I don’t know if everyone has favorite words, or that’s a writer thing, or a me thing, but I that’s one of mine. It’s been since sometime in my teen years, floating around in my head, rearing up in odd moments.
I love the way it sounds, I love what it means; it encapsulates more than breaking. Violent, presumably irrevocable destruction is implied, yet, also, a breaking out of proportion with the act from which it sprang.
Shatter has so many possibilities.
When I was young, I loved LEGOs. I built spaceships with them. They had stories. They had personalities, histories, and, as a child, I was invested in them. They were precious things to be protected. They were also, periodically, knocked to the floor.
A crash, and the pieces would scatter across our wood floors, clattering as they slid improbably far. Even then, some part of my mind was caught up in the fact that a fall of three feet could send something ten feet across the floor and under a bed.
Shatter was the beginning.
Reaching beneath the furniture, consulting with the encyclopedic memory of youth, the process would begin of tracking down every broken piece and returning them to their position.
Shatter is irrevocable, though, and the ships never came back together quite the same way. Instead, they evolved. The destruction opened up new possibilities. In this way their stories moved forward. These ships with names, and their crews. From alien worlds they rose, different than before. Sometimes two ships became one. Sometimes one became several. Either way, in destruction there was rebirth.
One trip back from college I took one of those shatterproof bowls from my car, and demonstrated to my dad how unbreakable it was by dropping onto the concrete.
To my chagrin, when it hit the ground, it shattered.
It broke energetically, pieces flying out every which way, in long, curving shards, nearly a series of concentric circles. I kept the largest piece for half a decade before it broke again. I still have a piece of it somewhere. It’s still one of the most oddly beautiful things I’ve ever encountered. See, it broke in concentric rings, shattered along the lines of the resonance within it; destroyed by its own strength. The largest piece looked like nothing so much as a crown, high and spiked, austere and lovely. If Aris had a crown, it would have been made from this broken bowl.
It’s a process that repeats today. I finish a story, even a book, and I drop it. . . to see if it shatters. I rebuild it from the pieces, some words lost, some kept. . . some of the best stories I’ve ever written were lost. I’d remember them, and go back to find them, only to realize they died with a site membership or a hard drive.
Diving into the crevices of my memory in search of all the little scattered words I go. Little-by-little the story comes back together, different, better, more than it was. Sometimes they crash together, combine, sometimes they split. Everything I’ve ever written has been broken and rebuilt over and over.
And we, we’re the same. Sooner or later we all shatter. No matter how strong we are, something is too much, and all the pieces go everywhere. So much of our lives, our happiness, is not determined by any events but by how adept we are into finding all the best pieces of ourselves and building them into something new.
I like it, it’s a good word, shatter.