Friday, January 27, 2017

The Way To A Better World

 "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." Eleanor Roosevelt

Imagine a world where we discussed positions and policy rather than made a game of throwing mud at the political candidate the other side supports. Most likely we could achieve workable compromise and consensus, and thus be able to side-step those politicians who really don't seem to represent any of us all that well.

Imagine media that discussed the important issues in a fair and intelligent manner rather than attempting to find the most inflammatory way of presenting things in order to boost their ratings.

Imagine that there was another option to either spewing hateful rhetoric or avoiding political discussions altogether. It would involve respect for your fellow citizens rather than judging those you know little to nothing about. Instead of assuming we know everything, we could feel free to admit our own ignorance of the lives others live. Admitting ignorance is, after all, the beginning of any kind of deeper understanding.

If you have imagined any of these things, congratulations, because imagining something is the first step in making it a reality. The excuses for not following through are many, the most often used one being that the other side is not playing fair. I would remind you of what your mother most assuredly told you when you were young: if everyone else jumped off a bridge would you do the same?

If you are on the side that is right, then it is incumbent upon you to be the bigger person. It is up to you to set the example, to set the bar a little higher, for it is each and every action we take that makes the world a better or worse place, each expression of faith or doubt that leads us closer to Heaven or Hell. Lowering the bar just gives others the excuse to do the same. It is in you that change begins, it is your great task in life to be a role model for others. You will not always see the influence you have on people but you must have faith that in doing good, in acting nobly, you will inspire goodness and nobility in others. And if you should ever be fortunate enough to discover that you have changed someone's life for the better by some small act of kindness or compassion, you will realize in that moment how little it cost you and how much it meant to someone else.

And that is the way we will make the world a better place. Sure, we all want instant gratification, we all want to do away with all the bad in the world but it is unrealistic to believe that it will happen in a way that we can predict or even comprehend. We need humility to understand that our role is so tiny, and we need faith to understand that we are not acting alone. We are each of us foot soldiers in a war larger than any we have fought before. It is a war without enemies except failed ideas and misdirected emotions. It will not be achieved through ignorance, hatred, arrogance, fear, or half-hearted efforts, but through an earnest desire to learn more, compassion for your fellow man (and woman), humility, faith, and commitment.

The way forward is not that complicated. Do good and have faith that others are doing their part. Have faith too that though there are undoubtedly others not doing their part, your example will lead them in the right direction. The road will be difficult and you will falter often, just as in any other endeavor. Some will disappoint you but many others will humble you in their successes and their sacrifices. A better world is out there, and I will accept no other answer than that we are on the road towards it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Part Of Me That Writes

I am happy when I am able to write and unhappy when I cannot. Usually it is the outside world, the many obligations one accumulates through the years or the multitude of distractions that are always there that makes it impossible to write. But sometimes, I stare at a blank page or my work in progress (WIP, for you fellow writers) and I am afraid. I am afraid of not being able to write, not being able to cross that line that separates the observer from the doer. There is a certain switch that needs to be flicked before I am able to unloose words upon a page and have them convey meaning. It is like having a certain ability and being afraid that it will someday desert you.

Ah, but when the words start to flow, I feel I am where I am meant to be. No, not words. I really don’t give a fig about words. I distrust writers who say how much they are in love with words. Words are merely tools used to convey ideas, it is ideas that I love. When they flow through me, I feel my body vibrate as though I were an instrument through which music is conveyed.

Yeah, I’m getting a little mystical. I tend to do that. It’s why I write. I write to get that feeling that something is flowing through me. It’s not just me who feels that way. The idea of a muse is thousands of years old, an idea that something other than the writer is writing. I do not try to justify the description, merely relate it. As a matter of fact, I kind of like leaving it unexplained. Perhaps someday science will be able to explain the creative process. When they do, I’m sure they’ll suck all of the magic out of it. Oscar Wilde said “Religions die when they are proved to be true. Science is the record of dead religions.” If I may, I’d like to add that science is the process of obscuring the miraculous with explanations. Explanations do little to improve an experience. Explanations distance us from experience. It is not the musician who is thinking what notes to play but the one who plays what he feels that best conveys an experience.

