Monday, June 18, 2012

The Power of Words

Edgar Allan Poe wrote a unique piece called “The Power of Words.”  It’s wholly available on-line, and I recommend you read it.  I found it compelling, and it reminded me of so much that has been said about “the Word.” 
The opening line in the Bible is “In the beginning was the Word,” though I have heard other translations into English.  Still, there is great emphasis on “the word.”
My father used to say that a man is only as good as his word, referring to being honest and honorable.  Don’t promise to do something if you cannot do it.  But if you say you will, do everything in  your power to keep your word. 
There is also that term “intercourse” which can also refer to two people talking. Isn’t that interesting?  The two creative faculties of the human are regarded as the sexual intercourse, as well as the use of the spoken word.
Words have power, and most of us are out of touch with that power. 
I have spent some time with the Oxford English Dictionary some years ago, learning that there are specific meanings of words that are completely lost today, and only by exploring the derivations of these words can you find it original meaning. There are also the special and archaic meanings, which can only add depth and clarity to our conversations.
The word is something very special and dare I say “magical.”  Because we “create” all the time – either intentionally or (more commonly) ignorantly – we should always refine our word usage.
Another interesting tidbit: As children we learn to draw the letters and to spell.  And somewhere in grammar school, the teachers laugh as they tell us that witches can cast spells. So there it is.  Spell and casting spells. Are we not “casting spells” and creating by our word use?
There is also the hidden side of language, where the words are telling us something, but the meanings are hidden in plain view.  The walls of the liquor stores say “Spirits sold here,” and the problem is, you never know what those spirits will do when  they enter your body.
Another intriguing topic is the English Kaballah, which I will address later.  I’d love to hear your comments.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Anti-Profanity Law

Residents in Middleborough, Massachusetts voted Monday night, with a 183 to 50 majority, to approve a proposal from the police chief to impose a $20 fine on public profanity.

According to the news reports, “Officials insist the proposal was not intended to censor casual or private conversations, but instead to crack down on loud, profanity-laden language used by teens and other young people in the downtown area and public parks.”

Duphily, who runs an auto parts store, is among the downtown merchants who wanted take a stand against the kind of swearing that can make customers uncomfortable.

"They'll sit on the bench and yell back and forth to each other with the foulest language. It's just so inappropriate," she said.

The measure could raise questions about First Amendment rights, but state law does allow towns to enforce local laws that give police the power to arrest anyone who "addresses another person with profane or obscene language" in a public place.

Matthew Segal, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot prohibit public speech just because it contains profanity.

What do you think?

When it comes to passing laws over behaviour, education and example are always better than new laws. But sometimes a law is needed.

Just listen anywhere these days and you’ll hear the “f” word spoken very casually. I have often politely told people to not talk that way around me, and most have abided by my request.

I remember what Larry Schaffer used to say about people who swore excessively. “It is a sign of low intelligence,” he would comment, and I agree. Compare it to how Shakespeare could insult a person (if he so desired) simply by his wit and mastery of the language, not simply by reverting to foul language.

And then there is the issue that laws can’t directly deal with. What do you do to your own very atmosphere, your spiritual essence, when you bathe yourself with such language? Is it uplifting? Is it degrading? If you care about the spiritual integrity of your fellow man (rather than the fact that their language bothers you), you will speak up with strength and love. Still, do not expect to be thanked for your selfless service.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Memorial Day 1998

[Note: The full version of this story is found in Nyerges' "Til Death Do Us Part?" book, available from Store at]

It was Memorial Day 1998, and I had scheduled to conduct a wild food outing at Pasadena’s Hahamongna Watershed Park. Since it was Memorial Day, my topic for a short discussion at the end of the outing was “death.”

I have always liked the grandeur and openness of this park. When I grew up, this was a short bicycle ride away, and I regarded it as my extended back yard.

Among the half-dozen participants who showed up for the outing was Martin Kruse, a bearded, burly bear of a man who looked like he’d be more at home in the 19th century. He introduced himself and told me that he’d long wanted to meet me, that we both wrote for many of the same publications and had many friends in common, such as Ron Hood. Martin and I chatted as the other outing participants listened, and he told me about his work with archery and primitive bow-making.

We walked down in the flat area of the large expanse of the park, where the wet mud had hardened, capturing countless animal tracks. Martin told us how to differentiate between coyote and dog tracks. He identified crow and other birds, showed us how to recognize the tracks of squirrel and rabbit. He’d obviously done a lot of tracking during his time hunting with a bow.

When we saw the deer tracks, Martin showed us how the deer’s hind foot had stepped into its own track just laid by its front foot. Martin said that only the female walks this way, that the male’s gait is different. He told us that the size of the hoof print meant it was a female deer about a year and a half old. I could tell that Martin enjoyed telling us all about the track.

After walking into the middle depths of the wash, we headed back to the picnic area, with me leading.
Within seconds, someone in the rear called out. Martin had fallen. I first thought it was a joke, and ran to him. It was no joke. His face already looked purple. The man who had been walking with him said he’d not tripped -- he just fell. I tried to rouse him, but it was quickly obvious that he was “out.”

