Sharing Our Visions

“Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” We can imagine that among those early hunters and warriors single individuals — one in a century? one in a thousand years? — saw what others did not; saw that the deer was beautiful as well as edible, that hunting was fun as well as necessary, dreamed that his gods might be not only powerful but holy. But as long as each of these percipient persons dies without finding a kindred soul, nothing (I suspect) will come of it; art or sport or spiritual religion will not be born. It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision — it is then that Friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude… In this kind of love, as Emerson said, “Do you love me? means Do you see the same truth?” — Or at least, “Do you care about the same truth?” The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance can be our Friend. He need not agree with us about the answer.” — C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

One of the formative lessons every writer (and editor) learns is that the adjective is the uranium-235 of language. Adjectives are to be treated as highly radioactive material: when used correctly, they can light up a city; used with laze, stupidity, and excess, they can turn you and your work into the artistic equivalent of Chernobyl. — Brian Donohue

It is well established that listening to action words such as lick, pick and kick activates the brain areas that control the tongue, hand and foot. Pulvermuller’s research goes a step farther, suggesting that the brain’s action system does more than respond to meaning — he believes that it contributes to it.

To test this theory, Pulvermuller ran a study in which he stimulated different parts of the action system using TMS while volunteers listened to tongue, hand and foot-related words. The level of TMS was enough to increase the neuronal activity, but not enough to knock out the region. He found that stimulating the hand region made people quicker to comprehend hand-related words, such as stitch and pick. The same was true for foot-related words, such as kick and run, when he stimulated the foot area of the brain. “We found it wasn’t just a one-way flow from the language system to the motor system. People actually use these brain areas to understand the word,” he said.

Showing that we use our “foot area” to know what “kicking” means may sound like a trivial advance. But it demonstrates scientifically what great writers have instinctively known all along: that we don’t just understand words, we feel them.

Words have effects, sometimes very physical effects. In sharing our visions of what we want our world to be like, in developing our friendships and other relationships, we have to consider the words we use with others and make sure they are the ones we intend. We also have to understand how others may be using their words to manipulate us. Remember that action words can strongly affect other people and that they affect you, too. If you want a peaceful, calm, Taoful world, then use peaceful, calm, Taoful words. And be aware when others are using words that create strong reactions in you. Realize you can control those reactions and think about your response before automatically becoming angry or annoyed. And that responding in a calm, peaceful way will change their responses to you in return.