Friday, September 9, 2016

The Door of My Lips

"Beauty and the Beast"
- in my meditation garden -

Last Sunday I was struck by a few words that I have have heard spoken at church numerous times throughout my life. In many Christian Services, the reading of a passage of Scripture is often concluded with the phrase: “The Word of the Lord.” Some may think that this phrase is proclaimed after biblical readings in order to affirm a belief that somehow “The Lord” wrote that particular passage in the Bible; so saying “The Word of the Lord” after a biblical reading is an affirmation of divine authorship.  I don’t see it that way. I think this phrase is used to make a statement about the importance and the power of “words” in how we find and create meaning in life.

I am reminded of an article I once came across in the magazine Parabola about the power of "words" in the Hebrew tradition:

The positive potential of speech is revealed in Jewish thought
 in the most dramatic way.
In the Hebrew scripture, the very creation of the world
 and everything in it was accomplished by the use of words alone.
 - And God said, 'let there be light' and there was light.

This "creation of the world" story in the Hebrew scripture does far more than explain how a heavenly being magically formed the universe; it is a story that reflects a deep wisdom held by the ancient Hebrew people who understood the power of words - a word can create and a word can destroy. 

One Hebrew proverb states: 

Death and life are in the power of the tongue.
(Proverbs 18:21)

I find this ancient wisdom about language so interesting because it pretty much reflects much of the contemporary "postmodern" understanding of how language functions - rather than referring to reality, the words we use create our realities. 

We often think that the words we use “describe” some sort of objective world out there apart from us; and yet the words we use and the stories we tell do far more than describe – they form and fashion our pictures of what is real.

I've been looking at a cactus in my garden this morning. Cacti are interesting because they are pretty ugly and if you brush up next to them your body will be pierced with a bunch of nasty thorny spikes that are very hard to remove. At the same time, cacti flowers are exceptionally beautiful and even exotic. If I call the cactus "beautiful," it's like saying, "let it be beautiful." and it becomes beautiful.  If I call it "nasty or a horrible," it becomes ugly. The words create the reality. 

If we say someone is "beautiful," or "elegant" or "sophisticated," that's what they become.  If we say they are "dumb" or call them a "thug," they become that.

Even our words about “God” have the power to create who “God” becomes for us. Talking about God as a “mighty king” or “heavenly father” is far different from talking about “God” as a “gentle breeze” or a “tender mother,” and yet all these terms are actually used in the Bible—so the words we use have great power to change and even to create what we view as the “real God." 

Words have great power to create our realties.

So in my meditation this morning I ask myself: “Will I create a better and more beautiful world by the words I will speak and write this day or will I pollute, destroy and tear apart the world by the words I will use?”

The sentiments of a Hebrew psalm are my mantra for this day:

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth,
Keep watch over the door of my lips.

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