Common Ground: The Kinship of Metaphysicians
A syncretic approach to esoteric teachings - the golden threads that connect Pagans, Yogis, Rosicrucians and Masons.
Gee, I Wasn't Feeling Bad Until You Told Me How I Look!
(Introductory Disclaimer: As usual, please remember that this blog is an expression of my own personal opinions, based on observations gleaned from my own peculiar experience. At no point do I claim to speak for all Neopagans, nor do I insist that any reader must agree with me.)
Often, when deserving people are profiled in the media so their community can raise money for their relief, their gratitude is tempered by the unpleasant realization of how pathetic everyone thinks they are! Until some well-meaning reporter put their situation into words, they had just been doing what was needed to survive. Words hadn't been employed, yet, to embarrass them.
From Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Eat, Pray, Love: "The Yogic sages say that all the pain of a human life is caused by words, as is all the joy. We create words to define our experience and those words bring attendant emotions that jerk us around like dogs on a leash."
How true! As a life-long wordsmith (reader, writer, Shakespearean actor, teacher), it is embarrassing to me that I cannot read a poetically written passage out loud to my wife, without choking up. That isn't supposed to happen to professionally trained actors; we are supposed to be in control of our voices and our emotions! But the words—not the experience they describe, but the heartbreaking words themselves—jerk me around like a dog on a leash. Like our parents who lived through World War II, I might be able to survive a terrible life experience, but I cannot bear to utter the words which describe it. That is why, I suspect, most veterans of that war took their secret memories with them to their graves.
To do justice to beautiful literary passages so I can share them with my wife or other significant audiences, I need to rehearse them thoroughly—a hundred times or more, until the words drop fluidly from my mouth with each nuance properly mastered. This is what I did with the dozen or more Shakespearean audition pieces I memorized forty-three years ago and can still recite perfectly today. Those are among the most moving collections of words that a human being ever put on vellum, but I am in control of them, now; they no longer control me.
Someone like me would never suggest that words are bad; but they definitely have their proper time, place and usage. Words are like nuclear energy—they can produce great benefits or horrible destruction. Depending on the agenda of the user, they can enlighten people with glimpses of divine truth, or they can deceive them into believing the most evil of lies.
Throughout history, words have been used to justify going to war. Sometimes the inflammatory events they described had really taken place; often, however, they had not. Either way, war was still declared. And the public which supported it thought their government was taking the only path open under the circumstances. They had been persuaded not by any first-hand experience of reality, but by a skillful manipulation of words.
Consequently, we wordsmiths bear a great moral responsibility...a responsibility that too many betray in order to make money. My wife and I would have been great ad writers on Madison Avenue, and we could have derived rich incomes from that business. But we were both put off by the realization that most creative writers who had gone into that profession were prostituting their talent to promote products which they would never use themselves. (Gone are the days when an honest artist like Stan Freberg would use his sparkling wit to promote something he believed in while obviously satirizing something else which he did not.)
A skillful use of words can seem to promise benefits or guarantees, though a careful analysis of those words will show that no actual warranties had been made for which the sponsor could be held legally liable. So the facile writer and his corporate employer get off scot-free, while the trusting consumer—who didn't pay that much attention to how the language was being used—is stuck with the remorse of a naive purchase. Don't blame the manipulative sales techniques, blame their victim; Buyer Beware! This is the Free Enterprise system, citizen. Grow up and get used to it.
We chose not to participate in the advertising game, for it would have been far too tempting to make deals with the devil. And we suffered financially because of our choice. As Mark Twain observed, it's a damned inconvenience to be poor. But at least we can sleep at night.
Madison Avenue aside, age has taught me that the words people utter in everyday life are the emotional expression of their momentary perception—but I don't have to agree with that perception. Maybe the speaker is having a rotten day, which affects everything he or she sees.
If I'm feeling perfectly fine but somebody asks, "What's the matter? You look sad and rundown," I don't have to give those words the power to make me feel sad and rundown. I can just shrug my shoulders and laugh. "What's the matter with me? Nothing at all; what's the matter with you, that you have to be so passive-aggressive? And, by the way, thanks for trying to ruin my day; that was very helpful."
People don't usually mean it that way; they're just too apt to say whatever pops into their mind, without thinking about the effect it might have. But words are energy. We need to be aware of this human failing, and insulate ourselves against the harmful radiation of thoughtlessly chosen words.
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