"Fresh and Clean"
- Outside the Desert Retreat House -
I have to say that I am really glad this election season is over, and the thing that makes me most happy about it is that I will no longer be constantly barraged by those endless TV campaign advertisements.
For some reason the local campaign ads this time around seemed much more vile than usual- nasty campaign rhetoric at its very worst. I could barely stand to turn on the TV to watch the local news because I knew I would be subjected to listening to a string of strident and vicous accusations, as the many candidates for public office hurled personal insults at one another using words like, "liar," and "cheat," "bully," "lazy," "money launderer."
Now that the elections are over, in an interview on a local TV station, one of the winning candidates tried to strike a conciliatory tone by saying, "It's time for us to 'clear the air,' to take back some of the nasty things we said about one another." I found this one little statement to be very revealing about how people understand the "power of words."
The phrase, "clear the air" is very interesting to me. It shows me that when people use insulting, angry words against one another, there is a sense that somehow the air has been polluted by the words, and that somehow the poison in the air needs to be cleaned up or it will have damaging effects.
I actually do believe that the words we use do have great power. They can be like greenhouse gases or carbon emissions that release toxic poisons. Or words can be sweet fragrances that can create health and healing. When we insult others with words like "liar," "cheat" or "lazy," those words are toxins that pollute the atmosphere. When we speak words of kindness and forgiveness, those words have the power to cleanse and heal.
But the thing is that, once a word is spoken you can never take it back. Even if you are a wining candidate in an election, the toxic words that have been put into the atmosphere are always "out there" no matter how much you might call for "taking it all back"
A line from an Emily Dickinson poem comes to mind,
A word is dead
when it's been said, some say.
I say it just begins to live that day.
I find great wisdom in this phrase.
When we use words like "stupid" or "ugly," "liar" or "lazy," to insult another person, those words take on a life of their own. They are like seeds that are planted, and far too often people grow into the words that have been uttered about them.
So, I've been thinking about how to "clear the air." While we can't ever "take back" the words we use, we can say "I'm sorry," or "Please forgive me." Words like these have a way of cleaning things up pretty nicely.
Of course, the best way to "clear the air" is not to use any toxic words in the first place.