more on semantics

June 10, 2008

I wonder what it says about us humans, all the labels we derived from our short comings and frailties and from the darkest parts of ourselves – rapists, murderers, liars, crooks, cheats, molesters, good-for-nothings, thieves, swindlers, goons, bullies and so on. Help me out if you can think of a comparable list derived from the best of who we are. What do we got: heros and saviors and the likes. Even then they tend not be about specific behaviors, and certainly not about specific behaviors we want to encourage.

I think there’s something going on about fear and punishment and how little we are interested as a culture in cultivating compassion and forgiveness.


semantically speaking

June 6, 2008

First, let me run up the flag here and say that at best, there is a thin thread to string this post together, but I still want to talk about it. Hope you’ll bear with me.

The whole thing in my last post about willingness v. will is part of an ongoing conversation I’ve been having with myself for a while now about the power of language. What we call something, how we refer it – that often says something more than the literal intentions. What’s most salient for me right now is the aggressive language used around disease and disorder. Things like, her battle with cancer, he conquered his fears, fighting the good fight, the will to live, etc. My efforts around healing or even managing my own maladies have been better served by a less combative lexicon.

But this experience of language goes way beyond my personal experience. For instance, if I told you a relative of mine died in the Holocaust, the term “died”, a fairly neutral term, does not suggest the horror that person endured, maybe being starved, then tortured, and finally lined up naked in front of big pit and shot in the head. But if I tell you my relative was murdered in the Holocaust, the term “murdered” suggests that something much more violent happened in his or her dying. And I think is more accurate way to talk about those deaths. And mass murder is accurate way to talk about genocide.

The power of language also extends to how we talk about folks who perpetrate acts of horror. Let’s take someone who commits rape, at the very least a pretty fucking foul thing to do. The perpetrator becomes a rapist, defined forever by the worst of himself. And I’m going with “him” because most perps are male. And in defining that guy by what’s darkest in him we push him outside humanity. And who does that serve? How does that serve justice? In taking away the humanity of the guy who commits rape, we’re not restoring humanity to his victim.

Bell Hooks said: For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?


flying solo

June 3, 2008

So . . . almost 30 years later, and after bailing at the last minute on David And Julie’s wedding because I was so freaked about flying, I finally made it back on to a plane by myself and I went some where, San Francisco to be exact. Good lord, that felt great. Fear has been such a tough companion, but a companion all the same. I welcome any and all pats on the back, I’d just ask you to stay away from the aggressive kinda of language to explain that work. I’ve not conquered anything and will power hasn’t won. Nope this has all been about willingness and compassion. I’ll blog more on SF later.