When I came across Maya Angelou’s quote – ‘WORDS MEAN MORE THAN WHAT IS SET DOWN ON PAPER. IT TAKES A HUMAN VOICE TO INFUSE THEM WITH SHADES OF DEEPER MEANING’ it inspired me and generated quite a number of ideas which I have elaborated below under subtitles.
Actions speak louder than words
Words written on paper are merely theoretical until they are given power with a ‘Human voice’ which in turn has force to fill the air with words. To change the world for the better, actions are required and words set on paper need to have a voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning. People need to hear a voice to determine whether an action should be taken forward or not. Thus verbal expressions have more power to reach hearts than words read silently from a paper. Not everyone is literate enough to read, but generally people have the ability to speak and yet not everyone is a good speaker. Nevertheless, the majority are made aware with word of mouth, through speeches, television and drama, radios, concerts, theatres, political platforms, schools and colleges etc. As a result the human voice has the ability to infuse the words with shades of deeper meaning.
I believe that oral words are deeply ingrained in the memory whereas written words might slide away and not move the reader profoundly. Great speakers have the skill to read the written word using the expressions with fluency, such that it makes an influential impact on the listener. Factors such as the accent, tone of voice, actions, the passion and persuasion with which the speech is delivered, the enthusiasm shared will all determine the message with deeper shades of meaning. It may give a feeling of excitement and depth or merely boredom depending on the speaker. Hence, speech has more force on a listener than words read silently by a reader who is alone.
Everything and everyone needs a voice to be heard. Poetry would not sound as fascinating if not for a passionate voice reciting it with all its rhymes and rhythm giving it due justice. A famous quote says it all ‘Poetry is music written for the human voice’ (1989 In ‘The Power of the Word’, Public Broadcasting Service, 15 Sep.) To elaborate further on this I’ll shed light on an excerpt from Maya Angelou’s book-‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ where the above quote was actually derived from.
She opened the first page and I heard poetry for the first time in my life. “It was the best of times and the worst of times . . .” Her voice slid in and curved down through and over the words. She was nearly singing. I wanted to look at the pages. Were they the same that I had read? Or were there notes, music, lined on the pages, as in a hymn book? Her sounds began cascading gently.
Mrs. Flowers (the reciter of the poem) had entranced the little girl Marguerite with the recital of the poem rhythmically, such that the girl was marveling long after Mrs. Flowers stopped reciting. Her musical voice had won the little girl’s heart for poetry.
Therefore it’s true for all. A song sounds lifeless with its lyrics read on its own until given energy with a soothing and emotional voice. A movie script or play is just another tale if not given a meaningful performance with the sound of various artistes’ voices, unfolding the message to be conveyed. Fairy-tales read by children who do not understand half the words in them would never have the same effect on children if not expressed in the most interesting way by the narrators in their life e.g. a grandmother, mother or teacher. Holy scripts and divine messages of any religion would not motivate as much to practice if not for the inspiring voice of a preacher. A face to face confession with a strong voice would be better than one read in a letter as it would provide better expressions and feelings of the confessor and make its mark.
A poem can be voiced rhythmically, a script dramatically, a speech passionately, a story enthusiastically, a song tunefully, a confession convincingly, a sermon persuasively. The human voice is thus exceptional in infusing the words with shades of deeper meaning.
Taking an example of Friedrich Nietzsche quotes (German classical Scholar, Philosopher and Critic of culture, 1844-1900): “We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us.”
An idea would be accepted or rejected depending on the tone of the voice. The voice that persuaded or was doubtful, influenced or was reserved, inspired or dull, informed or ignorant, spoke the truth or lied, provoked or senseless. Whichever the case, the exact meaning will be verified by the different voices to decide on the outcome. For instance, he who reads an authoritative speech by a leader of a certain country in a newspaper, but wasn’t present while the actual speech was delivered will have a different and unsatisfactory perception. While one who heard the speech with all the might in the voice of the leader would be affected positively or negatively. Since human memory is more perceptible to what is said and heard than what is read.
Contemplating on one woman’s voice that moved many during a speech in Harvard ‘When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful’ – Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai- a 16 year old girl from the Swat Valley region of Pakistan and an international symbol for women’s education. She raised her courageous voice to change the world and bring education to restricted areas.
Malala’s voice was sympathetic to the women of the world regarding education as she strove to push for extensive education in countries where access to schools, specifically for women, is limited or denied. Thus proving the point that words are infused with deeper shades of meanings with a human voice as her idea was accepted by majority. If her words were merely set down on paper, she would not have achieved her goals as efficiently as she did with her voice.
Comparing internet to schools/colleges
Students who learn through lecturers are brighter than those who learn through the internet. Students stay alert when lessons are read aloud by the lecturer as this inspires them and promotes academic responsibility compared to ones who work online in a one-dimensional world. In classrooms, students live in a multidimensional world sharing excitement as views are exchanged, questions raised, discussions done freely all with the supremacy of voices.
Students are more prone to be motivated through practical learning and impressive lectures than boring online courses that require a lot of reading on their own. Why? A lecturer who presents an idea with the force of his personality overcomes the internal resistance of his students. While impersonal transactions can ruin one’s obsession to continue learning in online courses.
Finally, a poem I wrote to pay tribute and conclude the quote:
Voices in the air
A voice is a universe for words,
A voice is a palace for words,
A voice is a weapon for words,
A voice is gift for words,
A voice can comfort and heal,
A voice can hurt and split,
A voice can thrive to ascertain,
A voice can provoke and threaten,
A word is a voice for the voiceless,
And humans are voices for the words,
Each of us needs a voice to be heard,
And so does a human voice to be heard.