It drives me crazy when a writer says something is “indescribable.” (This peeve is second only to any use whatsoever of the word “utilize.”) I guess it would be one thing for a plumber or an astrophysicist to say they can’t describe something … but a writer? A writer’s job is to describe things.
Utilizing the word “indescribable” is indescribably lame.
Lover that I am of words and writing, I deeply appreciate an articulate and artful description of an experience or a feeling or a flower. It can take my breath away to read something and feel a recognition of the familiar or an illumination of the unknown. I love the human connection of words that give me a feeling of YES, that is what that feels like or YES, I see that now.
And yet, I do understand that the moment I choose one word over another, I have automatically narrowed whatever it is that I am describing. As soon as I put words to anything, it becomes a little more confined, a little more limited.
We’ve all had experiences that have left us speechless: from awe to surprise to shock to love to grief. There is an expansiveness in those experiences, a sense of suspension. In those times, there really are no words. And those times have a distinct sensation.
It feels essential to be willing to spend time in those expansive, wordless moments. To really look at something beautiful, to hold someone you love, to lose someone you love and to hang suspended in that wordless place. My mind will want to rush in and tell a story or distract me, but sometimes, I do my best to hold my focus on the wordless sensation.
In a day when news is instant and screens run with layers of ticker tape information, it feels nourishing to choose to feel without description. Breathing in and allowing my mind to float without words restores me. As the cacophony quiets, spending time without words can lead to insight.
I sometimes choose to go without words not because something is “indescribable” but because to describe it changes it and makes it smaller. Going without words can clarify. Going without words can distill a sensation or experience to an essential understanding that may have been lost in a torrent of talking.
At some point, communicating and describing is important for connection.
Before then, it’s worthwhile to hang in the space of no words.