So in a way, the mind that does not use the typical mode of explanation is best able to convey meaning. Feelings can be conveyed through a musical instrument in a way no description ever could. Similarly, truth can flow from a writer from some deeper channels than the conscious mind. True, words are still used, but what is conveyed goes deeper than what can literally be interpreted in the words. That is why a thousand lines can be expended explaining a single line of poetry.

And there we get a little closer to the heart of art, that it is a description of feelings and describing feelings does not need to make sense to the conscious mind, it merely has to be true to the feeling. Feelings, not the intellect, shape the sentences being recorded. I can write down a sentence and a voice deep within says, “Yes, that makes sense to me.” The voice that speaks is not one I’m often aware of but one that deeply influences my decisions and my course in life nonetheless. It is a voice I am quite able to keep from listening to when going about my day-to-day life, and yet if I do not keep its opinions in consideration I inevitably pay a steep price for ignoring them. If I am out of tune with that voice that speaks to me when I write, play piano, or have any inspired intuitive moment, be it in social interaction or “being in the zone” while competing at sports, I know I will be less productive, less successful, less happy.

I realize there is more than just my intellect or my conscious thoughts I need to listen to. I earlier referred to it as “feelings”, but there’s more to it than that, at least it feels like there is. It is a form of consciousness that is apart from the intellect. Perhaps it is some sort of synthesis of the emotional and the intellectual, perhaps it may even be spiritual. Even if it is not spiritual I believe that it is perhaps best that we treat it as though it were, give to it the same respect and reverence as those who are of a spiritual mind would. Ever and again I will say that I cannot explain it, and yet the evidence seems to be there. Man is a deeply spiritual and artistic creature. Humanity at its best expresses itself through religion and art.

Of course there are those who deny spirituality, who blame such beliefs for the irrational moments in history that run contrary to reason and progress. The narrative is that science and reason are responsible for all that is good and that with the sleep of reason there arises monsters. My contention is that it is not the sleep of reason that creates such monsters but the lack of attention paid to the subconscious, the spiritual, that which cannot be explained by the intellect. That which the intellectual, the agnostic, and the strictly materialistic mind chooses to ignore, is merely a garden which then goes bad through neglect. It is not naturally a domain of monsters, but it can become so if it is not properly tended. It exists, and like any other fact that we choose to ignore, it festers and gradually becomes an increasing problem until we are at last forced to deal with it. It is at this point that it becomes so threatening that it appears to be an evil, when in fact if we had acknowledged its existence from the beginning, we would have realized just how much it was able to give to us.

So to summarize, there is an artistic/spiritual way of observing the world that is separate from and often contradictory to the purely rational and logical way we too often believe is the correct way of processing information from the outside world. Without a doubt, a rejection of what the intellect can tell us about reality will inevitably lead to bad decisions. But so too will ignoring the artistic/spiritual way of perceiving the world and our relationship to it lead to the growth of monsters we never saw coming.

Which leads me back to writing and the joy I experience when caught up in it. It is though I am doing a bit of spring cleaning inside of me, releasing a clutter of thoughts that have too long stayed in the dark recesses of my consciousness. It is like putting into the sunlight a plant that has been kept too long in the shadows. It is like finally taking the time to explain things to a part of me that processes information differently than the conscious/logical part of me, the “me” I too often believe is all I am. But there is a whole vast pool which lies under the glittering surface that I can see, depths which are a joy to explore, containing as it does endless possibilities. At its bottom is a bubbling spring which never seems to run dry.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Batman, Frankenstein, and the Bishop of M sur M

By the age of five I had already been immersed in the world of stories. Too young to get much out of my older brothers’ comic books, I could nevertheless watch Batman on TV. And there I learned that there were good guys who were looking out for the defenseless people who were preyed upon by the bad guys.

That was the first lesson I learned from stories, that the world needed good guys to protect the rest of us from the bad guys, and Batman became my first role model. That is who I wanted to be when I grew, fighting criminals with a BAM!, POW!, and ZAP!

