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The Agony of Words

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Silent whispers in my ear
eating away at my certainties until
truth becomes a small murmer of ’What if ...’

From the poem:
Words, by Pieces of Poet

Words ..

they can seduce you, confound, leave you happy, sad, angry or cold ... and everything else in between.

Are they the same for you?

Critically though, once words are used, that’s it. They are irretrievable. For eternity. Sometimes I feel totally overwhelmed by them, I can’t get away from them. In a literal sense, words define me and they are like an addiction too because I go to the universal font every day - without fail - because I was raised and taught to depend on them and to use them.

I wonder though, do words truly represent me, the whole of me? Do they define what I am thinking and what I am feeling?

Maurice Frydman* has led me to question this. He writes that words became important when the human mind acquired the art of symbolic thinking and communication - the art and skill of language was born. However, he says, they make us live in a world totally symbolic and, therefore, unreal.

´´To break out from this prison of the verbal mind into reality, one must be able to shift one’s focus from the word to what it refers to, the thing itself.”

The point that Frydman is making is that words have become too important but we forget, they are just conceptual.

” ... words have replaced the real, with the result that man now lives in a verbal world, crowded with words and dominated by words.´´

Well, well, well. No wonder we can get into trouble for using words, if we depend upon them to substitute for us what is real. The power that they have - symbolically - can be used quite sucessfully when they are shared in the appropriate cultural context. A word placed in another context can have immediate and massive repercussions.

So, I would question this: are words guilty of keeping us in a dream?

I could also ask: are we guilty of hiding behind words to avoid reality?

The mind - where our words are stored - is a hard place. Really, when you pause to think about it, the mind is just a data bank, uploaded with specific, programmed meanings. In varying degrees of acceptance but programmed nonetheless to respond to words in a variety of ways. All based on our learned, interpretation of words, which we gain through experience and apportion emotional attachment. Every word we receive goes through a workout - based on what we ’think’ it means.

So, I think Frydman could be right in saying that the verbal mind is a prison. It is exhausting for me to work through just this thought line and I hope to heaven that you are sharing my thoughts in this process. Because I have to be honest with you, I am finding this exercise incredibly difficult. I would like to break out of this prison to see what I am missing, for I find myself caught up in what the meaning of every word means to me but also what it could be.

What, do I just buy into the meaning of a word? Then submit it? That’s a delicate lottery to be in.

I can also get caught up with low self-confidence in just using certain words, like I am not qualified enough to use them. Or, I might feel restricted by the agreed meanings of symbols, even after studying data on customer preferences for example, which might tell me that one conclusive study found that Mr Jones likes this yet another said that Ms Stephenson would not be caught dead wearing that.

OK, I will go along with that but my instincts are saying otherwise and I am struggling here (with my program). I am getting stuck in the land of symbol and metaphor. I am drowning now. What does this word refer to? What does it connote?. I am losing sight of where I am heading.

Truth is, I am having a vulnerable day and writers block is taking over like a migrane. I can’t even say what words are inside my head because I think they are now stupid.

That can’t be right, I protest. Something is telling me this is not real - well, not real enough. Maurice Frydman has a good point, because I am swimming in symbols right now. Not reality - well it has become a reality - and it is sending me a little crazy.

Walk away, walk away!

I remind myself to breathe - in between these wordy indecisions .. these little silent whispers inside my brain, eating away at my certainties, which are now dwindling to a scream.

Time to get a hold of myself.

Words have their place. They sure do. It is because I let them have a place and as soon as I do, they take over. To be fair though, I also use words to get what I want so I cannot blame you words for causing any trouble that follows.

I am also guilty of mis-using words as well, unconsiously but sometimes with clear and cold intent. You can also add 10 more years onto my life sentence for being downright gratuitous as well, because sometimes my words have got carried away with themselves and want to be the most important thing. And I have a part in that, too.

But forgive me, I am sick. I am part of a virus that runs on words. Or, a word virus that I have caught. I have not made my mind up.

I also note that I am doing things to my words as I write this post .. I am bolding, turning words into headlines and converting some into italics. These are symbols, too. What do you make of them? I wonder.

It also occurs to me: what a most extraordinary way to live. For the most part, I could even call it futile, so much is cranked out through my word system every year. Just glancing up at the mass of words already on this page, I suddenly think I have created a nightmare.

But why beat myself up? How many others stuggle with words? There are masters out there who can spin words far better than I. Yet, I hear they can anguish over a word for weeks and each and every tense as well.

I am trying my best here! I am just trying to convey something about words. And of course I wonder how this organisation of words is going to be received? What’s her point? How can we help? She is clearly having a fight with her symbols. Damn right I am.

I need word economy

I needed to headline these words just to draw the line here.

Quietly thinking ... looking for context, clarity and yes, some objectivity as well would be good right now.

The majority of humanity exists in an economy of words, that languages between the cultures. That is: I string words together to reach out to other word exchangers and I hope that I will be understood. We all read/listen and interpret through our worldview filters, we judge and respond - mostly with more words.

However, there is something wanting here. Another part of me is calling out. It is coming from deep within and is not inside my head either. It is asking: what are you aware of right now? You are feeling something, what is it? Don’t feel that you have to put it into words either. Not immediately. Can you just sit with that feeling?


OK. Now what is it saying to you? I am sorry, but you will have to put this into words.

Do I have to?

No, but try and stay with this. Open up if you can.

OK, I am not always aware of who I am when I am writing - I get lost. What I write is not perfect enough to explain what I really mean. I am hung up on how my words will be received. I care about this. For myself first.

