July 10, 2012 at 12:26 PM
"Language is such a gift, and it is so powerful"
By Jim Nolan
Jim Nolan is the President of Southwestern College, a polymath, and whatever the opposite of a Guru is.
I wish we would save the word “trauma” for trauma, and not apply it to describe inconveniences, experiences we did not like, things that sucked or any significant change in autonomic nervous system functioning. I get about 200 of those a day. I do not consider myself traumatized. I do not consider my life experiences traumatic, not even all the so-called “deaths.”
I wish we would save the word “healing” for the treatment of true wounds, and not as interchangeable with “I liked it”, or “I felt better afterward” or “It made me feel more connected with life, or mother earth, or my higher/truer self.” I have about 111 such experiences a week. In the absence of what I would call a wound.
Language is such a gift, and it is so powerful. It starts off as a servant, helping us describe and share our experiences But it can end up a tyrant, imprisoning the experience in inadequate syllables, ultimately hijacking the experience altogether and leaving us with only a now-rehearsed version of it that we repeat again and again, playing to the laugh, the groan, the you-poor-thing we have gotten in prior sharings…
The spiritual world and the mental health world have lost track and control of language, and altogether too often, the glib grandiosity is a less-than-conscious (I hope) effort to commandeer some attention, or camaraderie, or new income stream. The experience itself is diminished in the effort to win points in the telling of the story of it.
I love my new Birkenstocks, but they are not awesome. Both of my parents, and two beloved dogs, Mickey and Molly, “died” but it was not traumatic. I felt less loss as time went on, but I was not healing, for I had not been wounded. It just would not have been my preference that any of them pass when they did, or how they did. I cried about all of them. Crying is not an indicator of trauma or wounding, necessarily; it can be an indicator of how much you loved the one that has passed on.
There is incomprehensible abuse in this old world, and violence beyond words. There is Mt. Everest and Niagara Falls and the birth of a baby and a puppy.
I wish we would save at least some of our superlatives for the truly superlative. If everything is the greatest, nothing is the greatest.
Or perhaps, much as I love language, we have to abandon it at certain points on our journey and say “You have to walk in silence from this point on—language cannot take you where you are wanting to go…”
What can you possibly say that would make a rainbow more than it is on its own?
The Tao that can be spoken…