The Picture? Or the Words? You Decide.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

But is it? Really? This is a maxim we've heard so often it's become part of our DNA. Maybe humankind has evolved one strand devoted to sayings like this, oft quoted, easily understood, with hazy authorship--probably penned by Shakespeare in one tragedy or another.

A picture is worth a thousand words--

Our familiarity with this phrase has nearly made it a fact. How easily it rolls off the tongue. And it does apply, in many cases. A hastily drawn map is many times more useful than the higgledy-piggledy directions of a stranger through the rolled down driver's side window. And one of the main selling points of Ikea furniture (in addition to the groovy Swedish words, so fun to mispronounce) is the artfully drawn assembly diagrams.

But in many other cases, the picture pales in comparison to the words, be they ever so many. And sure, you may say, likely opinion from a writer. What will you tell us next? The book is always better than the movie? As a matter of fact, yes--it is--in nearly every case. But that's fodder for a future post.

Consider these lines famously composed by Dylan Thomas

 Do not go gentle into that good night,
 Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
 Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

How could a singular image possibly compare to Thomas' raw emotion as he contemplates the impending death of his father?

And what about these lines from New England's own Robert Frost speaking to the individualist character so prized by Americans:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

How could a picture, no matter how artfully drawn, painted, or photographed, possibly express this sentiment? Two roads, a forest--yes. Easy. But the underlying meaning? Impossible. Frost didn't need a thousand words, but he did use a few.

So, for me, in most cases--I'd rather hear the words than see the picture. But I remain undecided on this one. Which is worth more?

The picture of the preschooler ...


... or the gruff mumblings of a surly teen: "I'm glad you're my mom. I love you."