The power of words

Halfway into the book, I carefully cut out a rectangle of white paper and wrote a quote in blue pen to tack to the wall above my bed: “Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman, he thought. But that was the thing I was born for.”

I was sitting underneath that newly tacked quote with a thin book the color of the ocean open in my lap, trying to read the words that were blurring on the page while I muffled my sobs.

I won’t tell you why I was crying, because it would be cruel to spoil a book like this. But damn. All it took was less than a day and a little over 100 pages for Ernest Hemingway to rip my heart out. And while it’s true that I’ve grown more emotional with age, my heart is not that easy to tear.

But the point of this blog post is not to announce that a book made me cry for the second time in my life. (But if you haven’t read The Old Man and the Sea yet, stop reading this and get your butt to Davis Library. They have at least five copies on the eighth floor.) No. It was  an epiphany I had this morning that drew me to the computer. After I didn’t get up soon enough to run because I was too drained to leave my bed. (Was my body tired? Or was it my soul?)

Ernest Hemingway was born in 1899 — almost a century before I was — and he died in 1961. We never came close to sharing air time on Earth. He died even before my mom was born.

But it doesn’t matter.

I was still zapped into the world Hemingway created. And when I put down the book to walk home from class or eat dinner, my thoughts still hummed in the language of his prose. Time didn’t keep the tears from dripping down my cheeks onto my tie-dye t-shirt.

This is the power of writing. It lets Hemingway keep speaking years after leaving this world. It gives him a vehicle to influence generations. It allows him to make a profound connection with someone who could never hope of meeting him — born 34 years too late for that.

Because writing isn’t bound by time or space or even death. It breathes and reaches and moves beyond the creator’s capability or imagination.

Our words are limitless.


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