This I Believe
I wrote this This I Believe essay for my Creative Non-fiction class. For some reason I feel nervous and elated and exhausted having finished it. Maybe because I don’t write a lot of non-fiction, especially about myself. Anyway, here it is:
I believe in the power of symbols; that they are at the very heart of what makes us human. Our ability to take objects, people, actions and abstracts and recreate them in the mind of another using a jumble of shapes and/or sounds, is what allows us to carve out everything from statues to relationships from reality.
I can see it, as I did this morning, standing at the foot of a crosswalk, watching painted lines guide and stop the motion of cars. Or as I did on May 24th, when I traded round pieces of metal, and words, with the woman I love, and bound our two very lives together. I can see it in the simple combinations of shapes which tell me from which restroom I would be forcibly ejected, accompanied by cries of outrage and disgust; and in the movement of the lines which tell me by their position what time of day it is. I see this power best, perhaps, in the rows of symbols for sounds, which combine to create symbols for other things, which in turn paint images in my mind of beauty or loss or true love (which may themselves be even greater symbols). And I feel it in the name which symbolizes my very being.
It is my belief in the power of symbols which so attracts me to our most versatile: words. Words, woven in infinite orders and combinations, can create a tapestry in the mind, depicting anything: whether the life of a person around the world, or a whole other world entire. Learning to interpret and create these most potent of symbols has formed the core of who I am; in the days when they were a respite from the Golding-esque cruelties of Catholic Elementary children; in the years when I used them to find and define myself; and in the future I hope to build from them, one sentence at a time.
It is the symbolic power of words which allows me to purge my emotions onto a page when they threaten to overwhelm me. In these symbols I can store the pain or confusion, or even urgent joy, which crowds my mind and through sharing them (even with no-one but myself) release my burden. This particular power of symbols has saved my life a time or two; in that I could write something like: Snap-crack/ Swing sway/ Face black/ Last day/ Big drop/ Short way/ Sudden stop and let the power of words bear the weight of my sorrow and hopelessness until I myself am restored enough to deal with them.
The power others found in words were ultimately what inspired me to start down the path I am on today; from when Bruce Coville’s Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher opened my eyes to the world of my own imagination, to the lessons in the brutal power of names learned from the mouths of my classmates. These words taught me strength, and compassion, and hope; touching my life so profoundly that I struggle now to articulate it properly. And yet -despite my doubt in myself and my ability- I have faith that the power of words, woven on the loom of experience and imagination, will show you what I mean.