Letter vs. Spirit: The Great Battle of Words

I love words. I love ‘em, and I don’t care who knows. Words get me hard. There isn’t a bigger high in the world for me than to truly nail an article and be proud of my work. This love of words, meaning, content, grander ides, can explain my love of great hip-hop and spoken word poetry. It also explains my borderline obsession with writing that has come at the cost of a social life and personal relationships. For me, the written word is held in a high and majestic regard. As such my relationship to words has seen it’s ups and downs. I often times wonder if people really understand what they are saying and I roll on the floor laughing at most political speeches and interviews; seriously, that is some wordsmithing on another level. What shocks me most about our language is our ability to use it as a tool for good or for evil, and the subjective views of those onlookers deciding which is which. I think it is time to stop following the letter of the law or the strict definition of a word and more so follow the spirit of a words, phrase, or law, so that we can return to a more fluid and organic relationship with our language.

The letter as an idea is a strict adherence to the definition and wording of something with no inference allowed. This bothers me in most cases. I know words have their definition, but english is one of few languages where that definition changes over time. “Geek” originally meant a performer or person that bit the heads off of chickens of other animals for entertainment. “Geek” means something completely different today, and is such a fine example of the lifecycle words can go through over time. The law is where this issue most often comes up. We want to interpret and follow the law to the letter. To uphold the very words that are written on a page, not the place and ideal from which they were written.

The constitution is one of those most sacred documents where the letter of the amendment is to be followed without question. The right to free speech, free assembly, to bear arms, all are upheld and protected with great venom and devotion. These are points that blood has been shed to protect, so I get the tenacity with which people champion them. But is the letter of these amendments really the key to upholding them? Can we truly look at ourselves in the mirror and say that these must be upheld without thought to modern times and new ideas and situations? Because Thomas Jefferson thought of it, it must be the best and truest representation of the intended message? I have to say, I am probably smarter than Thomas Jefferson was, honestly, education has come a long way, but I am a bit offended that we don’t trust ourselves to interpret the spirit and the meaning of the law, but blindly follow it because some dead asshole rebel wrote it and it must stand as is.

The law and the constitution is one thing, but what of the word of God? More than any document, biblical texts like the Bible, Koran, and Torah have been scrutinized and interpreted for centuries. The greatest minds have been set to the task of deciding what was meant in these words. If there is an antithesis to the letter of the law, then it would be finding the meaning of the spirit behind canonized text. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got beef with religion. It is the details on which people are hung up that have created war and divisions in nations for centuries equal to that of the life of the words. I have to give credit though, to those fine men and women who don’t get stuck on the actual words but infer the meaning of them in their daily life. They look for the heart with which they were written, the state of mind, and the intention. Words are never written without purpose. Even the most hastily thrown together, emotional first draft of anything has a nugget of sound thought behind it because pen was put to paper, and that is never an accident. I have to say that Christian, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, to varying degrees, understand that interpretation of words and not the bare bones nuts and bolts of them, is where meaning and purpose can be found.

I love our language. I love to use words as weapons and often times my weapon of choice is comedy and satire. Poking fun at elitists, idiots, morons, hyperbolic personality, hypocrisy, and injustice, is my favorite thing to do. I embrace all of the language. Vulgarity? Shit, I’ll drop a fucking f-bomb in a church sermon if it feels good. I’ll call an elementary schoolyard bully a terrorist. Am I saying that a 10 year old boy is an enemy combatant and should be sent to Gitmo for “enhanced interrogation” under guise of the Homeland Security Act? No. I say that to show that the definition of terrorist is anyone who imposes their will through violence and fear. By definition, Timmy from eighth grade is a goddamned terrorist, but what I am saying when I use this term is that people don’t know what they are saying half the time and don’t stop to think about the implications. Also, that calling the underwear bomber a terrorist is an insult to terrorists everywhere; dude belonged on world’s stupidest criminals 4 between the guy that pulled a gun out in an AT&T store demanding 500 more minutes on his phone and the guy who drove a cop car home on accident while drunk one night. See, there I go again!

This country’s obsession with brick and mortar letter of the word is best exhibited in PC language. Negro became black which became African-American which went back to black. These are acceptable terms that went through a lifecycle of what we could say. Would I call a black guy a negro? Fuck no. Not because it is non-PC, but because I know better than to use a word like that. I don’t need the established PC guidelines to tell me otherwise. That and I would get so royally fucked up after uttering it.

We are obsessed with not offending anyone. That’s all fine and good, but the byproduct of that is a hyper-sensitivity to words. If we define the acceptable term and deem everything else unacceptable, then all of a sudden people are on the lookout for anything that travels outside the mainstream terminology. So by creating a right way of talking, people are now hyper-alert to what is now deemed “wrong,” and everyone is looking for something to be outraged about.

It is a complicated world out there. Do you know how many fucking laws and bylaws there are in this country, your state, district, town, and even in your Homeowners Association handbook? Holy hell, there is just too much shit to contend with. What are we to do? Well, first off I think we all need to take a deep damned breath and relax. I think we need to take a small queue from our friends in the religious community and have a more flowing and organic relationship with words and surrounding ideas. The right to free speech…you know what, wait, no! Not a right. I am going to turn something on it’s head here to prove a point. The “privilege” of free speech is my favorite of them all, and this is an amendment that needs to be fluid and ever changing. The “privilege” to keep and bare arms is one that needs to be less letter of the law and more interpretation. I don’t give a shit which guy on our money wrote it, that was then and this is now, and I say they didn’t bare in mind the use of automatic weapons in our streets, so I think we need to bigfoot the founding fathers on this one because “arms” has a completely different DEFINITION now than it did then. If you want the letter of the law on this, then fine, you can keep and bare 1776 era weapons to your heart’s content, the rest of us are going to be reasonable about weapons that take longer to load than a fucking egg takes to boil.

What is the answer to all of this mishegoss? Well dammit, it is that people need to come to terms with realizing that there is value in both the strict definition of words and the spirit behind them. Terrorist, faggot, retard, right, wrong, all of these words are often times used in a way unrelated to their definable meaning. Hell, definable meanings are always in flux. In the social dictionary, terrorist is related to religious zealotry despite the fact that the definition has nothing to do with religion or zealotry. It is just the imagery and association that the term invokes. If we all started calling black people white and white people black then you change the definition of the word after a while; yeah, through use, black can mean white. Welcome to the fucking twilight zone, i.e. english 101. I like to think that a great deal of wisdom is to be found in the spirit of a word, and the spirit in which it is used. Times change, words change, and as such you need to be flexible in your interpretation of things. I write from a dark and critical place most times, but it is for effect. I don’t actually think republicans perform circle-jerks bathed in goats blood, but it is imagery to show the debauchery within the context of a particular article. The letter of the word is fine and good, but pen was put to paper with a particular purpose and spirit behind it. I would like to think that God, the founding fathers, and anyone who has written books or poems, has faith in in the future generations, and our generation, to be wise enough and humble enough to take the time and read between the lines as astute and intelligent people. I would hate to think that the aforementioned people thought we were all fucking retards.


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