Monday 8 July 2024

The Language of Love Embodies Love: The Language of War Embodies War

“What’s Up?!” I was asked this the other day. I was a bit taken back by it. I replied. Well nothing much, I feel quite good actually. A bit tired as it was Sunday evening. I had had a heavy week and had just gone through the emotion of the England game. So I was feeling a bit tired, but generally ok. That said there was nothing the matter and I told her so. Now she was a bit taken aback by this, because she wasn’t asking me a question about my well being. She was asking “What’s up!” as in what I had been up to. A bit like the old “Coca Cola” advert, “What’s Up”. It was an hilarious moment and revealed something rather interesting and amusing to me. It isn’t always the words that we use, but the meaning behind the words we use. As we all know words change in meaning over time. In fact some words can almost mean the exact opposite of what they originally meant.

Like the word awful. Which originally meant to be filled with awe, in a powerful and overwhelming sense. Like awesome means now, but 100 fold. These days awful means a terrible thing, like the worst thing that could happen to a person. So nowadays having a little awe, awesome, is a good thing; but to be overwhelmed with awe, awful, is the worst thing imaginable.

Language, words, connect us, but they can also separate us; words are incredibly powerful things, spoken or written. Words can begin to bring deep healing or can be deeply destructive. What matters is the intention behind them. What seems to matter is the condition of our heart and soul as we speak what we must speak. It is the meaning behind the words that seems to matter the most.

Words are powerful they can be either destructive or creative. Perhaps an example of their creative power comes at the beginning of John’s Gospel and the following lines:

'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.'

According to John the spoken word can literally create life, in fact all life. Now of course in the original Greek, which these opening words were written in the word for “Word” was originally “Logos” which roughly translated actually does not mean merely “word,” but also “speech,” “principle,” “meaning” or “thought.” In Greek philosophy, it is also referred to as Divine Reason or the Mind of God. So, it could mean God speaking life into being, linking it to the first verses from Genesis when God is said to have breathed life into being, remembering always that he saw this creation as “Good”. So “word” here means, in my view, that life is the meaning coming into being and Jesus is the example of this in human form. An example we can all aspire to. For we can all incarnate Love, we can all be a part of the Divine creation. It begins in our words and how we say these words for they are an expression of our meaning. It also begins in how we listen to others. Our ability for each to share, an open loving invitation. This Divine activity. This space between us is the Kin-dom of Love.

When we speak we are not merely flapping our lips, vibrating air we are engaged in Divine activity we are creating or destroying life. It is the same with listening. If we listen with ears of heart we are creating sacred space, this Kin-dom of Love.

So, it is not just about what we say, the words we us, but the meaning behind them. This brings a whole deeper meaning to the phrase “The word (Logos, meaning the Meaning”, became flesh and dwelt amongst us. We embody our meaning through the words we use and how we use words.

Last Sunday afternoon I read a wonderful article in the “i” online newspaper. It was written by Susie Dent of Countdown fame. Susie is my favourite social commentator on social media, she has a gift of commentating on things by the use of language, old and new. She expresses her meaning through words. The article was reflecting on negative language towards the General Election and the England football team, particularly towards Gareth Southgate and the candidates for Prime Minister. Susie suggests this is nothing new and that the English language generally skews towards negativity. A favourite subject for Susie, as I have highlighted before.

As she writes:

“Take the word “happy”, which didn’t appear in English until the 14th century. Until then, you would simply be “glad”. When it did come, happiness leant heavily upon chance. “Hap” meant “fortune” or “fate”, so that “perhaps” means “if fate allows”, a “happening” was a chance occurrence, and “hapless” became a description for someone who never has much luck at all.

The message seems to be that happiness has always been precarious, if not entirely random. In fact, a riffle through a historical thesaurus offers just 12 synonyms for “happy”, and over 50 for the opposite. Just like us, our words seem wired for pessimism.”

