The demands of truth-telling

These are some of the demands of truth-telling. Caring for words is a high calling, but not one that should be relegated to professionals. We are all called to be responsible hearers, speakers, and doers of the word. Still, ready telling the truth – committing to it daily – is something like an extreme sport for the very committed. The weather is never predictable, and there is always an undertow. We learn, gradually, from those who do it well, how to tolerate the “intolerable wrestle with words and meanings,” as Eliot put it, and even to delight in it. We calibrate the differences between what we want words to mean and how they may be heard; we pick forgotten ones out of dusty corners where they have been consigned to disuse and reintroduce them, hoping to ambush the listener who is contended with cliche. Like Adienne Rich, who called herself “ a woman sworn to lucidity,” we pledge our energies to the work of smithing words for purposes they have never before had to serve. We temper our urgencies (if we are inclined to wax prophetic or needlessly emphatic) with play because no responsible word work can happen without some degree of playfulness, or without the trust it takes to leave the pen or keyboard and gaze at palm trees leaning in the wind while waiting for a good verb. 

From “Caring for Words In A Culture of Lies” by Marilyn McEntyre – Eerdmans Publishing