The Power of Words

With the advent of graphics, video, and audio based education (such as those on youtube, like TED-ed in particular), words as a medium faces new challenges. Since time is a first class citizen, a person would value highly condensed information over a less efficient form – words. In 5 minutes of watching a video, one could learn the basics of music reading quickly and easily. For instance, check this out:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN41d7Txcq0

To explain this to another person in words alone will be a killer.

Nonetheless, words as an individual medium still has its strength.

Words Draw out Imagination

Why is this valuable? The more things are fleshed out in audio-visual detail, the less space you have for variation. Notice how some books can transport you into another world, or how some quotes can zap you with an emotional shockwave? While they rely on a structure of meaning that is readily agreed upon for the majority of readers/writers, they also give space for very personal interpretations. The world that you imagine is often uniquely your own, and that quote probably resonated deeply with some of your own experiences. Videos can do this as well, but words leave a larger gap that challenges the mind to fill up with creative details. Consuming media is never a one-way process! With words, the participation from the consumer’s end has more than enough space to grow.

Within that “imagination space” lies a limited set of interpretation. That is only natural, as unlimited or unstructured meaning can only equate to nonsense. But the beauty lies in the limitless variations within the limits. On a broad spectrum, granted there are only so few interpretations of words. Yet the deeper we delve, the more our embellished details can have the potential to flourish. Hence the strength of hermeneutic studies – can the treasure trove of meaning ever be exhausted? Even when our finite minds and experiences stop us from broadening our readings, collaboration can find a way to multiply them, sometimes exponentially.

Now, one can have the breadth of rich and varied meaning-constructions, but usually that which is the most meaningful to us are the interpretations that we have linked intimately with our own lives – the kind that draws from our experiences of the world, personal histories from our past, or our convictions of how things should be – these are the things that can have the most potential to transform us. Not only do our own interpretations inform us about our own thinking, but if we enter into dialogue with the writer’s content, our thoughts can very well be challenged. Furthermore, if we express this to others, they may likewise have points to add. Our reading then becomes a dialogue that has the potential of changing our mindsets and attitudes about ourselves and the world, and it moves away from the indulgence of one to the conversation of many.

Words can become Power Phrases

Partly due to the nature of words as containers of malleable meaning, one word can trigger a multitude of memories and details. Particularly when tying it to your own personal experiences, the memory and detail triggers tend to become more powerful and meaningful. An intense paragraph on empowering, motivating attitudes can be summarized into a single word, or even at most, a short phrase that can be called to mind at any time to remind you of the vital lessons learned, restoring the multi-dimensional experiences that you first encoded the paragraph with to the forefront of your awareness. Instead of the traditional idea of memory tools being used to recall large chunks of exam-ready information, this concept is what I call Power Phrases.

Power Phrases enable you to recall entire states of information that transcend simple levels of knowledge. While it can probably also function as a tool to help you remember factual data, it works best as a trigger for helping your body get into states of optimal performance. Today’s research into leveraging high-performance states focus on re-integrating the mind with the body. No longer are we content with simply possessing head knowledge – it must be felt on a tangible level too. Perhaps more pertinently, the state of the body has been shown to be able to drastically influence mental and emotional states. Going for a quick run can sometimes literally jog your mind, unlocking integrative solutions for difficult problems. We cannot always excuse ourselves for a quick physical exercise at any time of the day, but tying Power Phrases to specific physical and mental states can give us the boost that we need; all we need to do is speak, and our brains will tap into the deeply wired patterns of strength and resilience that we’ve programmed into our cognitive selves, releasing the energy we need to be the most appropriate versions if ourselves in the pressing moment.

The idea of summoning specific mental states with words alone sounds like a super power. And it probably is! Unfortunately, the laws of physics still apply in this world – to have access to our own psyches on that level, a lot of deep work has to be invested prior to unlocking the power of words. We would have to reconfigure our neurons to fire in specific patterns, push electro-chemical impulses through our brain cells in new and challenging ways, and keep up that mental practice consistently. There is still this sort of learning work to be done, and we can’t fully escape it, but the associative nature of learning Power Phrases can mean that instead of assimilating knowledge foreign to what we already know, we are building linkages with what we already intuitively or historically understand. This will save a lot of time and effort. Though, whether the pay off is worth it is ultimately up to you!

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