All the words!

All the words I’ve stored on shelves all around! There must be millions. Surely the books in this house alone number in the thousands: There are 37 just on my Ray Bradbury shelf (36 Bradbury books and A Christmas Carol), one of eight bookshelves on the walls of this room and not counting the bookcases behind me and next to and above my computer.

All those words, all those stories, and words of advice and encouragement, and words arranged for no other purpose than to spark an image or emotion such are poems.

All those words and just in this house, and words miniaturized and packed in electronic storage with music and photos and other images. We carry libraries in the palms of our hands — the accumulated wisdom of humanity and our hopes and dreams and goals and accomplishments. We stack them along walls and store them in boxes because those lives mattered, and the lives they described and encountered along the way.

I could despair because evil still exists anyway: After trillions and quadrillions of words accumulating wisdom have been preserved and shared, people still choose evil and hatred and murder and all the other ugliness that humanity can muster. I could despair if I thought too long about it, if I let my mind linger on the evil.

But for all the ugliness and evil, there are millions and trillions of words defying the worst of us. My eyes rest on Cyrano de Bergerac, and I remember how my heart lifted and my eyes leaked as he stood in the garden with his lady love, defiant to the end, proud of his white plume of honor.

I see Dandelion Wine in stereo — paperback and hardcover — and I run with Douglas Spaulding all over his small town in the magical summer of 1928 discovering time machines and risking The Ravine and being a kid in the most marvelous time of his life.

I see the sturdy volumes of collected comic books from the second decade of my life, and some from before I was born, and I am rediscovering Peter Parker and mean old J. Jonah Jameson and finding the Fantastic Four again, 15 months after we moved away from the town where the pharmacy where comic books were sold by the dozen was a mere bike ride away, and the team had lost their powers and blind Daredevil was their only friend and defense against Doctor Doom himself.

There are Laurence Sterne and E.E. Cummings, who defied convention and put the words any which way but always in ways that had meaning to decipher and to delight.

There are the Baseball Encyclopedia and the Leonard Maltin Movie and Video Guides of 1999 and 2001, fat volumes of statistics and history that connect me to Christy Mathewson and Orson Welles and Babe Ruth and Ed Wood and Dom DiMaggio and Roger Corman.

I see The Fountainhead, and I see a biography of Gandhi, and I see all the memories, all the delights and discoveries and horrors and lessons, all the words.

I cannot despair when so many men and women have put so many words in places to be discovered and cherished and spread to the universe, such words as could only be interpreted to say this creature we call human is capable of such grandeur and such peace and such magnificence, that it’s impossible for evil and ugliness to conquer the world — they may gain a foothold here and there, but love and beauty endure.

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