Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Power of Words

Lao Tzu said, "Mind your thoughts; they become your words. Mind your words; they become your actions. Mind your actions; they become habit. Mind your habits; they become your character. Mind your character; it becomes your destiny."

I want to address the power of words for a moment. As an infant, you thought in images, ideas, concepts. As adults, most of us think in words. There is an inner monologue going on in your head all the time. In fact, as you read this, if you know my voice, chances are you are hearing these words in your head in my voice. Now, if I mention Morgan Freeman at this juncture, you'll probably read the rest of the article in his voice. All of it, with commentary in your own.

This method of thought creates far more potential for nuance and abstract thinking than communication in images and pure ideas. However, it can be limiting as well. Language trains HOW we think, and vice versa. I recall reading an article some years ago to the effect that the more technologically advanced a culture is, the more words it will have for various colors. That for instance there is a tribe in the Amazon with one word for all shades of red and orange.

There are quite a few words I feel are harmful to clarity of thought, and I sometimes suspect it is intentional.

For instance, tolerance. Consider the following sentences:

"I like rock music."

"I can tolerate rock music."

To tolerate is to regard something as inferior, but to allow it to exist because it is not worth eliminating.

And yet, people preach tolerance. We should tolerate minorities, other races, other religions. Not love, not even accept, but tolerate. Why? Because the majority, the normal folks, are better, and it is a demonstration of their superior moral standards that they allow the rest of us to be different.

Simply using the word tolerate reinforces that way of thinking, whether you consciously realize it or not, because subconsciously we all know the negative connotation of tolerance, and by using the word in this context we relate the two ideas.

Then, when we say "dark" and mean something negative. Such as "that is a very dark story"; what we are subconsciously reinforcing both for ourselves and everyone else, is that darkness itself is a bad thing. That the setting of the sun is a negative event. An event which must be tolerated, if you will. Rather than a natural progression of the balance of the world to be celebrated as part of the grand pattern.

So, mind your words, for they become your thoughts.

May you find what you seek,
Katharine Alice Jones

1 comment:

  1. I've never thought of the term "tolerance" in that way. I've always thought of it in a positive, inclusive way. But every other usage of the word tolerate does have a hierarchy attached to it...interesting.