“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly – they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” ~ Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
“We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.” ~ Swami Vivekananda
I’ve been thinking a great deal about words and their meanings since I had an online conversation the other day with a college friend about a meme she posted. I won’t included the entire meme, but here’s a bit that I took exception to: “Jesus … was anti-wealth, ant-death penalty … was never anti-gay, …”
Now I can’t argue with the sentiment of the meme. It was implying that Jesus loved, where some people hate. No, what I took exception to was the word ANTI. If, as I believe, Jesus was a man of peace and love, then he wouldn’t be anti anything. That’s not to say that he didn’t want to right wrongs or hold people accountable. But the word anti implies combat. You can’t have combat and win peace. Well my friend and I had a lively few exchanges about that in which I related something I learned in a teacher training that expressed my take on the uselessness of combat.
The workshop was on classroom management. That means how we teachers keep our students working and not goofing off. This particular workshop suited my style perfectly. It was on the Fred Jones method, in which the teacher never nags students to do their work. Instead he or she walks around the room while the students are working saying nothing. If a student isn’t doing their work, the teacher simply walks up to them with a neutral face, remains silent, staying until the student gets busy. I loved it and used it in my classroom of high school students to great effect. I rarely got into arguments with my students, because when you argue no one wins.
I decided to end the conversation with my friend when I realized I was not going to change her mind, nor she mine. But the conversation stayed with me. It’s one of lots of little interactions I’ve had lately that have a kind of theme. We get a notion into our heads. If it suits us, whether it’s right or wrong, we cling to it, never question it, and defend it sometimes at a high cost.
I know I’m no different from anyone else. I have things I believe and when my beliefs are challenged, I don’t like it. I feel threatened, and uncomfortable. But, I’m different than other people too, because my father taught me to question everything. Doing that can be very uncomfortable. It feels like my inner anchors are being pulled up and I’m adrift at sea with no land in sight. But, though I’d like to stay comfortably holding my old beliefs, something bigger is tugging at my consciousness telling me to take a closer look at all the things I thought I knew. And at this turbulent time, I feel like I need to be looking for ways to contribute to peace and love rather than hate and fear. Which means I’ve got to do lots of examination of my belief system.
After my online conversation, I remembered a story Wayne Dyer told about Mother Teresa. She was once invited to speak at an anti-war rally. But she responded by saying something like, “I will not attend anything that has anti as it’s intent. If, however, you choose to have a rally for peace, I will be happy to attend.” That story has stayed with me ever since I heard it. I want to always be FOR good causes, not against situations I don’t like. I don’t want to condemn anyone, because as my father also taught me, people who do terrible things are fearful and wounded. I don’t believe we can help them heal by condemning, or shaming them. But we can use a version of the Fred Jones method of discipline. We can stand in front of them in silence.
Another meme I saw this week showed a practical way we can do this. It was about a group of protesters in Turkey, who just stood in complete silence, creating, as the meme states, “a calm curiosity, instead of tension and aggression.” Deep down most of us know the difference between what’s the right thing to do, and what’s wrong. Sometimes we just need someone to remind us.
Another interesting, seemingly unrelated thing happened to me as a result of my contemplations about words and their meanings.
On Halloween morning as I was meditating, I had a huge aha moment. I’ve been struggling writing my second novel. For quite some time I’ve made little progress. I blamed it on working on my friend’s, and my audiobooks, on doing the No Pants Project homework, on teaching my class. But the real reason I was stalled was because my emotions about being a woman, and having to navigate through a world dominated by men are so tangled, that I don’t have the words to express my frustrations, and sometimes even rage over them. The two main characters in my book are part of their respective women’s movements. I’m trying to show how they are affected by their efforts against misogyny. But I’ve had trouble finding the words to express what I want to say. I’m not even sure I know what I want to say.
I do know this, I can’t find the words if I don’t sit down everyday and dig deep into my own emotions on the subject. Sometimes I want everything to just be sunshine and light, but a woman I follow on YouTube, Jenny Burack, said recently, “The dark always serves the light.” We can’t find joy if we don’t struggle with all the negative emotions that we try so hard to suppress. The stories I enjoy the most are ones where the characters face their demons and come out into the light at the end. I have to do that now as I work on this book full of complicated situations and emotions.
Words, words, words. They are such an imperfect way to express concepts and emotions, but they’re almost all we’ve got to communicate with. As a writer, I’ll keep examining their deeper meanings.
Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it. I hope you enjoy your weekend.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018
Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.