It is common to assert that actions speak louder than words. Words can define or clarify a circumstance. Often they expand understanding in a way that can be overlooked in the simple act of living. Actions happen in real time. They are quick, spontaneous events. We refer to a sequence of events, in which we are involved, as experience. Some experiences are more memorable than others. We remember things that are important to us. Words are symbols. They represent objects, events. When in use, words force us to slow down to consider these events, including our own experience. We repeat to one another that a picture is worth a thousand words. How much substance can you cram into a thousand words? The Gettysburg Address is far less than a thousand words. How many words are contained in the Bill of Rights? There are thoughtful, inspired, even sublime observations by artists, scientists, statesmen, others that weigh in well under a thousand words. Most poems number under a thousand words. And song lyrics. Opening lines and summary closings of foundational literature are generally short of a thousand words. Add to these the writings of Confucius, Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard, Gandhi, King, world religions, fill in your favorites. And then there are the countless piles of private letters, sent and unsent, as well as diary entrees, the large majority of which would number less than a thousand words. Is a still picture, frozen in time, such as a drawing, painting or photograph worth a thousand words? What about invented moving images, such as movies or theatre? Are they worth a thousand words? Or do we mean that our visual frame of reference, at any given moment, is worth a thousand words? There must be a reason that humans find it necessary to compare different forms of representation.
A Collection of Writings on Nature, Science, and Art by John Holland