Oh, perhaps my perception of the world had already developed a bit beyond that. You see, I also had a fascination with horror films, the classics like Frankenstein, King Kong, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. From such movies I realized, even at the age of five, that sometimes the bad guys and monsters really weren’t that bad. Sometimes people ended up being the bad guy even though they were trying really hard to do a good thing, like Dr. Frankenstein. Sometimes a creature was taken out of its natural environment and brought into modern-day civilization, and were called monsters just because they didn’t fit in with what we considered “normal”. Sometimes a creature is created in disregard of all the laws of God and nature, and through no fault of his own, becomes something evil. That was the story of Frankenstein’s monster and the one I could best sympathize with. In many ways the monster was no different than any other human being, but because of his appearance and his inability to fit in, the villagers inevitably would come after him with torches and pitchforks. I could understand his desires to do good and make friends, and to me he was always the tragic hero in any story about him.

There was one story I encountered, however—and I couldn’t have been more than six—which continues to show me the power of stories. I remember wanting to watch something on TV and my older brother wanting to watch something else. He told me the story was by the same person who wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and that was enough to sell me on it (I was fortunate to have much older brothers who would explain things to me rather than use their size advantage to get what they wanted). You see, the Hunchback was a character I knew from pictures I had seen in the horror magazines my brothers would bring home from the store despite my father’s disapproval. I’d never watched the movie but had seen pictures of the horribly deformed person having his shirt ripped off and being tied to a revolving wheel so the mob that surrounded him could all get a chance to see the agony in his face as he was whipped for whatever crimes he had committed. In him I could see a character quite similar to Frankenstein, and I half-suspected that what he was found guilty of was the crimes of being disfigured and not fitting in.

So I agreed to watch the movie. It started promisingly enough, a dark, stormy night with a large and brutish stranger who cannot find a place to stay the night. You see, in my eyes, all good stories started out with darkness and lightning and the threat of impending menace. And the person who nobody wanted to let into their society, well that wasn’t too far from any of the monster movies I loved.

Then someone told the scary-looking social outcast to try knocking on a certain door. And the big, bedraggled stranger, not wanting to sleep in the rain despite his obvious dislike for the society that would not accept him, knocked on the door and was welcomed in like a long-lost relative. He was seated at the table and treated as an equal, not unlike the way Frankenstein was treated by the lonely blind man who was unable to see the ugliness in his guest that others did.

But unlike Frankenstein, the big, scary-looking stranger could not appreciate the kindness that he was being shown. Perhaps he had more experience with the human animal and was unable to heedlessly accept kindness when all he had known was harshness. And so, after everyone else was asleep, the scary bad man awoke, and doing what bad men do, stole all the silver from the house of the man who was kind enough to share his food and give him a bed in which to sleep.

This was the time for Batman to arrive and put things to right. Batman would beat up the big bad guy and return the silver dishes to its rightful owner. And so he did, although actually it was police officers playing the part of Batman. They brought the bad guy, along with the stolen goods he had been caught with red-handed, back to the man who had been wronged.

It was at this point something occurred in the story that made no sense to me. This should have been the end of the story, the bad guy loses and the good guys win. But the man who had been wronged was a man of God, a bishop as it turned out. And when the villain was made to stand before him, the bishop did a bad thing himself: he lied. He told the police that the man had not stolen the silver dishes but that he, the bishop, had given them to him. Then he spoke to the bad man, who had a look in his eyes that showed he understood no more than me the behavior of the bishop. The bishop explained how the man had been his guest and that he should be released at once. With that the police left the scene and with it the story.

I couldn’t understand the bishop’s behavior, and so I asked my brother why he would do such a thing. He told me something to the effect that it was because the bishop was a man of God and that it is said that we should turn the other cheek and forgive those who had wronged us. I still didn’t understand and yet I knew some very deep and powerful twist had taken place in the story that I had so far been told. No longer was Batman the main character in the story, he had been dismissed by the bishop along with the police. Nor was Frankenstein the main character, for not only did the bishop accept him he absolved him of whatever crimes had made him a social outcast. He had transformed him from a monster into a man.

Since that moment, I have read an awful lot of comic books and watched a lot of horror movies, but I’ve never forgotten the story of the man who through kindness and faith saw humanity in the monster. And from then on, no story I’ve read can I consider a great and enduring story if it does not have some aspect of the bishop in it, relying instead on heroes and monsters.

