William Burroughs and Words


Seminal artists always serve a valuable place in our lives. They shift our perspective, get us to question the way we see, the way we feel, the way we value. Whether it is rearranging our ideas of the past, understanding the way we travel around the present, or indeed how we face the future.

Seminal artists are also personal. Yes, there are generalities and specifics that we can all agree upon, but there are also many aspects of a seminal artist that are personalised to the individual. We all see what we want to see, because we all get what we want and need from that artist.

To me, the writer William Burroughs gave me the space to question, and more specifically, to question words. All the words that ever were, all the words that are, and all the words that ever will be.

Burroughs taught me how important words are, how they can be used and reused, how they can be manipulated and stretched in order to serve good and ill, sometimes both at the same time. He taught me that words have power, much more than their sounds or letters.

Words definitely have a power and a resonance. Words were there long before this lifetime, just as they are there long after. Words are not truly immortal, written or spoken words die just like everything else dies, Personal immortality is an illusion, check out any bulldozed cemetery to experience that illusion up close. 

A writer of words cannot outlast the life of the physical world, nor should they want to. All books eventually crumble to dust, all cities dissolve, all planets are eventually embraced by their star. However, different words spoken by different people across a thousand, or a thousand thousand years, will resonate with new people, new lives, different perspectives. 

So just as I resonate with something that William Burroughs thought and wrote in my lifetime, a different William Burroughs may well write something similar, or something entirely different in a hundred lifetimes, and that is the beauty of words. 

They are always with us, they are always vibrating in the ether, always making us think, or unthink, making us understand, or overstand, making us question the wordsmith, or making us compliant to the wordsmith. Good and bad. Words are just words, it is how they are used that is important, and how we react to them, even more important. 

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