Miscellaneous

Words can be like X-rays, if you use them properly – they’ll go through anything.

Speaking very slowly, “Did you ever feel,” he asked, “as though you had something inside you that was only waiting for you to give it a chance to come out? Some sort of extra power that you aren’t using–you know, like all the water that goes down the falls instead of through the turbines?” He looked at Bernard questioningly.

“You mean all the emotions one might be feeling if things were different?”

Helmholtz shook his head. “Not quite. I’m thinking of a queer feeling I sometimes get, a feeling that I’ve got something important to say and the power to say it–only I don’t know what it is, and I can’t make any use of the power. If there was some different way of writing … Or else something else to write about …” He was silent; then, “You see,” he went on at last, “I’m pretty good at inventing phrases–you know, the sort of words that suddenly make you jump, almost as though you’d sat on a pin, they seem so new and exciting even though they’re about something hypnopædically obvious. But that doesn’t seem enough. It’s not enough for the phrases to be good; what you make with them ought to be good too.”

“But your things are good, Helmholtz.”

“Oh, as far as they go.” Helmholtz shrugged his shoulders. “But they go such a little way. They aren’t important enough, somehow. I feel I could do something much more important. Yes, and more intense, more violent. But what? What is there more important to say? And how can one be violent about the sort of things one’s expected to write about? Words can be like X-rays, if you use them properly–they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced. That’s one of the things I try to teach my students–how to write piercingly. But what on earth’s the good of being pierced by an article about a Community Sing, or the latest improvement in scent organs? Besides, can you make words really piercing–you know, like the very hardest X-rays–when you’re writing about that sort of thing? Can you say something about nothing? That’s what it finally boils down to. I try and I try …”

Chapter 4, Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

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