Today I intended to write about Dana Redfield, noted author and speaker on UFO experiences and my personal friend for many years. However, as synchronicity would have it, an incident occurred recently, the discussion of which makes such a good introduction to the work she took up at the end of her life, that I realized this article on words of power needs to precede my words of remembrance for my beloved sister Dana.
That incident was Don Imus' now notorious remark concerning the Rutgers University's women's basketball team. The resulting furor was very healthy for the nation, I think. However, the heart of the reason why the misuse of language is a bad idea, spiritually speaking, goes far deeper than our being offended by Imus.
Let's look at his remark, deconstructing the sentence and viewing the two words of power.
"Nappy-headed" is a slang term we as a culture have used for at least a century when describing ebony hair. Surely it would be much more euphonious to use the word "ebony" instead of "nappy-headed" to describe the curly hair of people of color. But in itself, the word is simply slang.
The other offensive word is "ho." Ho? What an innocent syllable!
Repeated thrice, it evokes Santa Claus.
Repeated twice, it evokes sweet treats of chocolate and cream filling.
Said but once, the word is slang for "adult woman." Used by men of color and referring to women of color, that word, like the word "bitch," has been co-opted by male entertainers of color to describe just about any woman besides their mothers. In its slang usage by men of color, it does not connote whoredom. What it connotes is sexism. Using this word creates for the African-American male a sense of being the master of the relationship or situation being discussed. Its usage intends to put the woman in her place, safely lesser than the male.
This slang has been in place in our mainstream culture for decades. However, it has always been used exclusively by men of color who are joking or rapping about women of color. Our society has not only tolerated this usage; it has enjoyed it. Men of all races enjoy the powerful feelings they get from hearing such usage. Dogged by feelings of inadequacy, men feel subconsciously that the plight of the poor male going up against The Goddess is frightening and intimidating. Dealing with women, any advantage is appreciated.
What Imus did that got him fired was to forget that he was a man of European-American descent, not African-American. He thought he could be black. I believe he felt that he so thoroughly understood black humor that he could use black words of power. Well, he obviously thought wrongly. He may still not understand what happened to him, for he has made his living for years insulting and offending everything and everyone that catches his eye. "What went wrong that day?" he well may be asking himself. "Why was today any different?"
If he had stayed within the slang of his genetic heritage, his disrespectful and irrelevant thought would have slid right by. And how I wish he would have, for at least here was a guy who was talking about women’s basketball, a sport which is full of excellent players and very short on fans.
If he had said, "Boy, look at the faces on those jobs," as I have heard many a local redneck pundit say in my 60 years of living in the South, it would have been just a laugh.
And that is at the heart of the deeper problem. We use words that have emotional power in order to arouse and manipulate people's emotions. For instance, we as a culture deliberately foul our speech with the word "fuck," as Shirley MacLaine's character did in the film "Terms of Endearment," when she said that having sexual relations with Jack Nicholsan’s astronaut character was "fan-fucking-tastic." She was so cute when she said that, lying across her bed with her daughter, played by Debra Winger. And in that scene, Debra's character is startled for a heartbeat and then pleased because her mother is happy. They laugh together and the story moves on.
Another unfortunate word we use constantly is "shit." Like "fuck," "shit" is a natural and usual noun and verb in our language. Both words refer to natural functions. In and of themselves, they have no emotive content. However, used repeatedly as curse words, they are entirely different. A pilot friend of mine says that when the investigators of airplane crashes listen to the "black box" which records cockpit chatter, the last sentiment on the tape of the crashed aircraft is almost always "Oh, shit!"
Neither of my parents ever swore. I thought little of this until I was away from the nest and enjoying adulthood. My first husband swore cheerfully, continuously and copiously, using the two above-mentioned words like filler in cheap meat to texturize and make more interesting the otherwise bland and mediocre thoughts he offered. Because he meant no harm, I got used to the blue, blue conversation and became inured to its offense.
