The Power of the Word

So it is Friday and time for us to continue to wander through my thoughts concerning The Mind of the Maker, by Dorothy Sayers.

Sayers makes a very intriguing analogy about writing – as all analogies it has its faults and should not be taken literally; it is after all an analogy.  She postulates that we can look at writing from the perspective of trinity. (As a strong believer in the Trinity, I enjoy seeing trinitarian concepts done well – Sayers does it well).  To make my point or rather to explain my rumination, I must give some background.  And the best way to do that is in Sayers own words:

For every work [or act] of creation is threefold, an earthly trinity to match the heavenly.

First, [not in time, but merely in order of enumeration] there is the Creative Idea, passionless, timeless, beholding the whole work complete at once, the end in the beginning: and this is the image of the Father.

Second, there is the Creative Energy [or Activity] begotten of that idea, working in time from the beginning to the end, with sweat and passion, being incarnate in the bonds of matter: and this is the image of the Word.

Third, there is the Creative Power, the meaning of the work and its response in the lively soul: and this is the image of the indwelling Spirit.

And these three are one, each equally in itself the whole work, whereof none can exist without other: and this is the image of the Trinity (35).

Idea,  Energy / Activity,   Power

I could go on for days on this topic – Sayers wrote a whole book on it.  As analogies go it is one of best, for me as a writer, to understand the art of creation –  the Art of the Creation.  I know that it is an analogy and Sayers is clear to point out the known flaws in case anyone decides to get cheeky or too serious.  Analogies are a way of helping us understand the unknowable, the mysteries of life.  Bread & Wine – Body and Blood, Marriage – Christ & the Church, but I am not here to talk about these things today.  But these are examples of unknowable things that have very real analogies to make their mystery a little more knowable. (Is it bad that I used an analogy to explain an analogy?)

But back to my ruminations about the trinity of creativity – Idea is the thought, Energy is the writing or written word, and Power is the impact of reading.  Power of the word is what I have been mulling over in my mind. Sayers mentions a very bad habit that we have of dismissing words as “just words.”  We say this to comfort ourselves when words have wounded us or others.  “Sticks and stones may brake my bones but words will never hurt me,”  is a pithy saying full of lies.  Words do hurt.  Words can also, edify, strengthen and encourage. We use words to comfort because there is power and influence in words. And all our trite sayings only prove that point.

[O]nce the Idea has entered into other minds, it will tend to reincarnate itself there with ever-increasing Energy and ever-increasing Power. It may for some time incarnate itself only in more words, more books, more speeches; but the day comes when it incarnates itself in action, and this is its day of judgement” (111).

All three are working together, the Idea, Energy, Power, of thought and creativity, thus effecting the reader for good or ill.   Sayers uses the term “day of judgement,” which if you are like me, will immediately give you negative connotations.  But I don’t think that this is what Sayers is actually getting at.  It is judgement  because the action is a reincarnation of the previous Idea/Energy/Power and through the incarnation the truth of the Idea/Energy/Power is revealed – a judgement.

Words have power.  Tell a little girl she is pretty long enough and she will undoubtedly become vain.  Tell a child he will fail at life, he will either prove your right or wrong based on his character and fortitude.

Last week I talked about the types and kinds of books and their effect on the their readers.  I suppose I finally got to the part in Sayers’s book that sort of proves the point I was trying to make. By reading we are experiencing the the final part of the creative process the Power of the Idea as it is revealed through the Energy.  This Power, as a concept of influence, in and of itself is not “bad” as we think of bad nor is it good.  It is simple an element that is part of creativity.  However, the content and the strength of the Idea is the important thing.  Reading the wrong sorts of books like hanging out with the wrong sorts of persons will effect the character of the reader.

I’ll leave you with a parting quote that I am still ruminating on that illustrates the point I’ve been trying to make:

 But Pentecost [revelation of the Power – Action based on the culmination of the Idea/Energy/Power] will happen, whether within or without official education. From some quarter of other, the Power will descend, to flame or smolder until it is ready to issue in a new revelation. We need not suppose that, because the mind of the reader is inert to Plato, it will therefore be inert to Nietzsche or Karl Marx.  Failing those, it may respond to Wilhelmina Stitch or to Hollywood (112).

*Sayers, Dorothy L. The Minder of the Maker. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1979.


About LizzyBeth

There is a Story inside of me that I must give a voice. I write so that imagination can take me to Faerie and I can catch a glimpse of the Otherworld and hopefully so will you.

Posted on March 15, 2013, in Authors, Christianity, Dorothy Sayers, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Literary Criticism, Rachel Burkholder, Words and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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