When words can’t

words2Don’t you feel sometimes that certain human experiences can’t really be expressed? Certain depths of the soul can’t be put into words, no matter how much we try? Yes, it feels at times that words are simply bleeding out of our hearts, and, yes, we do come close to revealing the essence of the human spirit, yet we fail. Time and time again.

Time and time again we come close to finding the answer to all of life’s profound questions, and yet… the answer finds its way to our ears as a soft whisper, only to dissipate into meaninglessness right before we capture it.

We want to say more than we can, more than we are capable of saying. Words are our greatest achievement. Language has made all our dreams possible. Without the ability to express certain emotions in the way that we do, without the ability to pass them on, to instruct future generations, to leave something behind, we would have never achieved such technological breakthroughs.

Yet, sometimes, words fail to express what our heart so desperately wants to say. We feel in such a way; the fire that burns bright inside our chests is threatening to shatter the world. We are powerful, yet we feel weak, because we want to be able to contain what we are feeling within punctuation marks. We want to string a few sentences together and define who we are and what we want.

But what if we just let it go? What if we simply chose to accept this as a fact? Just offer people a glimpse into your soul and hope that they can see and feel what you see and feel? Why wouldn’t that be enough? We are all similar in nature. We all express universal truths and longings.

That’s it, actually. Art, all of it. That’s the meaning of life. We are alike, you and I. We share dreams and ideals, and we love with the same passion, and we feel just as lonely on cold nights.

Words make us feel less alone, and let us know there is someone out there who’s just like us. Who thinks and acts and feels like us. There’s great comfort in that, in knowing that you are not unique.

47 comments on “When words can’t

  1. jmro98 says:

    Yes it is quite true, art is all about feeling, and some feelings can’t really be expressed exactly with words or paints, which is a more familiar medium for me…:), but we try to give at least a more or less strong impression of them.

  2. I love this line: “We are powerful, yet we feel weak, because we want to be able to contain what we are feeling within punctuation marks.” That is exactly it.

  3. Ned's Blog says:

    Early in my relationship with my wife, I was frustrated by my inability to express the depth of what I felt for her. Being a writer by nature and for a living, this was especially difficult. What I eventually realized was that what I felt was as deep and indescribable as it was for a simple reason: It was going to take a lifetime to string together the words needed to scratch the surface of that love. Which is as it should be, really; it’s why we dedicate ourselves to each other, and why we enter into a life-long commitment to each other — because it will take that long to find the words.

    And sometimes, when words aren’t enough, that too is as it should be. In love and in life.

    • Thanks for posting this… Right now I have no problem getting out how I feel in words… It’s a matter of me holding back on certain feelings & experiences I’m having. There are often societal expectations & boundaries that I’m fearful of stepping on… And then there are other very painful situations that would probably be very therapeutic to write about but it would create short-term havoc in my life. Maybe the thing is writing it down and not publishing… One day I will be able to tell these stories, when the time is right. Great post .

    • This is beautiful… I will hold on to these words to give to the one I love

  4. fortyoneteen says:

    Christian, sometimes there is a lack of depth to a word. How can the word love possibly be enough? We all love chocolate, so how can we use that very same word to say how we feel about the one that makes us stupidly mad?
    An Indian friend of mine told me that in her Mother Tongue there are more than one hundred different words for love!
    I guess that’s when it takes more than one word?
    Are you at that stage Christian, where you can let it go? Or do the words haunt you until they are just deep enough to leave a bruise but not a scar?
    Thanks for the beautiful post. F1T

  5. It is unfortunate that most people do not speak a variety of languages; few audiences would understand a polyglot fiction piece. James Joyce tried more than once, with dubious, yet intellectually acclaimed success. A linguistically adept author might find a more superb or subtle word or phrase from those fruits, as long as they were not forbidden. Such mixing brings color, spice, and passion in cleaer focus: “Yo quiero vacuum cleaner” has such a different feel than “I want a vacuum cleaner.” Is the world ready for it? Your thoughts, please.

  6. J.R.Barker says:

    When words fail there are images but even images fail where there are people.
    You can’t put the whole of a person on paper, no matter how you try; there is always a light, a flaw a snippet of history that defines a person, all these things can never be contained within one sentence, although it is a true joy to try.

  7. roweeee says:

    have thought about this alot lately with my recnet health setbacks and wondering how much to share and with whom. How to express that on my blog. It is not healthy to keep all those emotions bottled up inside. LIttle by little, they need to be shared even for people who are much more private than I. We need to connect with others and be a part of humanity. xx ro

  8. It’s like my own private revolution to be like everyone else…..

  9. Words to ponder over a good cuppa coffee!!!!

    Take care and God Bless :-) Kenny T

  10. It is true, but one reason the observations may not be put into words is failure to comprehend everything, see everything, hear it all, and be able to structure it in words.

  11. Yes yes yes. I completely feel the same way. Sometimes words can’t come close to what we feel, yet that’s why we write isn’t? To try to grasp some idea of what we felt and how we would say it if we could.

  12. Papa Tony says:

    Such lovely words. I have often felt the same especially in regard to beauty and love. Thanks for sharing.

  13. “We want to string a few sentences together and define who we are and what we want.” Yes, I’ve felt this, and yet, once we define in words what we are or were, we’ve become something else. We are ever-changing with words, with experiences, with emotions.

    Time present and time past
    Are both perhaps present in time future
    And time future contained in time past.
    If all time is eternally present
    All time is unredeemable.

    Words move, music moves
    Only in time; but that which is only living
    Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
    Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
    Can words or music reach
    The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
    Moves perpetually in its stillness.
    Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
    Not that only, but the co-existence,
    Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
    And the end and the beginning were always there
    Before the beginning and after the end.
    And all is always now. Words strain,
    Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
    Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
    Will not stay still.

