on Helping Writers Become Authors :
Years ago, I was hiking with someone around the Scotts Bluff National Monument in western Nebraska. A bird flew over our heads, black against a metallic July sky. A lover of all things beautiful, my hiking partner was the first to point it out.
I shaded my eyes. “Cool. What do think it is?”
He shrugged. “Don’t ask that. It diminishes it if you name it. If you have to put it in a box to understand it, you limit your understanding.”
He seemed to have a point. His comment was something I considered for a long time after that day—before realizing I completely disagreed with it.
Even today, I’m not sure what that bird was. I remember it as a black blob against the sky. I remember the feeling it gave me, seeing it floating lazily on a thermal. But I don’t actually remember the bird. If I’d recognized the bird as a vulture—or a bald eagle—or a red-winged hawk, then I’d probably remember him.
This is the value of language. Indeed, we might even say language is a value system. By its very nature, it assigns value to all the pieces of our life, and by extension to life itself.