Speech as Spiritual Practice

“Men and women range themselves into three classes or orders of intelligence; you can tell the lowest class by their habit of always talking about persons; the next by the fact that their habit is always to converse about things; the highest by their preference for the discussion of ideas.” — Henry Thomas Buckle

Over the last 2 weeks, I have spent some time on Twitter to see what that platform is about. After following quite a number of people, I then unfollowed for the negativity that I was exposed to. In the Hebraic tradition, there is something called lashon hora, evil speech. It is said that when one talks negatively about someone even if it is truthful, 3 people are harmed, the one doing the speaking, the one listening, and the one that is being spoken about.

It goes even further, shaming one in public is akin to murder, murdering their name and causing shame. Since a great deal of twitter is about this unfortunately and it is quite clear that people don’t really see the potential negativity, it is a platform with considerable risk to your health, as it opens you up to negativity which has an absolute direct effect on your immune system. Additionally, it normalizes negative pathological association with others which is degrading to your self-identity, as it associates you with people who are not good for you.

So, now, when I am on twitter, I unfollow as negativity comes.

What about the negative things that are happening in the world? What if I want to engage in discussion about that? To this question I would respond by reminding you of the quote at the top of the post.

I was very naive in thinking that following noted health authorities would keep me from such evil speech. On Friday I came across a few posts about a new book coming out by a noted author. Remarkably, noted physicians spoke disparagingly about the man, questioned his motives, and degraded the book without even reading it. This was evil speech, intended to harm the reputation of the man and cause financial distress by making sure that others didn’t buy his book.

It’s irrelevant whether it is true or not, in this case, I know it to be untrue as I had the opportunity at a conference in Montreal last year to discuss his modalities with his head nurse and was impressed and know that he does good work. Similar posts showed another well known physician heard on many podcasts literally throwing another authors book in the trash and mocking the author of the book on personal terms. I happen to know the author of the book that was in the trash and know every personal claim made about him to also be untrue, but again, it doesn’t matter if it is true or not.

So, now I find myself unfollowing even noted health authorities. What is one to do with the anger against some individual for espousing ideas that one finds harmful or detestable. It’s simple, engage the ideas and not the person, even if the person’s personality is somehow intimately linked to his ideas.

This is a spiritual practice, it takes work, it takes considerable thoughtfullness, it takes commitment especially in this age. The end result is a sense of inner calm and a palpable increase in self-awareness of your speech, which is the most sacred aspect of your interaction with the world.

In the Bible in Deuteronomy, it says that one should appoint Judges and Police at the gates of the cities. The Hebrew mystics said that the body should be seen as a small city. The gates are of course, the eyes, ears, and mouth. The problem we all face is that we don’t realize that who or what we let in can cause damage to the our body, the little city. Use platforms like twitter carefully and when you need to allow some ideas or people with bad intentions into your city, please make sure that your inner police are watching that they don’t infect the city.