The Impact of Words

Hope and wishful thinking are two different things.  Everybody knows that.  But we use the word Hope in the same way we use other words that used to be absolutes like:  Love, Beauty, Genius, Faith, Grace, Hate.  And since our world has become increasingly politically correct and non-judgmental, we have learned that “good enough” can also apply to our inner life, not just our outside life.  “I hope it won’t rain on Sunday for the picnic” seems just as reasonable as “I hope that people will always choose good over evil.”  But, of course, it’s not.

The problem is, though, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish one from the other.  I find that I often   confuse the two.  When I want something to go a certain way, large scale or trivial, I use the word Hope in the same way I might use the word Hate when I’m talking about peanut butter.   

You could say, “Really, what does it matter?”  Ah, but I think it does matters.  Because, speaking for myself, I think I’m not as in touch with my inner voice and my inner convictions as I should be or even as I used to be when the world seemed more clear cut and the enemy was more easily discernible.  I think that’s true for a lot of us.  Sometimes with devastating effects.

If I could, or was willing to, be honest – really, really honest – and dig down deep before I used words like Love or Hope or Hate, I would take a minute and ask myself:  “Is it true?  Do I really Hate peanut butter?” Even more importantly, I would try to discover why I Hated peanut butter and attempt to taste it, again, before coming to that absolute judgement.

But who has that kind of time, really, or inclination?

And yet we must try, I think.  Hate, like Love, like Genius, like Hope should not come so easily tripping off the tongue as “I wish I could fly.”  Words have consequences.  They lead to passions, to actions, to pain, to disappointment and, sometimes, even to death.

How far, in the scheme of a lonely and confused mind, is it from peanut butter to Indigenous People, to Jews, to Gay People, to People of Faith, to Women?  The list is endless.  Each of us has prejudices that come from fear and ignorance.  If only we could, or were willing to, taste and test our absolutes before we pick up an automatic weapon and walk into an open air market, a factory, a school, a Gay bar …

Myrna Riback