Thursday, January 14, 2016

Word Pollution

"Crystal Clear"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

Over the past months there has been a lot of conversation about climate change and air-pollution -toxic chemicals poisoning the air and the oceans and destroying the atmosphere.  Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about polluting the atmosphere and it dawned on me that there is another type of poison that is just as toxic to the world in which we live- the poison of the words we use about and against one another.

Over the past months we have been inundated with hateful rhetoric and strident speech about immigrants who are nothing but rapists and freeloaders; and Muslims who must be barred from this country because of their religious beliefs. Just a few days ago, after Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address, the atmosphere was almost immediately polluted with vile insults and personal attacks against a President who is disliked by some people.

Every day, as I browse through the  media I find that the words we use against one another are becoming coarser and cruder than ever. People think nothing of “tweeting out” the most heinous and hateful things about their fellow humans with whom they may disagree or whom they don’t particularly like.

Have we so devolved in our common life that we are willing to step to such degrading depths in the way we treat one another? Have the words we use to abuse and insult one another become so toxic that they are poisoning the spiritual atmosphere and slowly killing us?

Today I go to my weekly yoga class which always begins and ends with our instructor speaking  some words that I have come to embrace as a cleansing antidote for the poison of today’s toxic atmosphere.  He folds his hands, bows to us and says, Namaste, the divine light in me honors the divine light in you! Then we, in turn, bow and say the same thing to him.

I have really come to love that word Namaste.  It originates from the Hindu tradition but it translates well in all religious and spiritual paths, and it expresses a sentiment that lies at the heart of all people of goodwill everywhere by recognizing and honoring the common spark of divinity shared by each and every human being:

The Divine Light in me acknowledges the Divine Light in you.
The God in me greets and meets the God in you.
The Divine Wisdom in me recognizes and acknowledges the Divine Wisdom in you.

My guess is that many “traditional” religious people, especially in Western cultures, may think that bowing to another with the word “Namaste” may be a bit too “new-age;”  but the fact is that every single major world religion, East as well as West, acknowledges and recognizes the “divinity” in every human being.

Jesus teaches: The Kingdom of God is within you; and Christians everywhere are committed by their baptism to respect the dignity of every human being. Jewish mystics as well as the Sufis of Islam celebrate the Spark of God in every human being. Buddhists honor and respect every human being and they honor everything that “is.” In fact, even many atheists and agnostics acknowledge an energy of transcendent, universal Love flowing in and though us all. We all “belong” to one another and all the many are the ONE.

Maybe that’s why I have been so very disturbed by all those hateful words that have inundated the media, poisoning and polluting the atmosphere over these past weeks. When we so violently disrespect, dishonor and tear one another apart we are in fact blaspheming “God.”

I am reminded of another Hindu wisdom saying:

The moment I recognize God sitting in the temple of every human being,
the moment I stand in reverence and recognize God in each and every person,
at that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes,
and I am free!

I look forward to my Yoga class today - I want to fill the air with some healing words that can help to set us all free:



  1. Not only words but our negative thoughts are also polluting.Ohm santhi,santhi, santhi...

  2. I agree with you. As I sit in "spiritual" meetings of a 12 step nature and hear many people using foul words to describe their experience strength and hope, I feel a bit sorry for them as they "know not what they do". I will walk out sometimes, rather than poison my mind with their misguided rhetoric. "It is not what goes into a persons mouth that defiles them, it is what comes out" God of all names, may I honor you and universal love in all my actions, words and deeds, and forgive me when I slip up and become human once again.

  3. for reasons of declaring the God of my understanding as powerful and universal as the god of your understanding, I became a Unitarian Universalist at 54. The longer I live the less I truly know. Though I may seek wisdom, it only proves me a fool, a faithfull fool!

    1. Robert in some way we all Unitarian Universalists.

  4. The words you write here are putting love and understanding out into the world xx