FIGHTING WORDS: OUR MISGUIDED CONSTRUCTS

Semantics are often trivialized in conversation. Yet the words we choose when speaking to another or in our internal dialogues reflect individual perceptions.  Words have a particular meaning to us. They often carry emotional undertones and reflect cultural concepts we embrace.

Consider usage of these similar words: argue, disagree, fight, and quarrel.  We may use them interchangeably, but of those four only “fight” suggests a conflict which may become physical as well as verbal.  On the other hand, when we think of the word “war,” our perceptions are very much alike.  “War” is used by most of us to describe a conflict engaged with the intent of causing harm.  We wage war on other people and groups intending to inflict some form of loss- loss of life, property, or lifestyle.  We wage war on cancer with the intention of eradicating damaged and damaging cells from  the human body.  We wage war on drugs with the intention of eliminating their abuse in our society.

In an earlier blog, I examined our concept of control and reiterated the fact that control over anything other than the self is an illusion. {. . . And Some Endeavors Matter Less!}  In a later blog, I made a case for fear of loss being our true motivation for choosing war.  I said we mask our fear and proclaim  a cherished ideal as motivation.  Then we identify a perceived enemy, convince ourselves we must attack, and try to gain power and control over the “evil other” before he can do so to us.  Yet power and control are fleeting, existing primarily in our minds. Thus, “we have warred with each other to protect an illusion, in an attempt to achieve an illusory and temporary goal.”  { . . .And War by Any Other Name Still Stinks of Fear and Death}

Now let’s add another concept within this framework: strength versus weakness.  People have a tendency to disclaim and mask emotions they perceive as “weak.”  {see my blog “I’m Okay! . . aka My Favorite Lie” }  We mask our fears in many ways because having fear is perceived as being  weak.  Anger is one such mask we use, believing it demonstrates strength.  Yet with few exceptions, fear underlies most of our anger.  We are afraid to acknowledge our fear because we have overlaid the perception of fear with our concepts of weakness and strength!  Ironically, our unwillingness to acknowledge our fears, to see them as such, is a common human weakness.  Whenever we mask an emotion or feeling and hide behind another, we are lying to ourselves.  Our actions and responses to life situations will therefore inevitably be inaccurately framed in our perceptions, quite probably to our detriment.  As they have been in our concepts and perceptions regarding war.

Throughout our history we have engaged in wars with each other believing a show of our perceived strength will provide a solution to our problems and ensure our security.  And throughout our history we have encouraged people to fight for the ideal we proclaim to be our reason for war.  When we “win,” when we have caused more harm to the “evil other” than he has inflicted upon us for a few moments in time, we proudly think it was a war well fought.  Of course those who have fought may not be around to enjoy the spoils.  And of course we realize we’ll have to maintain our spoils with another show of strength as new enemies present themselves. Again and again.

We must ask ourselves what we have gained from war.  Given that anything it has accomplished in our past has been temporary, requiring repeated wars to maintain or regain what we believe we need, we seem to have accepted war as part of life, our destiny.  Are we so convinced we cannot do better?  And how can we think of war as demonstrating human strength under these circumstances?

Choosing war is giving up.  It is a denial of our most valuable assets, our most potent powers: our minds, brains, our intellectual capabilities.  It is also a relinquishment of the holiness of our humanity, our humanitarianism. Choosing to war with one another is our major human weakness. Renowned leaders throughout the world have tried to convince us of exactly that, including:  Nelson Mandela; His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama;  Martin Luther King; Mother Theresa; Sister Joan Chittister; Mahatma Gandhi.  All have lived lives which demonstrated to us the power of peaceful reconciliation with our fellow man, and we have  loved them for doing so.   What has prevented us from hearing their messages?

Let’s hear them now, through the holiness of our humanity.

 

 

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