She then goes on a journey re words and language for those seeking approval. Stating: “Of course, approval, or the lack of it, is the theme of the moment, whether it involves the England football team or the party leaders seeking our votes. It is also a word with expectation built in: “proof” and “approve” are close relations, meaning that, linguistically at least, approval won’t be given without proof that it is deserved. Without it, many of us stick to the pessimism corner.”

Finally she turns to language and particularly testimony, with reference to the political class, ending with a little humour. She stated:

“Given the chance, our language veers instinctively to the dark side. Perhaps we need more proof and fewer promises to guarantee our approval. Truthful testimony can be hard to find amongst the fakery – on which note, it’s worth saying that “testimony”, from the Latin “testis”, “witness”, and “testicles” are all etymologically one and the same. A man’s testicles were believed to be “witnesses” to his virility. Perhaps talking bollocks has always been part of the deal.”

What we say and the meaning behind our language really matters. Our words are our meaning. It is not just about the words we use, but the meaning behind them. It can be deeply creative or destructive.

Ursula K Le Guin the great 20th century novelist wrote:

“Words are events, they do things, change things. They transform both speaker and hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it. They feed understanding or emotion back and forth and amplify it,”

Words express our meaning and they amplify the meaning of our society and culture. This is why the meaning of words change over time. Remember Logos meant both word and meaning and yet in English translation of the Bible it is always translated as word and not meaning. We need to understand the meaning behind the words we use.

I was admonished the other day for saying something that was considered unkind. It was not meant that way. I was asked a direct question and I gave an honest and thoughtful response, I was actually agreeing with the questioner. That said someone overhearing what I said, replied with the thought that what I said was unkind. On reflection it probably was, although it was not the meaning behind what I said, it was not my intention.

There is a song on the latest New Model Army album “Unbroken” it is called “Language”. The chorus goes something like this.

The language of love will bring us love
The language of war will bring us war
The way that all the words become true
The way that all the words become true
The language of love will bring us love
The language of war will surely bring us war
We choose it, we own it, we choose it, we own it
We choose it, and we own it.

We have to be responsible for the words we use and the meaning behind them. Are they words of love, that play a role in the creation of life. Or are they words of war that play a part in the destruction. Words express our meaning. This something that has disturbed me these last few weeks of the general election and public life in general. We need to be careful with the language we use and what we mean by what we say. No one wins in war, its just that one side loses a little more. I hope that the public discourse will improve now that the electioneering is over.

Now of course language is subtle and complex and often not direct. Metaphor is important, this is particularly true when speaking of the great religious stories. To me they are trying to teach deep truth, but should not be taken as historical fact. Remember mythos originally meant universal truth, not fact.

We all of us, whether we are aware of it or not, use metaphor to name our own experience of life. Such metaphors express our “meaning”. Our personal metaphors, the language we use express our meaning, who we are. I was thinking of this as I thought about the language of war. Such as “Life is like a game of chance — some win, some lose.” Or “Life is like a battlefield — you get the enemy, or the enemy gets you. ”Such metaphors see life as conflict. They are very much Hobbesian world views. Very much the language of the last few weeks.

The metaphor that speaks to me personally, that expresses my logos, my meaning is the weather, or perhaps more accurately the changing seasons of life. I see life as neither strictly one thing or another, this allows a richness of language too. Life is an eternal cycle, ever changing and transforming. You can experience four seasons in one single day. There is joy, there is pain, there is loss and there is gain. There is darkness and there is light. It is important to me to become light in the dark, so that the dark does not overcome the light.

I wonder what are the metaphors of your live?. What is the language you use to speak of yourselves and of life? What is your meaning and how do you bring the meaning to life? Do you speak the language of love or the language of war?

It matters the words we use and the meaning behind them. Are they part of the creation or the destruction of life. Do we speak the language of love, or the language of war?

Please find below a devotion based on the material in this "blogspot"

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