P.S. The movie I describe was Les Miserables, which you can watch by clicking on the screen below:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Random Thoughts Part 23

Every one of these is a potential essay. Mention one you want me to write about and it shall be done:

How can one who truly loves life not have moments of intense sadness? How can one love the myriad people, places, and situations we encounter without grieving their impermanence?

I cry for the young because they will one day grow old. I cry for the old because they were once children. I weep for myself because I am not the one but will be the other.

I am even more hungry for life now than when I was young, but it seems I am only able to take small bites.

What makes fiction literature? It must speak to the times and yet be timeless. It need not be trendy or cutting edge, in fact it seldom is. Truth is seldom fashionable.

We have created a world we don’t like, don’t understand and don’t trust, and we are too frightened to try to change it.

If God rewards the faithful with earthly rewards, then what leverage does the devil have?

If food did not go bad, gold would be next to worthless. Gold is man’s vain attempt at security, at keeping for tomorrow what we have today..

What I don’t like about Christians is when they are self-righteous and sanctimonious, demanding all others fall in line with their belief system. Now if I don’t like such traits in Christians, why do you think I’d tolerate them any better coming from other groups? 

Humans were meant to meander, to roam and to graze. We were meant to sit beneath the stars, to gather around a fire with family and friends.

Do I make a break for the island I see in the distance, or do I cling to whatever wreckage I happen upon and let the tide take me where it will?

I have decided to make a go of it at writing, to do whatever it takes to become successful at it. And after audaciously announcing this, I asked myself, as I always do, “Anything? Would you sell your very soul to be a writer?” And a voice within me answered “Writing is my soul.”

If we do not work for peace, struggle for peace, if we do not keep peace always in our hearts, our minds, and on our lips, we will never achieve peace. Peace is a choice, it is a commitment, a lifestyle. It will never happen accidently, or as a result of pursuing other aims. Peace is a religion, or at least it is at the heart of all religions.

If you want a language to survive, capture great thoughts within it. William Shakespeare has ensured Elizabethan English will never perish from this world.

When arrogance takes the place of facts and logic in an argument, intimidation and violence will not be far behind.

One of the worst sins you can commit is to create explanations for something you know in your heart is not true.

They are not my enemy, whoever “they” happens to be.

I fear absolutism, simplistic solutions, and fundamentalism, just as I would fear trying to sit on a one-legged chair.

Only through spirituality can we be in touch with the all. Anything else is to be a part of something less. Anything else is to be part of a faction at war with another.

The cunning will always be able to outthink even the wise, it is what they spend their lives at. They live within their plans, creating schemes to confuse the straight and obvious paths of others. The only way to prevent ourselves from being led astray is to never put aside our core values even when confronted with the most compelling of evidence. Never must we act in fear or in hatred. Never must we allow ourselves to be convinced that it is okay to kill or to steal. Never should we believe that cruelty is the only path, deserting kindness.

The mark of a civilized man is not that he does not think of baser things but that he is quite often capable of rising above such matters.

Evil is the word used by the ignorant to explain the motivation of those with whom they disagree or do not understand.

If there is divinity within us, it is hewn from our baser clay by words and ideas.

The law of supply and demand, which states that the greater supply the cheaper the cost, does not apply to ignorance. The greater the amount of ignorance people have, the more they value ignorance in their art, politics, and their fellow man.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Stories Shape Worlds

In my third of three interrelated blogs about what shapes the world we live in, I would like to speak to those constructing the reality we perceive, those tellers of tales and builders of paradigms. For some time now you have forgotten the original magic that drew you to words and stories. What so clearly influenced you as a child you set aside somewhere during the growing process in light of the “realities” the adult world sought to convince you of. Somehow you forgot what you knew to be true, became convinced by the stories told by those who had neither conviction nor beauty in their craft. You came to believe in their ugly story, though to be fair to them, it was the best their storytelling ability could weave.

