I've written and thrown away a few things on Newtown. Lying awake tonight I remembered this post, from June of 2009. It's all I've got. —ed.
W.H. Auden said that words aren't all humans have—just all we have to work with.
For communicators, this is especially true—and, in cases where words fail, agonizing.
Often word-failures and the pain that goes with them are merely a useful sign that something larger is wrong. What we can't explain, we must repair until we can.
Other issues defy words because they are so hopelessly complex; to explain them would require more time than is available. Yes, those issues are as much ones of time and logistics as anything else. But we live in a society spread so increasingly thin that we unblinkingly use the terms "friend" and "community" to describe near strangers on the Internet. So these "time and logistics" problems tend to proliferate these days.
And then we come to the final situation in which words fail. "Words fail," we assert. "No words can describe," we admit. "Words cannot express": the pain, the sorrow, the hurt, the sadness, the horror, the agony, the emptiness.
Occasionally we say this about joy. (A mutual friend recently had a daughter and another friend wrote, "I can't even really express how happy I felt for him.")
But not as often—and without as much attendant frustration.
I wish I could get used to the idea that some feelings and ideas are beyond words, and lay off the lash.
If Auden could do it, why can't I?