Monday, February 23, 2015

The Power of Words

There is an old Yiddish lullaby that tells of a Rabbi teaching youngsters the alphabet. With classical Jewish tradition the Rabbi leaves the children with these final words, "When you grow up, you will come to understand how much pain and how many tears these letters contain. And joy. And majesty."

A little intense for a group of youths, but truer words have never been spoken. The power and gravity of our words goes further than we can ever imagine.  Our lives are made up entirely of letters, words, sentences, pages, and locutions; so we might as well make an effort to use these words for the bettering of society, for an enrichment of our own lives.  The sentences we utter and the words we choose to use can have glorious ripples or awful repercussions. The tragedy lies in our ignorance. Most of the time we will not outwardly see the happiness or the dread our letters form. But pause for a moment and think of the last genuine compliment you received, how did it make you feel? Was it that hard for someone to notice something about you, and then articulate it to you? No. It was easy, but it likely made us feel very good, and perhaps even imbued upon us a desire to treat another with similar kindness.

One way to take advantage of the beauty and grandeur of the English language is to rid your proverbial cup of words of the bitter dregs. Too often our everyday speech is made up almost entirely of tired phrases, overused sentences, obvious clich├ęs, pointless platitudes and trite statements void of any real meaning. Excising certain words (or at least limiting the usage of ) like “cool,” legit,” “nice,” “okay,” “whatever,” will leave you with no other choice but to use new adjectives, and think a little more about what exits your mouth.

What else can we do? Just using a niftier set of words will not ensure us a life void of verbal retardation. We must also seek to eliminate negative phraseology from our vernacular. It is so important to reject the use of hurtful words, to do away with self-deprecation, and to infuse our vocabulary with positivity and optimism. The finest and simplest way to do this is through a wonderful concept, made popular by the author Tony Robbins called transformational vocabulary. A true beacon of positive energy, Mr. Robbins explains the importance of altering our habits in speech,

“Most of us don’t realize, however, that the words you habitually choose also affect what you experience. Transformational Vocabulary is about how you can take control of your habitual vocabulary to change the quality of your life. Simply by changing your habitual vocabulary—the words you consistently use to describe the emotions of your life—you can instantly change how you think, feel and how you live.”

So in essence, all we have to do to have a better life is articulate things differently. Instead of coming home and complaining to every ear possible that your boss is a sadistic moron that you hate, you should express your confusion and frustration. Instead of wining about a pesky cough, verbalize how you are actually feeling better than you were yesterday. This doesn’t mean you should lie, and tell everyone your boss is your best friend and that you have perfect health. But altering your attitude and paradigm of things through the spoken word has amazing power.

Another salient reminder to us about the power of words is understanding that words are action. So often we hear the term, “actions speak louder than words,” and in most cases this is accurate. But this is not to say that words in and of themselves are not actions. Sure it is important to make good on our promises and practice what we preach, but before any action takes place, words are usually uttered, whether out loud or to ourselves. So, it all starts with words, and let us remember that a spoken word, a scribbled word, or even a thought of word, is an action.

To me there is a direct correlation between words and kindness. Our words tend to either inforce kindness or detract from it. My hope is that my words can always lean towards the gravitational pull of generosity, kindness, and love. I think if we are going to speak, we have a responsibility to perpetuate kindness with the things we write and say. The ingenious cosmologist Carl Sagan described his belief in humanity’s responsibility to be kind as he reflected on our existence on earth, such a small corner of the universe. He stated with grand humility, “It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we have ever known.”

Let us use words to create a better planet.

 I will end this set of thoughts by quoting Elie Wiesel. He said, in reference to words, "For some part of every word is sacred; all words should lean toward the sacred."