How barren a dessert, how sweet an oasis!
How unbearable a noise, how intoxicating a music!
How dry a science, what art, what spell!
How coherent a structure, yet how beautiful an incoherence!
How paradoxical a soundness, how logical a delusion!
How prosaic a sanity, how lyric a madness!
Words, what pain, what tediousness they can cause! And what pleasures they can provoke!
Words are but clumsy letters chaotically put together which can rarely translate into the sighs of a heart in love. Prose shall never penetrate the depths of a man’s feelings with the subtlety with which poetry does. It would seem impossible for words to capture the whispers of the heart.
Nevertheless Juan Luis Vives, the world class illustrious humanist and philosopher whose statue dominates the portico of the National Library of Spain, sentenced more than five centuries ago a truth the size of a cathedral: “There is no mirror that better reflects the image of a man than his words”.
Words, in communication, are nothing but the container in which we offer – and feed – our hypothesis, our thoughts and our feelings. The expert expounds on that which he analyzes; the philosopher expresses his thoughts and the poet sighs what he feels. The reader will either analyze them, think them over or feel them.
The power of speech, such human privilege, is but a talent, pure potential; neither virtue nor sin, neither good nor bad. It may be good or bad depending on how we use it. We can use it to overwhelm or intoxicate the senses; to unnerve or enchant, to disillusion or make love, to kill or bring to life.
Communication that touches the heart is called seduction; it is a Dionysian intoxication, an idyllic sacrament, a poetic communion. That which reaches reason is called information, and it is more of a solemn and aseptic ritual, a ceremony disinfected of pleasure, an exercise sterilized of magic. Information is stoic, somber and Spartan; seduction is sybarite, sensual and unrestrained.
The paradox lies in that the scientist says the same as the mystic; the mystic the same as the philosopher, and the philosopher the same as the poet. In sum, science says the same as art.
How, then, do you explain that art flows in by seducing hearts, while science penetrates by drilling reason?
The human being does not want to think, he wants to feel! Only when we reach feelings do we ignite fires and provoke conscience. This explains how using the same words Andrea Bocelli sets hearts on fire, and the scientist inflames reason.
Communication is merely transmission, the use of words, which is inherent and immanent to the essence of the human race; it is not an arid science or a sublime art, it is both, an art and a science.
And as in everything, there are good and bad news; in order to be faithful to the old ways, let’s start with the bad: a commoner uses approximately 300 words in his every day life. A more cultured person uses barely 500; an intellectual uses maybe 3000, and it has been said that the genius Cervantes used 8000.
The good news is that the database of the Spanish language contains approximately 1.5 million words, of which the Spanish Language Dictionary presents about 280,000. To simplify it even further, the Essential Dictionary of the Spanish Language, which includes only words common to all countries, holds 50,000 and the Student Dictionary only 30,000.
The best dinner put together with mediocre ingredients will taste like poison to refined palates. The best wine cased in plastic will go stale with no one having enjoyed it. The most brilliant idea, presented in the wrong words, is destined to the scaffold and its presenter doomed to social ignominy.
This concept, though apparently trivial and innocuous in our lives, is in fact the most important and transcendental of our existence. The human being, as the only living being conscious of being conscious, is also the only one who has been granted the gift of speech. Words are the manikin of our ideas, the packaging of our cosmic vision and the window to our thoughts.
Let’s make good use of them; let’s delve some more into their science, which belongs to us all, so that the art – which belongs to every one of us individually – may flourish diaphanous, subtle and intoxicating. Let us not inform, but rather communicate; let us not make others think, but feel; let us not reason to convince, but seduce to provoke conviction.
May the science of all kneel in the face of individual art; may prose kneel in the face of poetry, and may our scientific sanity vow in front of our artistic madness!