A cliché for a blog post title – I wonder how that will come up in the search engines? But seriously, sometimes cliché’s really are true so deserve to be turned into blog posts. This one really rings true to me.
The ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand soldiers for those who don’t know) were men of action and few words of complaint – theirs were brave, heroic actions, even when they proved fatal and fruitless, as war is.
The men and women who’ve followed in their footsteps since that war to end all wars have done so with courage and honour too. War, sadly not ended, remains fatal and fruitless, but sometimes actions for peace and freedom are needed when words will not been heard, when no-one will listen.
Despite a lot of talk, millions of words written, people still don’t listen to each other. Words have sadly not been enough to create peace or freedom.
So in contemplating the sacrifices of the ANZACs and veterans since, as I’m sure most Australians did this week, it’s hard to attach any meaning, any power at all to the few words I’m putting on a page.
Stringing a few sentences together hardly compares to risking your life, saving your mates, paying the ultimate sacrifice through suffering and valour. Words are rendered powerless on a page when you ponder bravery on the battlefield.
We use words to describe the legacy people leave behind when they die, but they are never enough either. The sum of a life is always going to be measured far more by actions, by what a person did, than what they said or wrote. Spoken words disappear into the ether in their uttering – yes they can cut like a knife, but they never hurt like actually being stabbed. Written words may linger, but they are still just a story of something, a message perhaps, mere statements of fact or opinion. Deeds are there to be seen, witnessed, to bear consequences and bring about change beyond even the most potent of utterances or persuasive of essays.
When Martin Luther King delivered his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech it was unbelievably powerful, his words immortal when sadly he was not. Yet it was his brave action in standing up on that podium, in taking the risk to speak out even more than all the words he said so eloquently, that spoke the loudest.
I went to a friend’s father’s funeral last week and wonderful words were spoken of him. He was praised as being devoted, strong, loving and many other fine descriptions, but it was the story of his actions that resonated most – how he had lost his first wife to cancer and bravely raised his four children alone until he met his second wife, only to lose her too young too; how he started at the bottom and rose to the top of the company he served for decades and treated his staff like family. None of this admirable man’s own words were read out at his funeral, yet the packed chapel spoke volumes of the man he was.
The slideshow of his life, precious moments with partners, children, grandchildren, family and friends showed the extent of his love, and words would have been superfluous. Photos of holidays, including recent adventures overseas, showed how he had lived life to the full, right up to the end. There he was riding a Harley on his 80th birthday, in Thailand and Europe during the final eighteen months of his life. The photos said it all.
I was going to put the slideshow together for my friend but software problems stopped me in my tracks. I was still able to sort through the images, scan hard copies of drawings and do some basic work in Photoshop, but my video editing program refused to cooperate. I was frustrated and upset, because the action of making the video was supposed to speak loudly about how much I cared for my friend, how much I felt her loss. The words I struggled to find simply couldn’t compete with the action of making that slideshow, nor the simple gestures of attending the funeral, of putting my arms around my friend, letting her grief wash into me.
I’m a blogger – I like to write (duh)! I looove words. But they are seldom, if ever enough.
And so I wrote a post the other day, the most honest and raw I’ve published yet, about still grappling with infertility and feeling guilty because I’m so blessed to have our two beautiful adopted children. I wrote mostly for my own therapy and have been encouraged by the support of those who empathised and took the time to comment. They offered words, but the words were in fact actions– online hugs – at least that’s what they felt like. And in reading them, some of the grief I still cling too washed out of me.
Actions, what we choose to DO, including when that means speaking out, commenting or writing something for someone else’s benefit, are what really count.
I am determined to try to make the words I write count – to make writing an action of helping, inspiring, motivating others. I cannot waste words on idle reflection or random ramblings or simply playing with language as I love to do. I must make my words powerful by the actions and the hope that they could possibly inspire.
So that’s my new blog ‘manifesto’ as I head towards my 100th post and speak to Frances Whiting from the Courier Mail’s Q-Weekend magazine about being a mother (exciting) – I want to help, motivate, inform, inspire through what I write and say.These will be the actions, the words that count when they lay me to rest. Then I’ll be more than pleased to read an epitaph like this– ‘she wrote words that spoke as loudly as her actions, and loved her family and friends’.
To all those who’ve gone before with heroic actions and brave words I salute you. Lest we forget.
PS – I will try not to write crap in the future, but can’t promise anything!