C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite authors and thinkers, once wrote: "Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very;' otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite."
I think of this quote often, especially whenever I try to pick an adjective to describe something. This process played out a few moments ago, when my friend Carol snapped me a video of a gala at a retirement home. Even as I typed the previous sentence, I fought the urge to describe it as “really lovely” or “nice.” Was it, in reality, “lovely?” How could it be that a video of old people dancing around a room made me think of "love," the most passionate and powerful of emotions and, yet, simultaneously conjured the faint-hearted "nice," a bland word that has ceased to really mean anything at all.
It seems like our world today is propelled by overwrought and undervalued language. People throw out words like "amazing" and "incredible" like they’re pennies. They pertain to everything, "This flavor of gum is amazing!" and, therefore, nothing. If you said something was just "good" or "fine," someone might even think that you're upset. "How are you?" "Fine." "Are you sure?"
The word "good" is supposed to be (I'm struggling to write here without using improper descriptors) a way to express that something is positive or upright. With the way that words are used now, "good" has been bleached and it seems like a weaker, floppier version of what it once was. Things now are "awful" and "disgusting".
Each and every headline reads like a punch to the gut or a slap to the face. You’re meant to feel this. "30 Shocking Secrets About Disney That Will Destroy You." "24 People You’ll Never Trust Again." "42 Ways I Hope to Play with Your Emotions." Media today is a confusing labyrinth of over-electrified content. Is it that everything has just gotten more exceptional to us or that we've gotten a little worse at seeing what truly is "good?" Maybe we’re settling for those lesser goods because we’ve ceased to notice the things that are truly awe-inspiring. Maybe we need to really try to search out that "something really infinite."