Banging Words Together
Words ring like bells when you collide them correctly.
It’s in the Bible.
In the opening chapter of Genesis we read about the creation of the universe – God spoke it into existence if you can believe it – and we read about the creation of mankind.
An interesting chapter, that. The only information we’re given about God is that “God said” this and that and things began to spontaneously appear.
Then in verse 26 God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness… So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
Stay with me, I’m almost done with the religious part.
God spoke worlds into existence and we can, too, because we are made in his likeness.
You and I speak worlds into existence in the minds of our listeners every time we bang words together.
And now we get to the Scottish part:
In her most excellent book, The Power of Glamour, Virgina Postrel tells us that glamour is “an old Scottish word meaning a literal kind of magic spell that makes us see an illusion, something different than what is there, usually something better than what is there.”
In the Late Middle Ages, the Scots would speak of a person having “cast a glamour” so that another person was enchanted by it.
Interestingly, that Scottish word from which we take glamour is the same word from which we take grammar.
Grammar: the banging together of words so they create realities in the mind; a literal kind of magic spell that makes you see an illusion, something different than what is there, usually something better than what is there.
Here are some examples of “casting a grammar.”
“The key!” shouted Bilbo. “The key that went with the map! Try it now while there is still time!”
Then Thorin stepped up and drew the key on its chain from round his neck. He put it to the hole. It fitted and it turned! Snap! The gleam went out, the sun sank, the moon was gone, and evening sprang into the sky.
Now they all pushed together, and slowly a part of the rock-wall gave way. Long straight cracks appeared and widened. A door five feet high and three feet wide was outlined, and slowly without a sound swung inwards. It seemed as if darkness flowed out like a vapour from the hole in the mountain-side, and deep darkness in which nothing could be seen lay before their eyes, a yawning mouth leading in and down.
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
“This is the room of the wolfmother wallpaper. The toadstool motel you once thought a mere folk tale, a corny, obsolete, rural invention. This is the room where your wisest ancestor was born, be you Christian, Arab, or Jew. The linoleum underfoot is sacred linoleum. Please remove your shoes. Quite recently, the linoleum here was restored to its original luster with the aid of a wax made from hornet fat. It scuffs easily. So never mind if there are holes in your socks.”
– Tom Robbins, Skinny Legs and All
“From the town hall it creeps between shops whose upper floors are almost connected; it passes cafes where Gypsies dance; it winds through markets heavy with fruit and fish; it is the center for silversmiths and booksellers and the carvers of rosaries. It is the most extraordinary passageway in Spain.”
– James Michener, Mexico
“This week has been a hard one. I have put the forces of evil against a potential good. Yesterday I wrote the outward thing of what happened. Today I have to show what came of it. This is quite different from the modern hard-boiled school. I think I must set it down. And I will. The spots of gold on this page are the splatterings from beautiful thoughts.”
– John Steinbeck, Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters
“That’s the thing with handmade items. They still have the person’s mark on them, and when you hold them, you feel less alone. This is why everyone who eats a Whopper leaves a little more depressed than they were when they came in. Nobody cooked that burger.”
– Aimee Bender
“There was no point in fighting – on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark – the place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”
– Hunter S. Thompson, speaking in 1971 of the end of the ’60s
“Literacy is a very hard skill to acquire, and once acquired it brings endless heartache – for the more you read, the more you learn of life’s intimidating complexity of confusion. But anyone who can learn to grunt is bright enough to watch TV… which teaches that life is simple, and happy endings come to those whose hearts are in the right place.”
– Spider Robinson
“The sun was edging the horizon with a rim of light as I parked my car and made my way into the hospital. While I was still some distance from the Out Patient Surgery waiting area I could hear a baby crying. Stepping into the waiting room I saw the mother pacing the floor trying to quiet her baby.”
– Richard Exley
“And the truth I see is that the Bible is populated with people like you and me. People who are flawed and imperfect. People who have crooked teeth and bad skin. Who have stinky breath and dirty feet. Who don’t always know the difference between right and wrong. Who are self-serving and capricious. People caught in the conflict and dichotomy between good and evil, between the sacred and the profane, between beauty and ugliness, and between the bright and the moronic. People who hope — and many believe — that they are made in the very image of God.”
– Barry Moser
Did you visit each of those places in your mind as those writers “cast their grammars” on you?
You cannot learn to “cast a grammar” intellectually. One learns this high art through absorption. In the words of Phil Johnson,
“You acquire an education by study, hard work and persistence. But you absorb culture by viewing great art, listening to great music and reading great books.”
Read great books.
Cast grammars with your words.
Take people to the bright futures that await them.
For you are made in the image of God.
Roy H. Williams
Heads up! On the very last page of today’s rabbit hole I let the wizard post a Christmas story he wrote on Thanksgiving Day. You can take a shortcut to it by clicking the photo – on the left – of me wearing a halo. But be warned: the Christmas story has Jesus in it. – Indy