Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism - how passionately I hate them!

Albert Einstein

I keep thinking about words. Our need for them has not diminished since we humans still can't communicate telepathically with any reliability. My capacity for finding them still evades me more often than I would like.

I struggle with how often words of war and competition come to my mind, lips, or fingertips as I try to express my thoughts and feelings. Language is symbolic. It reflects our understanding of how the world works--what occurs in our relationships and interactions with others. Apparently, I am very much knee deep in the world and culture of dualism--either this or that...up or or lose.

Is it possible that we can find another place to stand? I know that we are animals and react--as well as respond--from our animal instincts. We do, after all, have reptile brains and try as we might, our capacity for being rational doesn't eliminate the precognitive, tongue-flicking responses hard wired in us.

Yet, knowing that my reflexes precede me, I still want to find another way to express myself. I want to find--or create if need be--language of compassion without comparison. Appreciation of the is-ness of myself and others.

This isn't just "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything." I know it can sound like that sometimes. What I really desire, is awareness. Awareness without violence. Awareness of differences and willingness to accept those.

Compassionate awareness. That's it. Compassion is not the opposite of hatred, but of violence.


Deb Shucka said...

Powerful and very true post. You've chosen the perfect words to express this challenging concept. It helps, I think, to be for things rather than against.

Carrie Link said...

I think it's the opposite of ignorance.

kario said...

I am reminded of one of the four agreements: be impeccable with your word. It often slows me down when I'm tempted to exaggerate to get attention and makes me think about the consequences of my language.

Kathryn Grace said...

I've just been reading today about Abraham's Path (which I got to from one of your later posts, William Ury's TED talk). The writer tells of following Abraham's path, marked out in Palestine, and the dichotomy of walking in pastoral, seemingly peaceful, and wonderfully beautiful land while constantly aware, and frequently reminded in the most graphic ways, of the hideous violence, ancient and current, the inhabitants of the land have faced for millenia.

So as I read these words, and thinking of another of your posts--about how being compassionate toward ourselves changes not only our moments but how our brains are wired--I am certain that language has a similar impact. I'm with you: The words we use change us, change our audience. Learning to speak without the language of violence may be the key to changing society.

Wanda said...

According to Ashley Montague, the cultures without violent behavior also lack violent language--or even the language to describe violence. Perhaps you are on to something, Kate.