One day I was at work. I was a school librarian for a private girls school of 13 grades at the time. It was a dream job for a woman in her early 20s and I loved having my own shop. I also loved the students who used the library for projects and also for study hall. However, I got thrown off-base when a second-grader came in with an overdue library book and turned to leave without giving up the dime she owed the library for the two days it was past due. And I came within a hair of saying, "Where the fuck do you think you're going?"
That verbal near-disaster caught my attention, and since then I have been very careful about using pleasant words that mean the same thing as the slang words. At the time, I mentioned this to my friend Don Elkins, with whom I founded L/L Research in 1970. He explained to me that in his opinion, words had power. He felt that one needed to use them with exquisite care. Don never swore, although unlike my parents he created his own curse words. If the car overheated, the air conditioner went on the blink or he forgot the sugar for his coffee, his expletive was "schmierkaese," which in German means creamed cottage cheese. And if the situation bottomed out into total disaster, he would view the wreckage and say, "Beautiful!"
Don's theory was that all people were magical in nature. He felt that speech was sacred. The source I most often channel, a group entity named Q’uo, agrees. In a session recorded Dec. 11, 2005, Q’uo said:
"As you hear certain words, the energy body reacts at an unconscious or preconscious level. There is no effort involved. When you hear the sweet sound of the human voice or a well played instrument of any kind, whether it be a wind instrument or a percussion instrument like a piano, or an instrument like the violin that creates music from vibration, you are creating sounds that in themselves are sacred and that have the ability to awaken, at the preconscious or subconscious level, streams of emotion."
And, of course, Imus' job as a shock jock was just that: accessing his listeners' streams of emotion using offensive words. Often the laughter of our human tribe is a simple release of suffering and pain. We can be a dark tribe indeed!
However that darkness is not our basic nature. Far from it. We are, as Q’uo said in the same session:
" ... love using light to experience the incarnation you now experience, to process the catalyst that you are now receiving and to explore those regions of feeling and concept which are sparked into awakening within you."
And in our exploration, we have only these poor tools, words, to use to communicate with each other and express the concepts and feelings we are experiencing.
Words are imprecise tools, far from the immaculate purity of concept. As a channel, I know that very well. I receive balls of concept which I then translate into words. I almost always feel as though I have barely scratched the surface of those concepts as I do the translation. The Q’uo describes this difference this way:
"Communication by concept is a direct envisioning of a whole system of thought that is in a certain pattern and that can be offered as a whole. To unravel a concept and exhaust its possibilities can be a lengthy process, the translation into words being awkward and elephantine compared to the cleanliness and lucidity of concept communication."
However true it is that words are clumsy tools, they are all we humans have on this side of the veil. It behooves us all, then, to use words carefully. The Q’uo group, commenting on this, said:
"We wish to be very careful to speak always in terms that have relatively little power within your illusion, insofar as they are emotionally charged. We do not say, for instance, the word 'God.' From time to time, because we are allowing the instrument freedom, it will speak that word. And it is acceptable to us. Of our own self we would prefer a less emotionally charged term; one that moves cosmology out of superstition and into a simple knowledge of how eternity creates itself."
We are, from the standpoint of Q’uo, instruments: wind instruments, to be precise. We do not simply speak. We create a melody with our words and with the feelings behind our words. Or at least, if we are conscious of the worth of doing this, we create such melodies.
Instead, for the most part, we tend to use words like weapons. It is as though we are standing behind our crenellations, peering through the firing gap looking for targets of opportunity so we can fire our arrows of offensive and manipulative words. We get very good at drawing the bow and letting fly these arrows, watching to see if we have hit our target.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to come off the castle rooftop of our defended self and start singing a new song? Wouldn't it be exciting to live in a society where people spoke in ways that were kind, caring and uplifting? Wouldn't it be healing to offer only respectful words as we offer our instrument to the creation of communication? As William Shakespeare says in Sonnet Eight,
[lyrics start] "Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering,
Resembling sire and child and happy mother
Who all in one, one pleasing note do sing." [lyrics end]
I remark as well: Let us all sing one pleasing note together in our communications, heart to heart and mind to mind.
I open my arms and embrace your spirit. Let us all tune into our own thoughts and speech this day. What song are we singing? What sacred melody do we offer the world? May we sing a song of love!