Words can heal. Words can destroy. They have tremendous power and energy. Choose yours carefully. Well-chosen words can breathe hope into you when your spirit is broken and can make you stronger than you know. Mean-spirited words can deflate you, destroy your spirit, make you feel hopeless, and force you to live in idiocrasy.
“Words. So innocent as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”Nathaniel Hawthorne
Language is what makes us human it is a vital part of human connection. Although other species have their own way of communication, human beings are the only ones who have mastered the skill of cognitive language communication. Language allows us to share our ideas, thoughts, and feeling with others. It has the power to build societies but also tear them down.
Words can heal rifts and even stop wars.
Words can heal. Words can destroy. The power of words is immense. Well-chosen words have in the past sufficed to stop an army and change defeat into victory. In the olden days, ceasefires were called parley (from French: parler – to speak) and were often spoken after waving a white flag, requesting for some time-out and for a last attempt discussion/negotiation to try to end hostilities between two groups of people.
“The magic of words is that they have the power to do more than convey meaning; not only do they have the power to make things clear they make things happen.”Frederick Buechner
In October 1962, the world came very close to a devastating nuclear war between two superpowers, the USA led by President John. F. Kennedy and the USSR led by Nikita Khrushchev. The whole drama started when the CIA discovered that medium to long-range Soviet ballistic nuclear missiles were being built on the Island of Cuba, just 90 miles off the coast of Florida. The fate of millions of people around the world depended on how these two men would communicate with each other.
President Kennedy’s advisors put a tremendous amount of pressure on him to act quickly and aggressively by destroying the missiles site followed by a full-scale invasion of Cuba. Instead of rushing into a decision that was not well thought through, Kennedy decided to pause and reflect in order to understand the bigger picture before deciding on his next move; and instead of sending his army to invade Cuba, he decided to parley with Khrushchev via exchange of letters in order to see if they could find a way to resolve this conflict without having to annihilate each other in the process.
Kennedy had recently read Barbara Tuchman’s book The Guns of August, a book about the beginning of World War I, which imprinted on his mind the image of overconfident world leaders rushing their way into a conflict, that once started they couldn’t stop. Kennedy also felt inspired by a passage from another book he read by strategist B.H. Liddell on nuclear strategy.
“Keep strong if possible. In any case, keep cool. Have unlimited patience. Never corner an opponent and always assist him to save face. Put yourself in his shoes, so as to see through his eyes. Avoid self-righteousness like the devil, nothing is so self-blinding.”B.H. Liddell
Against the wishes of the majority of his advisors, Kennedy decided upon a less aggressive strategy, a naval blockade. This approach was to prevent further missiles from reaching Cuba, but also to give him time to think, time to communicate, and time to understand the intentions and responses from Khrushchev. On 22 October 1962, John. F. Kennedy addressed the nation via live television broadcast. His message was intended for the domestic audience but also for the international public at large, and it demonstrated true statesmanship.
“The 1930s taught us a clear lesson, aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war… we will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth; but neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced.”President J.F Kennedy
Words can heal. Words can destroy. Both Kennedy and Krushchev chose their words carefully, those words had so much power that they suffice to put an end to this conflict and save the world from jumping into the M.A.D world of Mutual Assured Destruction.
Words can destroy and even kill.
Sometimes words can kill, they can easily arouse feelings of fear and anxiety. History is full of events where the smallest of occurrences had the most momentous consequences. Words uttered to the wrong ears can create offenses that can result in the fall of empires and wipe away complete nations.
When you think about the types of weapons used during a war, you think planes, tanks, machine guns, grenades, etc… Yes, all of these were important tools in the effort to win the war, but so was information issued by the government. During the Second World War, words were seen as powerful movers of men and women; they became mobilizers of the national spirit and called for courage and sacrifice for the sake of the nation. Most of the battles during World War II happened all around Europe, North Africa, and Asia. The USA territory was fairly remote from the action until the tragic event of Pearl Harbor. From this point forward, the U.S. government waged a constant battle for the hearts and minds of the public, persuading Americans to support the war effort.
In 1942, the Office of War Information (OWI) was created to craft with the task to disseminate through posters, pamphlets, radio shows, and movies the government’s message. Artists, filmmakers, and intellectuals were recruited to take the government’s agenda and turn it into a propaganda campaign. The objectives of the U.S. Government for the propaganda campaign were unifying the public behind the war effort, eliminating dissent of all kinds, and finding the necessary resources to finance the war effort. The government posters pulled at emotions both positive and negative. They used words as ammunition.
“The function of the war poster is to make coherent and acceptable a basically incoherent and irrational ordeal of killing, suffering, and destruction that violate the very accepted principle of morality and decent living.”O.W. Riegal, Propaganda Analyst for the Office of War of Information.
The power of words. What is etymology?
Words can heal. Words can destroy. What is their true meaning? Etym – olog – gy. Etym derives from etymon, which means in Greek true, real, and actual – Ology means the study of. So, etymology means the study of what is true and real. Let’s have a look at the etymology of a few words, just for fun; the idea is to find their true meaning.
Universe: Uni-Verse literally means one verse. We often refer to music as being a universal language that can be understood by anyone anywhere. The message behing any musical piece can be understood far and wide, wherever you are and whatever language you speak, because there is an universal tone to it.
If you read the word live from right to left, you get the word evil.
“How long does it take man to realize that he cannot want what he wants? You have to live in hell to see heaven.”William S. Burroughs
A Bond in finance means an instrument of indebtedness to the government. Its origin comes from the word bondage which means keeping someone in a state of servitude. The word mortgage comes from the old French –mort- gage – a dead pledge. Anyone who has gone through the process of obtaining a 20- or 30-years mortgage knows it can feel like signing your life away. The deal dies when the debt is paid or when the payment fails.
In closing I will leave you in the company of Sadhguru, who has a special talent with words.
“If you become pleasant in your body, we call it health. If you become very pleasant in your body, we call it a pleasure. If your mind becomes pleasant, we call it peace. If it becomes very pleasant, we call it joy. If your emotions become pleasant, we call it love. If it becomes very pleasant, we call it compassion. If your life energy becomes pleasant, we call it bliss. If it becomes very pleasant, we call it ecstasy.”Sadhguru
Words can heal and words can destroy. Choose yours carefully. And this my dear friend is your Quest.
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