    T.S.Eliot, Burnt Norton (Four Quartets)

    Thank you for your poignant reflection.

  14. Madhuri says:

    Just WOW !!!! I’m constantly looking for words to express what I really feel and often fall short ! my favourite line from this post, “Just offer people a glimpse into your soul and hope that they can see and feel what you see and feel? Why wouldn’t that be enough?” Loved this ! Thank you.


  15. Sometimes I have trouble verbalizing profound thoughts on the spot. However, when writing they seem to manifest themselves with less effort. Strange because when we write we bare our souls in a manner that’s akin to being naked on a busy city street.
    Your last line is similar to some dialog from a minor character in the film “Shadowlands”. It’s about the later life of C.S. Lewis. No less profound.

  16. We are unique, but we share similarities with some people, too. Hm…that’s something amusing, don’t you think?

  17. LK Hattinen says:

    This is true, but we should also bear in mind the fact that everyone views things differently. Should you ever find the perfect words to accurately describe your emotion, there’s no guarantee that anyone else would read them with quite the same interpretation.

  18. Hi! I just wanted to let you know that I have nominated your blog for Shauny Award of Blogging Excellence! I wrote a post about it on the link below, congratulations!! http://letsmakeupgirl.com/2014/01/03/shauny-award-for-blogging-excellence-thank-you/
    Thank you for posting such good pieces, I really enjoy reading them

  19. rjbuxton says:

    That eternal struggle of the artist to get his thoughts down onto the canvas. There aren’t all the colours in our pallette or words in our vocabulary to enable us to express ourselves fully. It is what makes us give up, yet compels us to return again and again to the same piece, It drives some to despair, depression, drink. To seek the enlightenment of an altered mind state, or the shield of oblivion.

    And yet, perversely, to achieve our goal often means that we have compromised. Accepting our limitations and understanding that a good second-best always beats not finishing.

  20. nirvanaamjad says:

    Lovely post, something to ponder over!

  21. As an art writer, I encounter this quite often. From the beginning of any art history program, you are taught to translate visuals into words, which I’m told is something of a rare skill set. I like to think I’m pretty good at it by now, and yet sometimes I get extremely frustrated because I don’t feel that my words accurately convey the art I’m writing about. I never know if it’s because I haven’t done a good job in my writing or because some works of art defy verbal communication.

  22. Yoshiko says:

    True that certain depths of feeling can’t be expressed clearly with words


  23. Language is so limited. It is a reflection of only one aspect of the mind, but there are so many intricacies that diction, connotation, and syntax can’t contain. Our minds will keep peering into the infinite nature of the universe with limited ability to portray what we see to those around us.

  24. Wittgenstein! He wrote a whole book about it.

  25. ROCAVENEN says:

    Waw…. I in shock right know. I totally and completely agree with this amazing post! Congratulations for your ability on writting! I’m a new follower!!!

  26. Oh, how true. I feel better for knowing I’m not alone, but I also feel sad to know that other people feel the way I do when I’m down. I struggle to put some feelings into words, sometimes there aren’t enough words, or the right words, or I can’t get the words out. But art speaks without words. The image of the girl studying is so beautiful, it has had a profound effect on my but I can’t explain it to myself let alone others. Who is it by?

  27. What can’t be expressed in words, music will complete. It cuts to the soul of all, especially for those who loose their words through dementia.

  28. amandagrey1 says:

    Beautifully written! I love this!

  29. M T McGuire says:

    Great post. For what it’s worth, for the most part, I just have to hint and hope that the person reading feels it the way I want them to. ;-)

    I will probably spend my entire life trying to be articulate and I’ll never show what I feel… but then, I may not realise either.



  30. Jen says:

    Such comfort in knowing I am not unique. Less pressure to be special, to stand out.

  31. Yes :) I would add that dance, visual art and music do the same sort of soul baring, communicating and connecting. Wordlessness is available as a form of human expression.

  32. leamuse says:

    When words fail me, there are other ways of reaching out and communicating. Eyes express so much more than mere words. A hug, a hand to hold…
    A wonderful post and something to think about and see where we take it in this New Year. :)

    Bonne année et bonne santé!

  33. As for me, I meditate and pray. I allow my silence to be my comfort to take in and be inspired.

  34. amandainadress says:

    I was thinking today about the power of words, and how much I love them. They’re my favorite intrusment; I love stringing them together and learning new ones. It’s challenging sometimes to piece them together in order to accurately convey a feeling; maybe nearly impossible. Despite that, I love seeing the effort. It may be hard/impossible to describe certain things up to the merit they deserve, but the attempt creates beautiful results.

  35. This is really, really lovely x

  36. I’ve noticed that words can sometimes have a negative effect on my memories. For instance, if I write about something, the memory of the original event is then limited to the words and can’t be extended because, as you pointed out, it dissapates.

    • By writing about certain events we turn them into stories. In a way, we can even deny that those events even took place. Writing allows us to hide by exposing the truth… if that makes any sense. It allows us to hide behind words, behind stories and characters and what everyone thinks it’s made belief.

  37. ERMurray says:

    A lovely post which touches on many important, thoughtful points. I read and reread – your words certainly expressed what you wanted to say with grace and skill. I look forward to reading more.

  38. In art criticism we refer to the unexpressible as ‘sublime.’

  39. C.J. Black says:

    Really liked this post, yes words & writing are great companions when escaping to my den each day, fair enough some days are less successful than others but never give up on the thought process is my firm philosophy.

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