“Where I grew up, everyone called each other ‘nigger’ all the time. It was meant to be endearing, but I don’t think it’s healthy. Words have energy. If you were to refer to a child as ‘satan’ his entire life, how do you think he’d turn out? So I’m trying something new. Whenever I see someone, I refer to them as ‘mister’ or ‘missus.’ I’m trying to put that energy onto people.”
One of innumerable great images and insights chronicled on the fabulously rich website: “Humans of New York.”
In Chapter 8 of Hope Sings, So Beautiful, I explore at length the (sacramental) power of language, ritual, and imagery in shaping our primordial experience of self, God, and others. Indeed, “words have energy,” and our language to no small extent makes our world, sometimes for better, and far too often for worse. The good news is, with the cultivation of critical awareness, we can choose what language-worlds we wish to inhabit and those we reject, not just for ourselves but with the aim of blessing others who pass within and through the energy-field of our speech. The above glimpse into one New Yorker’s life-story and learned wisdom is a beautiful case, it seems to me, of this empowering realization.
My thanks to Xavier University student Katherine Colborn, herself a fabulous artist, for alerting me to the site.