What they lacked in beauty and truth they made up for in insistence and threat. They sold you an ugly story and they did so by telling you the beautiful and true were childish notions. They told you what you believed to be beautiful and true was dangerous, and that the only safe alternative was to reach less far and for something of far less value. And you believed it, because they seemed so damned sure of themselves. You were trusting, because that is what people who embrace the beautiful and the true are. You were willing to believe that others knew more than you because you didn’t want to believe that anybody could really know that much less.

So you began to live the lie, even though you knew it was a lie. You knew a life so mundane and ugly must be a lie, because life must be better than that. You knew their story was not the real one because you had caught a glimpse of something so much more wonderful.

You never really gave up on the vision you had. Instead, you accepted to live within the lie in order that you could fight it from the inside. You would inhabit the lie and while experiencing it you would learn for yourself the flaws in the story. And there were many gross, horrible flaws in the ugly story spun for you by others. Still, you doubted yourself. You told yourself that perhaps you only wanted to disbelieve the story they told you precisely because it was so sordid and base. You doubted yourself because you had such a scrupulous conscience and felt such a need to be certain about your beliefs. More than anything, you wanted to know the truth—even if the truth was not beautiful—because if it was not beautiful, you would find a way to make it so. You would discover the truth and then overcome all odds to insure that beauty as well as truth won the day.

But the game was rigged against you. You fought the fight on their home turf. You let the tellers of the ugly lie decide the rules, and even then you foolishly assumed they would follow the rules they had created. But they were the tellers of the ugly story, and tellers of the ugly story aren’t able to conceive of a world where playing by the rules ever pays off.

It’s not their fault. Like you they were made to believe in the ugly story, but unlike you, they never got to experience the beautiful one. They were taught their lessons when they were young. They were taught ugly lies and in turn they acted upon them.

It’s a funny thing about a story. The story shapes your perceptions about the world around you. If the story says that people are basically bad, you will behave in fear and doubt and your experiences will basically confirm what you believe. But, if you believe in a beautiful story, if you have even once glimpsed a world that is beautiful, where people act according to the most noble of ideas, you will behave towards others in faith and love and that faith and love will transform your interactions with others.

Not always. The people who have been taught the ugly lie have been taught their lessons most cruelly, and they will not easily be swayed from the story that has caused them to be so guarded, so hurt. It takes someone well versed in the beautiful story not to be dismayed by those so deeply suffering from the ugly lie. Both sides, whether they realize it or not, are spreading the story they have been told, hoping to make their version of reality the official one.

The people who tell the ugly lie are hurting, and their hurt is proof to them the world is ugly. They deny the beautiful and the true but each time they do a little part of them dies. They oppose the story that is beautiful and true, but deep within them they are seeking it. They wish to be proven wrong, but have no great faith that it will happen. They do not realize that their behavior is precisely what is keeping them from truly experiencing it.

They are at war, the ugly story and the beautiful story, each seeking to disprove the other, each seeking to dictate the behavior and attitudes of us all. Each of us are soldiers in that battle, whether we see ourselves as conscripts, soldiers of fortune, or defenders of all we hold precious. If you think of yourself as a proponent of the beautiful truth, you must be as certain of your convictions as the other side pretends to be. You must show leadership. The story you tell must show beauty and truth, free as much as it is possible to be from the ugly and the untrue. For those who suffer from ugly lies will be quicker to see your hypocrisy than you ever will. In that way they will make you a better person if you permit them to.

For that reason you can never allow the belief that you are on the right side to permit you to act in ugly ways or to lie. You cannot win the war playing by their rules. You cannot win the game by accepting the ugly lie as a weapon you can use. In fact, you cannot beat them by thinking of them as your enemy. That is not the story you believe in. The story that is both beautiful and true is that all men are your brothers, all women your sisters. The beautiful truth is that we are all one, all of us destined for some future more wonderful than humanity has ever permitted itself to conceive of before. Thus the struggle is not against others but in the struggle to drag all of humanity more towards the beautiful and the true. And the beautiful and true story becomes closer to being the more we are able, not to combat those who believe the ugly lie, but to help them to see a better way. For in the winning of a soul from darkness, the ugly lie becomes less believable. With every fight we avoid and everyone we are able to convert, the beautiful and the true become more so.

