Brian Wilcox. 'Flowing~Androscoggin River Series~no. 27
When you meet your friend on the roadside or in the market place, let the spirit in you move your lips and direct your tongue.
Let the voice within your voice speak to the ear of his ear;
For his soul will keep the truth of your heart as the taste of the wine is remembered
When the colour is forgotten and the vessel is no more.
*Kahlil Gibran. The Prophet.
In the land
I stand still
as a tree,
and let the words
rain down on me.
Come rain, bring
your knowledge and your
while I grow green
I'll stand as still
as a tree,
and let your blessings
fall on me.
*Eloise Greenfield. In the Land of Words.
* * *
A man who would visit the Sage was almost always sad and moaning about something. On this day, he talked of his woeful moods, while he spoke of how drab was the overcast day. The Sage beamed, "Friend, I think it's a lovely day. I'm enjoying it very much!" The man was speechless, looking irritated. The Sage said, "May I tell you a story? This may help you with your sadness." The man agreed, "Oh, any help I can get is good."
A man became a monk in a community of strict silence. His limit of words was two yearly. The first year he said, "Bad food." The next year he said, "Bed hard." The third year he said, "I quit." His superior said, "Good! All you've done is complain, complain, complain."
The acquaintance remarked grumpily, "What a sordid character was that superior! He's like so many people; they're everywhere. It's just awful!"
When complaint fills the mind, how can the ears hear blessing?
* * *
Little Jenny sat down to eat dinner with her family. Her dad said, "Let's bow our heads for the blessing." As others were bowing the head, she looked at the, to her, unsavory leftovers and said, “Hey, wait a minute! We thanked God for this last night!”
* * *
"To complain” means literally “to strike the chest with.” I do not see persons going around beating the chest. We have less tangible and alarming ways to gripe. We may even grumble to get attention, believing attention means love.
We each complain unnecessarily, do we not? And, yet, with the same tongue, we can express gratitude or words that edify others. After all, a deluge of bad news comes at us from all directions.
During the pandemic, friends have expressed to me caution in how much they hear about the virus and the politics surrounding it. We always need to practice that prudence. The words we listen to and the attitudes we witness from the speakers of those words can affect us negatively. We can become dispirited when we need inspiration. Negativity is a toxin that infects physically, mentally, and spiritually. While we cannot shield ourselves from bad news and need not, we do need to monitor our exposure to negativity. We need to take accountability for the body-mind-soul environment in which we live, breathe, and celebrate life. Would we allow someone to spray a toxic gas into our body? Then, why would we allow ourselves habitual exposure to toxic words and attitudes? We need exposure to words and persons of love, peace, and joy, that inspire us to celebrate life.
* * *
The Christian contemplative path speaks of guarding the mouth, which reflects wisdom in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles.
Psalm 141.3, in the Hebrew Bible, has the prayer...
LORD, position a guard before my mouth,
a sentry at the door of my lips.
In the New Testament, Ephesians 4.29, is wisdom on using words to edify others.
Do not use harmful words, but only helpful ones, the sort that builds up and gives what is needed, so that what you say will be good for those who hear you.
Colossians 4.6 likens beneficial speech to food seasoned with salt.
And let your speech always be graceful (or, full of grace), seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to reply to everyone.
Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew 15.10ff, points out the influence of words on the one who speaks them. The words we speak that edify others edify us; the words we speak that debase others debase us. This is the karma of words.
And summoning the crowd, he spoke to them, “Listen and understand: It's not what goes into the mouth that dirties a person, but what comes out of the mouth-this dirties a person.”
Persons need our serving them a well-seasoned dish of words filled with grace. Persons filled with grace, they will speak gracefully.
* * *
Many years ago, an acquaintance wrote to me, for he saw my writings were expressing anger. I did not realize this. He asked, "What are you so angry about?" I came to see the wisdom in his question. Over time, I became more sensitive to the tone of what I write. When I write, I want it to encourage the reader and the writer. Even when I write of what I disagree with, I want to express it in a positive tone. I want readers to feel inspired by the words I craft and how I craft them. I see words as a means to share positive energy, to uplift others.
Yet, what is vital here, also, is the anger in the writings decreased as the anger in the writer decreased. Our words reveal ourselves. When we see what and how we speak, by mouth or written, we see the condition of ourselves-of course, others see it too. Our words mirror back to us the inner work we need to do to welcome wholeness into ourselves and that we might welcome more light into the world.
* * *
The wisdom of helpful speech does not mean we do not need a time and place to express frustration. Yet, we need to limit this kind of talk. Instead, we can speak inspirited when we feel dispirited. Grumping when we feel grumpy adds to the grumpiness. In words, as in all else, we harvest the fruit corresponding to the seed we plant. Let us see words as a means to plant a helpful harvest, both for others and ourselves. In this, as Eloise Greenfield reminds us, we can stand in the rainful whereby each word is a blessing, and we, thereby, are enriched and grow.
* * *
©️ Brian Wilcox, 2020
Brian can be contacted at email@example.com; his book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, is available through major online booksellers, including Amazon and Books-A-Million, or via the publisher, AuthorHouse.
*Story of Little Jenny adapted from Kent Crockett. I Once Was Blind But Now I Squint.