Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Often, the fewest words convey the most truth. Consider the last political discussion you heard. Did words clarify or conceal? And how about that argument you had with your partner that went on and on when a few words might have ended it: "I'm very critical. I'm sorry." Speaking the truth can, of course be difficult ; you might lose an election or a friend. But using words as camouflage also carries risks. You may be building a relationship on false intimacy. Or, if you are being dishonest with yourself, you may have feelings of alienation and confusion.

To know more, practice the simple truth. Try saying something important and true about yourself in one sentence. Something basic that shapes your life. When I asked Anita to do this she said, "I will never be abandoned." This was a decision made early in life that she was not aware of making until she spoke that sentence. The truth of it shows in the wide circle of friends she has acquired and in her interest in community. Carl's sentence was, "I will always be alone." Regardless of the people in Carl's life, loneliness is his core experience and it influences the depth and duration of his relationships.

If you had fun with that exercise, try this one. Tell an important story in your life in a sentence. Remember Hemingway's famous shortest, short story: For sale: baby shoes never worn.

And, though fearful of being wordy, I, nevertheless, have to quote Beckett's insight into Everyman's life: You must go on. I can't go on. I will go on. Talk about truth in brevity. Sums up a lot of days, doesn't it.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

How to Be Eloquent

One of the challenges for those of us who came from, well, not such great families is that our role models and first teachers were, to some extent, damaged. Many people adopt the healthy strategy of vowing to be everything their mothers or fathers were or were not. For example, if you had a narcissistic mother, you might be bound and determined to focus on other people's needs. It might be a conscious decision you made as a young person or a behavioral pattern that's more habitual and unconscious. That would be a really good decision, right? Except in this example you run the risk of not developing a healthy narcissism---that is, the ability to recognize the importance of your own needs as well. To define ourselves in relation to our first teachers can limit our own individual development.

I was thinking about this after I came across a lovely quote from Joseph Campbell:

"It's a good thing to hang on to the myth that was put in when you were a child because it is there whether you want it there or not. What you have to do is translate that myth into eloquence, not just into the literacy. You have to learn to hear its song."