Monday, October 01, 2007

Reflection: "The Pen (or keyboard) ...

... is mightier than the sword" is a quote from Edward Bulwer-Lytton from his play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy. The play includes the following lines given to Richelieu in Act II, scene II,:

True, This! —Beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword. Behold the arch-enchanters wand! — itself a nothing! — But taking sorcery from the master-hand to paralyse the C├Žsars, and to strike the loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword —States can be saved without it!

This is no better exhibited than in the recent happenings on the 4real board and members' blogs. We forget that the written word is a permanent landmark -- a stake in the ground where we state something and we can't erase it, no matter how hard we try to delete or re-state.

I was a print journalism major in undergrad. This means that I studied all about writing and publishing and editing. Yet, nowhere in my 4 years of undergraduate work, nor in my subsequent experience as a free-lance writer, published author or blog poster, was it EVER brought home to me how the printed word can destroy a person's character, slam a person's reputation or sway a group of people toward one faction or another.

I'm very well-educated and extremely well book-read. I have a graduate degree, have climbed the corporate ladder and spoken before various groups of folks. Yet, nowhere in this practical education did I ever realize the strength or permanency of ANY written word.

The adage among lawyers -- "NEVER put anything in writing" -- is as true today as when it was originally mentioned (probably two thousand years ago -- Pontius Pilate probably will forever regret the scriptures and their quotes of him!).

Words can crush a person -- or build them up; and tomorrow you can change your side. But if those same words are put in print -- it is permanent. Newspapers, magazines and book publishers have known this reality since Gutenberg -- that's why you pay more for the print version than the broadcasted news!

Sometimes the written word scares me. The written word can seal someone's execution or guarantee someone's pardon. And it is set. You can't take back the written word -- like you can a conversation between folks or even a public speech.

The 4real Catholic homeschool community -- of which I am a very active member -- is being torn apart by the written word.

And my prayer tonight is that I remember, from here on out, that the written word is not a tool to be taken lightly, to be used flippantly, to be casually tossed about. The written word is a sword than can pierce .... because I have seen the blood.


Maryan said...

Mary -- thank you for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

just what i needed to read!

Erin said...

Be assured of my prayers, I am praying constantly, all day long. My heart feels torn apart, you are all never far from my thoughts. I am doing much soul searching and reflection here too. May Our Lord shower Blessings upon you all{{{{}}}}

Surprised by Joy said...

Very nice Mary! Unfortunalty the words are still public, I wish folks would heed your gentle warning. God save us all!

Donna Marie NJ said...

You write so well! Thank you for your words! I was just talking to my older dc about a similar topic involving the writing craft. I will share some of your thoughts with them tomorrow! :o)

Melissa Wiley said...

Mary, would it be all right if I responded to Molly's comment about the words still being public? Molly, I'm assuming you mean the thread on my blog? (Please correct me if I am mistaken.)

I explained in the comment thread but will add a note of explanation here since you mentioned it; the reason those comments are still posted is because they are part of a larger conversation, and the person who made them was rebuked by other posters, and she made a heartfelt apology. It seems to me that the complete record shows a situation in which charity did ultimately triumph.

I would not presume to reshape the conversation by selective editing. In the end, the record shows support for the person being criticized and a humble mea culpa on the part of the person who spoke out of turn.

I understand there are different opinions about how such conversations ought to be moderated and/or edited, but I hope you will give me the benefit of the doubt regarding my actions. Truly, I wish only to be an instrument of peace. I make many, many fumbles, but I am trying hard.

Mary, thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain.

Mary G said...

Lissa -- you are always welcome to comment here. I agree with what you are saying and since it's YOUR blog, you can delete or not as YOU see fit.


Leonie said...

Mary, I am praying for your hurt and concerns - and for all we Catholic homeschoolers!

Mary G said...


Thanks so much for your prayers -- I think the retreats are really helping! But the real remedy seems like it would be being able to have you over for tea and a "natter".....

Blessings and your dh is in my daily prayers!