Thursday, October 15, 2009

the Perils of Verbal Proliferation

I was in the first grade in Oklahoma when we got the news.

I was sitting in the front row of a typical sixties Indian school (called Bushyhead Elementary), adjusting my new blue cat’s eye glasses (very classy in the sixties I might add) and struggling with a huge red pencil when the principal came into the classroom. Everyone put their pencils down and watched as the teacher, looking very pale (and even more so to me, since aside from my mom she was the only white woman I’d seen) ordered us all to line up. The buses were ready to take us home.

This was very strange since it wasn’t too long after lunch recess, and my best friends Donna and Pam and I discussed it as we climbed onto the bus.

“Kennedy is gonna drop the big one,” a fifth grader sitting behind us said.

“The big what?” I asked.

His eyes widened. “The A Bomb. He’s gonna blow Cuba right off the map! Kblam!!!” he shouted.

I didn’t believe it. The kid had told us tall tales before. But something was up, I was sure of that, because the buses never ran in the middle of the day, and my father, who’s old battered pickup was parked in front of the house as we arrived, was never ever home at this time.

Donna, Pam and I crept off the bus. It drove away, us standing in my drive way. My mother, hugely pregnant with my youngest brother, stepped onto the porch. She shooed us with her apron.
“You can’t play today girls. Donna you and your sister need to get home right away. Come inside, “ she added to me, and then, seeing her wide eyes, and flushed face, and stating that I needed to come in instead of riding bikes with my two best friends, knew without a doubt something was terribly wrong.

I went inside.

The only thing talking was the television. The President was on.

Later that night I had horrible dreams,of the world bursting into flames.

I got out of bed and went into the kitchen where my parents sat. The radio was on the table and the news was on. I climbed onto my father’s lap and asked “Daddy is the world coming to an end?”
“No,” he said fervently. “Nothing bad is gonna happen.”
My mother gave me a glass of milk and a cookie. I ate my snack in silence, listening to the man in the radio drone on, the soft quiet talk between my parents above my head.

I couldn’t understand what they were saying.

And it occurred to me just now that they were talking quietly in Cherokee.

Fortunately, my father was right. Nothing happened. Nothing that as a six year old child living in rural Oklahoma knew about anyway. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered how close we came to total annihilation.

And this is what I was thinking about when I received an unhappy email in my inbox earlier this afternoon, and I, as a self identified smart-ass, started writing a snappy reply.

Then I stopped. What I was doing fell under the harsh and foolish speech in my spiritual contract.

Then I asked myself. What good would it do to start a verbal arms race with this person?
The answer came in a flash.

It wouldn’t solve anything. The person in question would only get angrier, send me uglier emails, in which I too would get even angrier and respond in kind. And in the end, I’d be on the verge of shoving my fist into the monitor in rage.

And nothing would be solved. If I posted my snappy reply, the person in question wouldn’t have a forehead slapping v8 veggie juice moment and say, “Oh my God, she’s right! I’ve got to change everything I think now!

Tain’t gonna happen.

Instead, I thought about what the person in question said. The fact that this person posted on my public forum, and whom I have many friends of a multitude of faiths. Was it fair to them to see us engage in a war of words? No, it wouldn’t. There’d be people wanting to defend me, and others wanting to eviscerate me. The arms race would be on, and the only thing that would be perpetuated from such a thing would be fear, anger, and ignorance. And a ruined, once happy forum where nobody would want to talk for fear of reprisal.

So I didn’t respond. I deleted his comment from my forum, un friended him and moved on.

I was still irritated by what he said, and realized that I could not let these thought proliferate because if I did, I’d be right back to where I started.

And I didn’t want that.

So I took a walk in the cool autumn air. It was raining a bit, but felt it good and in the peace of the outdoors, I let go of my anger.
But wait, you could say, you let him win!
No. I didn’t.
By not responding, verbal missiles didn’t rain down upon us. By not responding, I saved the people on my forum suffering from having to put up with the drama, and most of all I spared the person in question the wrath of my razor sharp tongue. And I spared myself endless kalpas of suffering because I couldn’t let go of my egotism and move on.

And if he walks around proud as a peacock that he ran off a meek little Buddhist (of which I am not) let him. Who cares?

The only person he’s hurting by his behavior is himself.

As for myself. I’ll sleep tonight without giving it one single thought.
The verbal arms race ended without firing a single shot.

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