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Words Matter

Just finished “A Swim in the Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading and Life” by George Saunders.

One of my favorite reads of all time.

Saunders offers a series of short stories by Russian icons –Chekhov and Turgenev, Tolstoy and Gogol — then he breaks them down, explains them, offers the reader a master class, making you a better reader and a better writer and a better thinker as a result.

These stories were written on the cusp of what Saunders describes as “the bloodiest, most irrational periods of human history.”

I was struck by so many things but, for now, here’s what Tolstoy wrote in this last novel “Resurrection”:

“If once we admit… that anything can be more important than a feeling of love for our fellows, then there is no crime which we may not commit with easy minds… Men think there are circumstances when one may deal with human beings without love. But there are no such circumstances…If you feel no love, sit still. Occupy yourself with things, with yourself, with anything you like, only not with men…. Only let yourself deal with a man without love…and there are no limits to the suffering you will bring on yourself.”

When I read this I was instantly reminded of Don Miguel Ruiz’ “The Four Agreements,” the first and most important (it is said) of which is to be impeccable with your words.

Quoting from the book, “The word is your power of creation, and that power can be used in more than one direction. One direction is impeccability, where the word creates a beautiful story — your personal heaven on earth. The other direction is misuse of the word, where the word destroys everything around you, and creates your personal hell.”

I feel like we can all use a reminder of the power we hold when we express ourselves, myself included. These spiritual truths are not exempt when we experience difficulty. You don’t put love, forgiveness, compassion and empathy in a drawer because you’re scared and other people are not behaving in a way that diminishes your fears.

Every word you type, every adjective, noun or verb that falls from your lips, ask yourself:

What world am I creating with my words?

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