Thursday, April 19, 2012

"use your words"

In the largely pink and well-heeled neck of the woods I live in -- though I suppose it's true elsewhere as well -- grade-school teachers may break up playground dust-ups with a decisive pronouncement: "Use your words."

Don't beat the crap out of your opponent, don't resort to angry action ... use your words.

And a bit at a time, kids can learn this socializing lesson. Better to talk it out than duke it out.

And then the kids grow up. Their verbal skills have gained traction, and sometimes a traction so forceful that they are faced with a new conundrum: Action speaks louder than words.

Some things simply cannot be talked to death. Some things cannot be solved or made real no matter how many or how delicious or how judicious the words may be (think love, think humor, think stubbed toe think ... think anything you like). In fact, the greater the use of words, the further from a satisfactory resolution things become.

I think of spiritual endeavor in this regard. The towering cumulus clouds of language rise up and astound the mind like a pipe organ in a cathedral. Huge, ornate, unending, glorious. Because of the 'goodness' of the subject matter -- this isn't as obviously harmful as a playground tiff -- the mind of the believer genuflects more and reflects less.

And yet the limits of belief rise up in much the same way they did during a schoolyard tussle. A believer who has traveled a bit may wonder in his secret hours, "Who, beyond words, is this god I call my god?" or "Who says heaven awaits after death?" or "What if there were no spiritual endeavor? or "What's wrong with what I say?" These are not the questions of the critics who may natter and taunt a devotee. These are the questions of the devotee soi-même, the one who has learned to "use your words," the one who wonders, "where's the beef" that would put meat on the word bone. Critics, when they're any good, have the same questions.

"Use your words" and "action speaks louder than words." I guess everyone finds some socially-acceptable balance between the two. That's the social way, the ethical way, the way that avoids too much friction or despair. Without action, spiritual endeavor becomes words ... and about as effective as piss in a snowbank. Spiritual endeavor as a group hug leaves the student bereft of empirical understanding ... up close and personal and no doubt about it.

When thought, word and deed accord, I think people are happier. Everyone has had such moments, but finding the ground on which thought, word and deed accord inescapably ... well, it's no walk in the park. Words cannot assure it. Deeds cannot assure it. Group hugs and virtuous wars ... what is it that is missing?

No thought, no word, no deed might be one way of putting it -- the solution to the whispering, nagging question. Or maybe just thought, just word, just deed. Release the intermediary. Use the words, use the thoughts, use the deeds ... isn't that enough? No believers need apply.

Use your words. Action speaks louder than words. Both are socially-useful pointers.

Which is not to say they provide the answer anyone might rightfully seek.

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