and marks on others? I cannot merely write for me, I must write for the reader. My words will affect others whether I consider how or not, but if I consider what actions my words are taking and the shapes they are making the forever effect of them will likely be more worthwhile.
But the foreverness of words is more than a cautionary tale. It is inspiration. Words bridge history and cultures, and to engage well crafted writing is no mere boon to the vocabulary. It is a timeless venture. My children love the same stories I loved which are the same stories my mother loved. And the wisdom of Plato is as wise today as it was in ancient Athens. To read is to enter a river that has flowed since reed first hit papyrus. To write is to create a tributary to that river.
But when you swim be careful not to drown. And let your tributary be pure water.