The Power of Words

Raise your words
Not your voice.
It is rain that grows flowers,
Not thunder.

The Persian Master, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī gives much food for thought, and for action.  Rumi has been described in recent times as the most popular poet in the United States with translations of his works spread throughout many parts of the world.  Like the works of all sages, from these words, something in our own life may shift a little – and change for the better.

From those simple but profound thoughts I’m reminded of a more recent directive, that of C.S. Lewis who tells his students “Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”

Lewis’ point has been demonstrated so well throughout his tales – designed for children but perhaps for all of us who can learn about life through the communication of words – as Lewis puts it himself in a letter to Lucy Barfield.  I love his closing line:  “I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

Words flow and fly out of our mouths regularly, and very often without very much thought.  In that sense, the old Celtic saying words have wings, and cannot be recalled is something to remember.  What grave danger there is in that insight!  How often do we look back on a moment in conversational time and know that the words we spoke were inadequate, or inappropriate or simply foolish.

Words, like all human actions, may be misunderstood, misinterpreted and misjudged.  We know today of the grief that can occur when the power of words, misused via the electronic media, that is the so called ‘social’ media, can in fact cause eternal damage.  In my humble opinion there’s nothing very ‘social’ about a form of communication that can, under some circumstances, result in great emotional distress.  And those words of course, primarily come in written, not spoken form; and of course those words are not accompanied by the oh-so-necessary body language … the eyes that tell the story, the smile (or not), the strained expression, the mean expression, the turn of the head, the impatient gesture or the welcoming embrace … none of these take place when people communicate through social media.  Very few flowers will be watered to growth in those thunderous interactions.

If we want love, we must give love – so maybe we should be wary of how we communicate?  Our choice of header for this month’s Newsletter is one of Michael Leunig’s little miracles and big expressions of all that matters in life.  That clever man has certainly found a loving way to communicate his thoughts.

Books of course are another matter, collections of thoughts and ideas in word form that can evoke emotional pleasure or pain.  Someone told me recently that he was unable to read my book, (In Stillness Conquer Fear) because right now, the emotions I describe are too painful a reminder for him of his own emotional suffering.  I hope, as time passes and his level of anxiety diminishes while his self confidence grows, that eventually he will find companionship within those pages rather than fear.

Currently I’m reading the spell-binding prose of Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders – a novel of the Plague.  So many of her sentences I would like to copy to this blog, just to garner interest in the authenticity and liveliness of the era that the author can convey.  Here’s one example – a description of the words of a clergyman:

“He intoxicated us with his words, lifting and carrying us away into a strange ecstasy, taking each of us to that place where we kept our sweetest memories.”

What a relief such would be to the troubled soul (and there would have been many troubled souls during the time of the Plague), for there is nothing more calming and strengthening than the memories we hold dearest.

As our regular readers know, we like to use the words of Ainslie Meares’ poetry to spread the message of the practice of simple, natural stillness.  Though trained as a scientist and medical doctor, Meares had the rare ability to express his message through the use of meaningful and quite beautiful language.

Simple, natural stillness, with time and practice, opens one’s mind and heart to greater depth and greater meaning.  Yet, as with Meares’ poetry, as Rumi has so succinctly suggested, as with C.S. Lewis, Michael Leunig and Geraldine Brooks too, great meaning can be found in simple expression.

We will be carefully considering the matter of words when we commence our Conversation Groups on Monday 16th March.  These groups will be open to any current or former client who has travelled the path of simple, natural stillness with us.  We look forward to uplifting conversations that may assist the journey of any of us who participate – and we hope you will join us.

And we would really love to hear your comments on the Power of Words.