I started writing this blog post nearly a week ago, and I did so with the intent of publishing the piece and sharing it on social media platforms in order to maintain a consistent presence–something critical for any blogger desiring viewership. Yet, as parenthood has proven in its short five weeks, a little free time here and there can be hard to come by and even more challenging to capitalize on when temptations of relaxation press upon the soul. Regardless, I have found that the best way to clear the mind is to address what lies within, and Eric Church’s “Kill a Word” is a song weighing heavily on my mind lately (Eric Church, “Kill a Word”). Every time that I hear the lyrics grace my dashboard, I am instantaneously motivated, inspired, and forced to reflect, look forward, and consider all of life’s gifts and challenges. So when this song again streamed through my radio speakers this morning on my way to work, I knew I had to finish what I had started.
Church opens his billboard hit with the following wish:
If I could kill a word and watch it die
I’d poison never, shoot goodbye
And beat regret when I felt I had the nerve
Yeah, I’d pound fear to a pile of sand
Choke lonely out with my bare hands
And I’d hang hate so that it can’t be heard
If I could only kill a word
The chilling truth is much more complicated than Church’s words suggest. While we’ve all felt the pangs of pain leave stinging and irreversible marks on our hearts, many of us have probably also wished that we could travel back in time and change the circumstances under which we experienced the darkness that life can usher without notice. Still, changing what once happened is not Church’s only focus–if at all. I am convinced that his song envisions an entirely different type of existence–a type of living that calls on man’s best self. A type of living that extinguishes the very flames that make possible words we’d rather leave behind in exchange for those more desirable.
Words like “never,” “goodbye,” “regret,” “fear,” “lonely,” and “hate” exist not only due to the rise of complex human emotions that have inevitably helped dictate how we coexist, but also because we have given those words the power, momentum, and ability to affect how we treat each other. We like to blame the advents of technology and modern living for our transgressions and shortcomings, but in doing so we often overlook that we are responsible for creating such an environment.
When we strip down the world to examine its most basic and primitive traits, it is quite obvious that few, if any, of its qualities have traction without the forces that propel them. So it seems rudimentary that we should try our best to live with aims of being productive, positive, and inclusive members of the places we inhabit. Still, even our best efforts are subject to necessary temptations–those very desires that make worthy the achievements we celebrate. Church’s song addresses these attractions, too. He says of temptation, evil, and other unfavorable traits:
I’d knock out temptation’s teeth
I’d sever evil, let it bleed
Then light up wicked, stand and watch it burn
I’d take vice and I’d take vile
And tie ’em up there with hostile
Hang ’em high and leave ’em for the birds
If I could only kill a word
Such wanting to knock out undesirable words that represent suffering and pain showcases Church’s longing for a better world, better people, and less discomfort and misfortune. And knowing that his song will always remain a wish is exactly what makes it bittersweet. His vision is one that I can relate to, and I believe his advocacy for a stronger tomorrow is one that resonates with most everyone. Yet the tragic opportunity remains: we cannot kill words–but we can work to live and thrive among their presence and have a say among their impact.