We have all written a few lines of both stories, none of us are angels or demons. Some have written in one more than the other but we need worry about judging or comparing ourselves with others. If there are any winners to be named it is the sinner who has repented, the sheep that was lost and has been found.

And there is the battle, there is the struggle, to close the one book and open the other. The book of ugliness and lies has more pages written in it than ever need be read, nothing more need ever be added. The pages are many but the story is one not worth reading. It is time we close the book, recognizing it for what it is. It is filled with ugliness and lies and while we should not seek to deny it, it is foolish to dwell upon it. Let it remain as a reminder of what should never be, something that collects dust as it becomes a relic of a world that was. The book of beauty and truth is waiting to be filled, its pages already bursting with stories of heroism and faith. And yet, for all the pages of testimony to beauty and truth that awaits being read, there is no end to the blank ones waiting to be written.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Writers Shape Worlds

My last blog post was entitled Words Shape Worlds. In it I expressed my belief in the power of words to shape the way we see the world. Sounds like a bit of a fluffy, airheaded idea, doesn’t it? It’s not and I was being quite serious. If you doubt it then contemplate for a moment the amount of time and energy that goes into word choice in advertising. Think about the billions of dollars spent each year in order to influence the way you think and act. So much money and so much research is not done without a serious thought for return on investment. People want to get inside your head and the use of words is one of the primary ways of doing it.

But words, powerful though they may be, are merely the conveyances of ideas. They are the conduits that carry living, transformative changes of perception from the transmitter to the receiver. Words do indeed shape worlds since they shape the way people perceive the world and act within it. But it is the writer who decides what words to use, how the words are assembled in order to present the overall argument. In other words, words are the paint, but the writer creates the picture.

As the perceived value of words has diminished of late so too the value of writers. The role of the writer is to amuse, to distract, to create false worlds within which people can briefly escape from the harsh realities of the real world. Readers too are told this story, so that most of a writer’s audience has come to expect to be told fairy tales the way a child would. The only difference is that a child is less willing to complain when they learn something or are confronted by somewhat troubling notions. Children, after all, are in the process of discovering the world, whereas by the time people reach adulthood most of them are too frightened to pursue any real kind of discovery further.

So the writer is assigned the role of mollifer of the masses by the powers that be, and those who venture to do something more are criticized for moralizing, pontificating, philosophizing. You can’t be a good writer if you don’t conform to the mold.

And it’s easy to go along with this sort of thinking. After all, it’s not easy making a living with just pen and paper, metaphorically speaking. Attempting to write at all is stepping outside the safe parameters, to try anything more ambitious seems more than a little foolish. And all the forces of a rather rigid social norm are pushing against you, telling you you must conform.

Those who buy and sell want you to work for them, want you to help convince others through slick marketing campaigns to buy product. They tell you life is about money and that you will starve if you do not dance to their tune. But if you are a writer, I wish to remind you that the ideas you construct from your observations and contemplations are more valuable than gold, and it is said that man does not live by bread alone.

Those who live to gather power also wish to dissuade you from your course. With guns and veiled threats of violence they will tell you that writing what you perceive to be the truth is a dangerous notion that threatens to weaken the pillars upon which society sits. Never mind the fact that what you write is merely an observation of the weaknesses that already threaten to bring those pillars down. If you write too closely to the truth as you perceive it, you will make enemies of those with power, make enemies of those who have control over the soldiers and the police and those with the weapons of violence. But if you are a writer, I wish to remind you that the ideas you write and the truths you observe are as powerful as any threat against them, for has it not been said that the pen is mightier than the sword?

The written word is both precious and powerful. They are too valuable, too sacred, to use merely to sell product or amuse. Words can connect humanity, can elevate dischord into meaningful discussion what elsewise would devolve into conflict and violence. Words lift us up from the merely physical and bestial into realms that are spiritual, magical, miraculous. If there is divinity within us, it is hewn from our baser clay by words and ideas.

If you are a writer you work for beauty and truth, not for money and safety. To the degree that you do not you are not a writer but a propagandist or a salesman. The words, ideas, and approach must be your own or else you are not a writer but a stenographer. The path of a writer cannot be dictated by anything other than the truth and inspiration he or she perceives.

