Appreciating The Impact of Words


Words cannot express things;
Speech does not convey the spirit.
Swayed by words, one is lost;
Blocked by phrases, one is bewildered.

Mumon’s Verse for Chao-chou’s Oak Tree, Case 37
– Two Zen Classics: Mumonkan & Hekiganroku, p. 110
Translated with commentaries by Katsuki Sekida

A word came my way the other day and looking into it’s meaning one could understand it in two, or more, almost completely opposing ways. A shadow side and a non shadow. Positive or negative, or somewhere in between. As children in the playground when a child was ‘calling somebody names’ which nowadays would be classed as bullying we had a well-worn retort. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. Of course they hurt but to tackle the name caller was to court more than nasty names. See, Sticks and Stones: When Words are Used as Weapons, By Miriam Adahan There are some wonderful teachings from the Torah on right speach in the link to the book.

Words or phrases applied to oneself or to others can have a devastating and have a long-lasting impact especially on the young. Words stick and if they come with the background intent to hurt they can stick for a life time. Choosing words and phrases carefully is obviously important however even with the best of intentions people grasp the wrong end of the stick! I’m eternally sorry for all those who have found themselves hurt by words and phrases I’ve written or uttered.

What was the word that came my way the other day? Insouciant. Meanings listed as follows: showing a casual lack of concern; indifferent.
synonyms: nonchalant, untroubled, unworried, unruffled, unconcerned, indifferent, blasé, heedless, careless; relaxed, calm, equable, serene, composed, easy, easygoing, carefree, free and easy, happy-go-lucky, lighthearted, airy, blithe, mellow;
informal: cool, laid-back, slaphappy.

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One thought on “Appreciating The Impact of Words”

  1. Much in this post I think. All too easy to use words without due care and/or understanding.

    Two Zen Classics: Mumonkan & Hekiganroku,Translated with commentaries by Katsuki Sekida I’ve found a helpful book over the years. Or to be more precise the Mumonkan part I’ve found helpful, I find Hekiganroku too opaque.

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