People die and fade away. Even the personal memory of those who knew them fades. But there is one things that does not fade away: their words. What one writes down, continues to have resounding impact on the world many many years after the author has faded from the scene. Those who were most influential hundreds of years ago are still some of the most influential ones today through the things they have written. They continue to shape how people think and live, people they never would have met, people they never would have understood. This is the marvelous power of the written word.
Winston Spencer Churchill was a man who understood this very well. From his youngest years he understood that writing was the primary platform by which he could grab the attention of the world. Indeed he was accomplishing great and daring things for his country, but it is only by his writing about it that they would know about it. As he grew in his perspective of life and politics, he also grew in his ability to share his experiences and insights with the surrounding world in a captivating and compelling manner.
In a large sense, Churchill’s writings gave him an opportunity to build a platform of leadership and influence that no one could take away. There were numerous times in his life that he was alienated and isolated from politics and leadership. Yet just when everyone thought he was gone for good, he would reemerge on the stage at time time of great need. The reality is he never really left. He continued to have a resonant presence in the culture and life of the time through his articulate and insightful penmanship.
How do you deprive a man of his influence? You can shut his mouth, take away his freedom, his possessions, even try to destroy his reputation. But if his insight is genuine, and he still has his pen, he will rise from the dead every time. The written word keeps on speaking long after the author has stopped. It is an opportunity to grab hold of and frame ideas and inspirations that otherwise might have faded from the mind. It reaches the minds and hearts of people the author may never even know existed. There’s really no way to gauge the distance that one’s writings will go.
I am learning this even in my own life. The reason I read is that I fear my own ignorance. The reason I write is because I fear my forgetfulness, as well as the forgetfulness of the world around me. I want to solidify and crystalize some of the thoughts I have, to make them an inseparable and unfading part of how I think. I want to once again set before myself and others the things which matter, which are easily forgotten. I want to grab hold of that which grabs hold of me and share it with those around me in hopes that it may do the same for them.