I love words, not surprisingly for someone who’s given to waffling on as much as I am, and a little while ago I wrote a very brief no-account drabble that played on the fact that language, like any other living thing, has the capability to be percieved as “good” or “evil”.
Now words are neither good nor evil, as they are not subject to our human perception of right and wrong. The tiger is not evil because he kills deer. He’s just being a tiger. Being by definition purely what you are isn’t evil. (And if you doubt this, check in with Siegfried and Roy. Plus, I don’t want to hear from the vegetarians on this one. Meat is only “murder” if you belong to a race that can conceptualise murder and your meat comes from a race that can conceptualise murder. I’m getting off topic, and besides, I’m scared I may get lynched by vegetarians. Argue with me about it later. Right now I want to talk about words.)
Words, like tigers, can become bad, through popular perception. Have a think about words like “liar” “selfish” or, indeed, “deception”. You wouldn’t want to stand on a podium and tell people that you’re a liar. Or that you’re selfish. Or that you’re decieving them.
However, I want to get this of my chest, to you, right now: I am a liar. Of course I am. I make up things that aren’t true and that don’t exist every day, and then I try to make you believe that they’re real, if only for a little while. And these I call fiction and story and people seem to occasionally like them. Terry Pratchett (we are not worthy) brings this to our attention in his book Equal Rites. The river race called the Zoons are proud of their liars. Lying is a skill, a talent, a great asset.
Still with me? Even after being distracted by Terry Pratchett? (and who wouldn’t be). Okay. So let’s have a look at the word “secret”.
Secret is a fascinatingly ambiguous word. Say it this way:
- You’ve been keeping secrets from me!
And now this way:
- I’ve been planning something, but it’s a secret. You’ll have to wait.
One’s a terrible accusation, the other’s a pleasant promise. Being able to keep a secret for someone is a good thing, but keeping secrets from people is bad. It’s delicious, really, the paradox. Which brings me onto the other part of my ramble today.
Secrecy is a dying art. If you have Facebook, you’ll see what I mean. I can now know every inch of my friends’ lives, because they share everything. (Maybe this is just my friends. Maybe yours are all souls of discretion) It’s considered important in a loving relationship to share yourself with your significant other, to avoid the terrible accusation as above. (reference: “You’re my husband/wife/partner/sex slave, we should share everything”). And even if you’re not sharing, everyone else is: we’re become so proud of communication that we’ve forgotten where and how to stop. The internet actually often gives me social anxiety because there’s just so many people talking all the time and I can’t keep up. We share so much it’s starting to become a social requirement to be on broadcast constantly.
Try it. Keep a secret. I don’t mean lie. Just don’t tell. Do something that’s just for you and keep it to yourself for once. Make it something unimportant. Buy yourself a cake and eat it in a cupboard where no-one can see you. Have a day off work and go to the movies by yourself – and don’t mention it. Write a story or a poem or an essay just for yourself and don’t publish it anywhere. Don’t even show it anyone.
And remember to smile when you’re doing it. You’re doing something purely for yourself and it’s selfish and secret but those words aren’t bad, and you aren’t bad. Enjoy it.