Since I was the only one who knew the area -- I ran to a phone to call 911. Within 10 minutes, before I even got back to the group and Martin’s flat body -- paramedics from the City of Pasadena were on the scene, attempting to revive him. They carried him into the ambulance and took him away.

We discussed whether we thought Martin would revive or not. The paramedics had been fairly tight-lipped. Still, we all knew it was serious. So there we stood in the cool afternoon breeze, contemplating death in the most sobering manner possible. I explained to everyone my death lesson -- which hardly seemed appropriate now.

Someone had just died in our midst. We had to deal with it. We talked about how important it is to live each moment with intent, with joy, with soberness. We talked about how Martin may have wanted to say things to those he loved, but no longer could

Each person commented how “coincidental” it was that the lecture topic that I’d chosen for the day, and listed on the schedule, was “Death.” We kept reflecting on Martin. At that moment, none of us knew yet that Martin would not recover, that he had in fact died, and that he died in a place he loved. Nor had we known that Martin had a heart pacer, and an artery to his heart that was narrow. We were aware that he’d had surgery -- probably to the heart -- because we opened his shirt and saw the scar.

What had really brought Martin there on that day? I felt goose bumps at first, thinking that on some level he wanted to be with me, enjoying the natural world, meeting as two souls in the place he loved, near the old Indian burial ground, on his final day.

A German woman who’d been on the outing, Walti, told me that we should not feel sad. “It was quick,” she told me later. “What better place to die.” I could not help but agree with her.

Though I barely knew him, I felt closer to him in death.

Of course, I told Dolores about this when I got home. In fact, it was not until late that night that I learned the name of who had died on my outing. Yes, he’d told me his name when he arrived, but so did a dozen other people who’d I’d just met that day. By calling around to the fire department and to the hospital, I learned Martin’s identity, and I managed to figure out his family phone number through process of elimination in my phone log.

A few days later, Dolores and I and a few others were discussing this incident, and wondering about the series of choices that brought Martin to me on his last day.

Dolores seemed very thoughtful about all this, and said that possibly Martin’s Doer (his spiritual Self) knew that his body was going to die. Coming to my outdoor outing brought him into contact with my Doer, my spiritual Self, which could have been a final uplifting act, whether or not each of us realized it.

Dolores was never one who engaged in flattery, and she always kept me humble. She knew that we were not perfect and that we had a long way to go. Yet, we continued to work at and struggle on the Spiritual Path of perfection and evolution. It was always “fall down seven times, get up eight times.” In our perspective of a morally-bankrupt, and spiritually dark world, we did feel that we (including our “spiritual family”) represented a light in the darkness. Yes, often a flickering, barely noticeable light, but a light nevertheless. It is to that Light that Dolores believed Martin was coming to, and it was with that desire that he took his final breath. And that was good for Martin.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Memory of my Father

[continuing from previous blog]

LATER IN THE DAY, Memorial Day 1983

That evening, I called my father, and asked him if he had a minute.

“Sure,” he said, “what’s up?”

“I just wanted you to know that I really have appreciated all the things you’ve done for me all my life. I know that at times I have seemed very disrespectful, but I….

“Is something wrong?” he asked. “Do you need money?”

“No, no, no. I don’t need money. No, nothing’s wrong. I was just thinking about you today, and how we never talk, and I just wanted you to know that I really appreciate you and really love you.”

I think that was the first time I ever told my father that I loved him.

“What’s wrong,” he asked more firmly, “are you in some sort of trouble?”

“No, I’m not in any trouble at all, I just…”

“This doesn’t sound like you, something must be wrong…”

“No, nothing’s wrong. I just realized that we rarely talk. Today seemed like as good a day as any to tell you that I appreciate you.” I had momentarily thought that I would explain to him that I’d attended the event earlier in the day, and let him know that he was part of my exercise. But somehow, if I did that, I felt it would diminish what I was saying to my father, that it was some sort of school assignment or exercise. Rather than regard it as something genuine coming from me, he would think that I was in the clutches of a controlling cult and was just acting out their dictates. This had to be real. This had to be from me, because I wanted to communicate these things to him.

“Well, OK,” he responded. He paused, and said, “Are you coming over for dinner?”

“No, not tonight, but I’ll see you tomorrow.”

It was the beginning of a thaw in our relationship. There was not an instant turnaround in the way we related to each other, but slowly, slowly, I began to view him as a distinct individual, and slowly, I could tell that he did the same with me.

The following day, I told Dolores how my father reacted.

“That sounds just like your father,” she laughed. We both found the exchange hillarious, and we could not stop laughing about it.

We went to dinner that night and we continued to talk about my father’s suspicious nature, and we laughed like children. It felt very good to laugh with Dolores. It was a light time, and somehow, laughing together made us closer. It also shifted the focus from problems we were having, to my father’s character, and in that moment, it was a good thing.