Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Sorry, but you're looking for something that isn't here."

And my world was a little dimmer this morning because of what wasn't there.

In the midst of the joy I've found lately in rhetorical communion with cyber-friends old and new, the dark side of language came to play, stifling, though just for a moment, one of the bright spots in my reader. After a dear and insightful new friend exposed herself the other day by sharing the struggles she's had raising an autistic child in a world that refuses to understand, as Luisa notes, "At least two separate gangs of roving bullies discovered my friend’s post and publicly ripped it apart in open forums. They called my friend and her child obscene names and ridiculed both her faith and her parenting." As if that wasn't bad enough, some people emailed her, basically told her she and her son weren't worthy of being called "human," of propagating the race.

And now I realize how little tolerance I have for people who prey on the meek and perpetuate prejudice and violence through the rhetoric of hate, something that Brillig has now answered with compassion. (Bravo Brillig!)

As I become more sensitive to the nuances of language and the needs of the various audiences I associate with, I realize how powerful words are as a means of compassion, communion, and healing; also as means to cultural/personal destruction, alienation, and pain. In a world rife with the latter, I committed long ago to use my language for the former, to learn the healer's way with words so I might reach out and somehow soothe the afflicted soul. Such, I'm convinced, is a way to lasting personal and cultural peace: to take responsibility for what our words might do once we've sent them into the world and to shape them accordingly; to cultivate an awareness of how our presence, our compassion can and must influence the world, of how we can fully occupy the space where our lives touch other lives, where a look or a touch of the hand or the simple act of listening or a string of carefully chosen or inspired words can spark new associations within and between selves. And this means knowing, among other things, that we can create new intra- and interpersonal worlds based on the responsible and responsive use of language.

And so I'm struggling today to offer something of hope to my down-trodden friend. To lift the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees (ref). To publish peace by recommitting myself to learn the names of all the vital things, to wield carefully and with respect and compassion the life-shaping power of words.

I know it's not much, but I hope that, somehow, it might just be enough to make a difference. Somehow.