Words written freely and boldly were what forged our nation. We were nothing until we embedded lofty ideas into a collection of words that became The Declaration Of Independence. Although past words and ideas echoed in the document, it was a weapon forged anew for the world that was. Writers of today, while influenced by the stories that came be for, must write anew the story of today. We must share in the boldness of those who wrote yesterday’s stories if we wish to pay proper respect to them.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Words Shape Worlds

Words have meaning. They have value and purpose. Take a word like fidelity or integrity and roll it around upon your tongue. Taste it in all its complexity and strength of flavors, know its worth, and then swallow it down into your soul, knowing it will fill you up, give you sustenance and health. Words are shiny jewels you can carry about with you wherever you go. They brighten your appearance and enhance your worth.

Words are the building blocks of a person’s character. A man cannot find a woman’s soul through the assemblage of words used for her body parts. Describing her as “hot” will only hide what is understood when the word beautiful is used. No one can come closer to the sublime by using words like “shit” and “fuck”. He who uses the word “bitch” rarely uses the word “love”. The words we use shape our viewpoint, shape our reality. Judge a man by the words he uses. A thoughtful man carefully chooses the right word the way a mechanic chooses the appropriate tool.

Choosing the right words helps determine your character, and your character determines your destiny. You can tell where a path is leading you by the road signs. While the road to Hell may be paved with good intentions, its road signs and billboards will be littered with vulgarities, slurs, and putdowns. Likewise the path to Heaven will have posts containing words such as “compassion” and “sacrifice”, “patience” and “commitment”.

I’m afraid the road we are on now is the oblivion expressway. The words come quickly as we speed ahead and are gone just as fast. Like junk food, they appeal to our childish tastes but provide us no sustenance. They are fun and they are easy, they are painless but they are also weightless. They are words like “now”, “free”, and “extreme”.

Worse than using words that have no real meaning is the debasing of words that do. Those without respect for words have decoupled the word “awesome” from God and from nature. They have taken “wholesome goodness” out of grandma’s kitchen and placed it upon the shelves at Walmart, vast containers of it being shipped to us from foreign factories.

Those with the greatest appreciation for the worth and power of words often become English Majors. Unfortunately, they then graduate into a world without a sufficient appreciation for the beauty and worth of words. So they find themselves in possession of something beautiful and dangerous and unappreciated. Like a man who is unable to earn a proper living but has a facility with rare and precious gems, he soon finds himself selling them for less than their proper worth. And in the process he sells them to less than scrupulous buyers. Like pretty but poor young girls he sends words to do the most unsavory of work for him in order to bring in a few dollars.

The word abomination needs to be used more often, as does the word sacred. So too words like respect, dignity, soul, community, hope, faith, charity, commitment, sacrifice. Don’t gulp them down like a super-sized order of fries. Taste and get to know the separate attributes that makes the whole, experience how they affect your soul. Kindness. What sweet and comforting flavors such a word contains. Gentleness. Savor the subtle flavors. It is not a bag of Xtreme flavored chips, it is a soft and soothing word that comforts the soul if not washed down by a liter of Mountain Dew. Sweetness. Beauty. Purity. Taste them all separately, how, like a ripe piece of fruit, they are bursting not only with flavor but with life-giving sustenance. They are healthy, organic, real.

Each word has its worth, has a combination of shades of meaning that makes it unique and paints for us a slightly richer view of the world. Humility. It is like a freshly baked loaf of bread right from the oven. Enduring. Reverence. We cannot come to an appreciation of the soul without words such as these.

In the society we live, too often words are abused in order to take advantage of others. Insults are used to strip others of their dignity. Superlatives are used in order to sell product. Labels are used to divide us. It is up to us to pay proper respect to such words. Man is a creature of language. We cannot truly show respect for one another until we can show respect for our choice of words. To misuse them is to weaken them, like a tool that is used for the wrong purpose. Each word expresses a thought or a feeling that is valuable for human understanding. Each helps us in its own way to bridge the gap between individuals, helps bind us together. Just as the words you choose help to create the person you will become, so too is a society built upon the words it uses most often. If we wish to build a society that is strong and enduring, we cannot be too careful in our choice of words.