Ella Minnow Pea, By Mark Dunn:
What if some words were illegal? How would that impact communication? I’m not just talking politically incorrect, I mean actually illegal. Welcome to the fictional island of Nollop, a small community of people who worship a man, Nevin Nollop, who created the sentence that miraculously includes every single letter of the alphabet: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” The community was living in harmony, until one day the statue of Nevin, which included this sacred sentence, began to lose its letters. The town council sees this as a sign from Nevin to eliminate the letters from their entire vocabulary as they disappear from the statue.
The book is written in a unique format as letters sent back and forth between members of the community during this change of language. The notes get shorter and less detailed as more letters fall from the statue, until eventually efficient communication becomes a lost trade.
Ella Minnow Pea is a short and impactful read that I would recommend become part of anyone’s mental library. It is a small investment that will often have you laughing, but as life goes on after the book is finished, I’m sure you will find, as I often do, that this book becomes a deeper part of you, as day to day life will often bring you back to the struggle of one girl’s fight for the freedom of expression in a world dictating what she is and isn’t allowed to say.
Words have power.
As a lover and researcher of this craft I have come to really understand this. They have the power to define you, define others, and define values.
Ten minutes on your social media page can set my entire view of you. I can decide whether you’re left or right, whether you’re well educated or not, whether you embrace vulgar language in order to get a point across, or whether your mind is creative enough to get the same point across without profanity. I can tell whether you value your opinion over all others, or whether you choose to share other’s opinions instead. I can tell whether you feel need to speak up about everything you believe in, or whether you instead only speak on subjects that you feel passionate about.
Is this right? Do I have any right to judge everything about you by the things you post on social media? No, probably not, but this is the world we live in, a world of extremely public forms of communication and opinion, and in case you have not grasped it yet: Words. Have. Power.
I may not know anything about you, but your words leave impressions. Sometimes the impressions are good, sometimes they aren’t. But that is your freedom. You’re allowed to speak, and I’m allowed to receive.
You have the freedom to leave impressions, and I have the freedom to be impressed upon, and this is an essential aspect to authentic humanity.
It comes with risks, it comes with offenses, and it comes with disagreements. That’s the price you pay because it is important. Conversation is important, and by eliminating words, by growing a long list of things people can’t say without being attacked, you’re eliminating authentic conversation. You’re eliminating freedom, and you’re eliminating the possibility of overcoming thick and growing barriers.
People are terrified to speak in this day and age, and to me, it’s beginning to resemble this goofy little book I read. Words aren’t illegal, but the punishment for saying the wrong thing can be absolutely horrifying: attacks, threats, complete demeaning of character. There are few efficient and respectful conversations, not because people are close-minded, but because they’re afraid. People are afraid to ask questions because no one knows what will be the wrong ones.
Yes, people should be careful with their words. There are words I will never say, because I value my own voice. But conversation should not be destroyed because of the use of one word that may or may not carry negative connotation to some people. Conversation should not be dictated by random people of high power who casually decide what words should and should not be apart of the human vocabulary.
Continue to listen past the point that you feel slightly offended. Continue to listen even when you disagree. Continue to listen to other’s words, and continue to be impressed upon. Sometimes we are drawn out of conversation because we assume rather than clarify, and this is extremely unfortunate.
We will never learn to understand each other if fear of offense is a constant barrier in conversation. If you are always determined to be offended, to be a victim, then you’ll miss out on the inspiration of great heroes.
Be sensitive, but don’t be afraid. Show love, but don’t avoid truth. Be open-minded, but ask more questions. Be cautious, but don’t be silent. Words must be said, conversation must be had, and that’ll be uncomfortable. Some words will rub you wrong, but keep listening and maybe someday your words will be heard too. Don’t be afraid to say them.
These are your words, your power. The ability to speak, write, read, relate, communicate, is a beautiful gift, and many in other countries are deprived of it. We are not, so we should not live as though we are.
Don’t abuse it, but never avoid it.