Well, that is honest of me, I think to myself and good point: How much self-awareness is really present when I decide to let go of a discrete set of words and transmit them? I ask this because I believe that I am mostly locked inside my brain and running with a program that kind of belongs to me but it is also from somewhere else.

Do you understand where I am going with this? Probably not entirely but I will continue if you care to follow me and I will be grateful for your time.

What I am saying is: these words on this page, they are not my words! There, I said it. I did not make one of them up. I am not a word inventor. I am just programmed to use words. Understand?

Every time I use words, they are not for me, they are for someone else - and how another word user will interpret what I string together will be through their lens, not mine. As of the words conveyed - the writer - me - is dead. I gave power to my brain to put some words together and allowed it to organise bringing ’some’ of my thoughts into existence but I want to assure you, right now, the result is not me. Not all of me, deeply me. It is just some symbolic facets of me.


I need to take a pause -
Scaled Image 7

OK, I need to take some responsibility for the words I choose and how I put them together. It is not enough to be technically correct, I must pay attention to my whole self and how that is contributing to the final result. Although there are divine presentations of words that we can all soar to, we are also inclined to be stumbling over each others words. Is this because of clashing programs, or is it something else?

Words are currency - a form of energy exchange. Energy in motion, or as some might say, e motion. For this reason, we need to be aware of this important factor - that words are formed out of emotions as well. Can’t escape that, can we? Therefore, we require a degree of consciousness when we use them. Sure, dumping them onto paper or through the keyboard can be liberating too. But it is only in the pause - away from the word - that we can suddenly see where we are being led to see inside of ourselves. The choice is always there: WHY THAT WORD? Why does it mean *this* for me? How did I get there?

This dance between giving and receiving language is kind of like the Tango. A duet of movement that arrives at a moment of stillness, pregnant with meaning and expectation. The same occurs in the dance of words - we come to that pause and magically the symbolic veil is lifted and compels us to see a reality.

Or so we think but a reality nonetheless.

On this page, I have strung words every which way. Now I hold them up and see if I can live with them or can I do without them? This particular post is not a matter of life and death and it is not a crime to pass them along for consideration either. What someone does with my words, what they think a word labels and points to - is up to them. But, how they were creatively strung together, the energy in which they were created - what is that? What awareness do I bring to this writing process, indeed to any communication process in which I use words?

For now, though this could all change, I will settle on the following:

1.Intention always sits behind the words I use. I guess I have to own that.

Of course, the symbolic meanings of words are not the only thing that we exchange when we communicate with words. Emotional energy is carried in words (without a doubt) and passes between people as well in the form of how words are delivered - through the nuances of voice and body language. Words and their meaning can also be invoked through forms in other mediums like music, song, photography and art

2.Form is the real deal in delivering the message

Form is a beautiful word, it holds so much because that is its life’s work. It is the entity present that holds the bullet of our intentions when we send words on their way. Form can add significant weight to the flow or obstruction of understanding. Form can bring people together and it can also separate. For example, the form of *debate* as distinct from *dialogue* remains the prevailing form of discourse on this planet. Debate does not create mutually and beneficial outcomes. It separates people, it is based in a duality system of consciousness that is steeped in dogma and competition, offense and defense, win and lose. I do not care for debate. It is a form (of enquiry and challenge) used by the court system, of people defending their point of view. Words predominantly rule a court system, arguing right from wrong, and judge and jury - right or wrong - have the last word.

3.So much pressure on the human condition - and all through words

Personally I much prefer the open engagement of *dialogue*, which actually seeks to understand problems and diversity of culture, opinions and ideas. Reverence and irreverence is allowed to co-exist in this form of communication - words are used to work towards a point of shared understanding. An exploratory and creative space is enabled. Participants tend to move into an empathetic zone with each other. Possibilities for actions are accelerated because people bring in their heart to balance the noise of the mind. A richness of meaning and shared understanding of all words exchanged is promoted - and that’s because people are more open with each other.

4.When words are co-created - there is hope!

Words serve to point the way, and yes, they do have their purpose. But, so do thoughts and the energy we float behind each idea and the words we choose to set sail in. To understand this dynamic of why words are used, I somehow feel now a little less worried about being un certain - because, that is the thing that keeps calling me back - to be a part of life. Words are meant to be exchanged, if not with others, at least as a reflective exercise to bounce between the different parts of yourself. In that exchange, more thoughts can be formed into words - and the co-creation of wordy interplays takes us on an ever ending journey of meaning and hopefully to deeper levels of understanding.

New words may come into circulation but every word is born again every time that it is used. That stuggle to make meaning is part of life’s mystery, don’t you think? I can’t do without words entirely, I suppose because if they are not being spoken or written or read, they are most certainly lurking inside my head.

Thank you for reading !

- Debra Robertson

Photo by CheshireSpider

*”The mind was originally a tool in the struggle for biological survival. It had to learn that the laws and ways of Nature working hand-in-hand can raise life to a higher level. But, in the process the mind acquired the art of symbolic thinking and communication, the art and skill of language. Words became important. Ideas and abstractions acquired an appearance of reality, the conceptual replaced the real, with the result that man now lives in a verbal world, crowded with words and dominated by words. Obviously, for dealing with things and people words are exceedingly useful. But they make us live in a world totally symbolic and, therefore, unreal. To break out from this prison of the verbal mind into reality, one must be able to shift one’s focus from the word to what it refers to, the thing itself. Words are pointers, they show the direction but they will not come along with us. Truth is the fruit of earnest action, words merely point the way. ”

* From: From ‘I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta’- edited by Maurice Frydman (1973)
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