Words Create Worlds – new essay in The Badger

“Words Create Worlds,” my new piece in The Badger, Year 5, Volume 1, is available now through the link, page 47. The title is taken from a quote by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel:

“Words, he often wrote, are themselves sacred, God’s tool for creating the universe, and our tools for bringing holiness — or evil — into the world.  He used to remind us that the Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda.  Words create worlds he used to tell me when I was a child.  They must be used very carefully.  Some words, once having been uttered, gain eternity and can never be withdrawn.  The Book of Proverbs reminds us, he wrote, that death and life are in the power of the tongue.”[1]

Heschel points to the power of words to create good or evil in the world. My article is a meditation following the shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand and the increasingly disturbing words of separation and “othering.” I have a special connection with Christchurch, having lived in New Zealand for 3.5 years and having visited Christchurch a few days prior to the second devastating earthquake in 2011. These words that separate us from each other are earthquakes and weapons, in and of themselves, and these words pave the way for future violent actions. You can read the full article in The Badger through this link (scroll to page 47)

In writing Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow), I have felt obligated to write about “spiritual democracy” and the responsibility to act in ways that increase, rather than decrease, our inter-relatedness and oneness. A living spirituality is a call to action. Joseph Rael has been working for world peace for decades now, and working with him, I have taken on this responsibility as well. I plan to write more on the power of words, the ways that they can divide or unite us, and the disturbing trends towards fundamentalism and fascism in our world today. Here is the last paragraph from my essay in The Badger:

Over the next year, I would like to write about some of these topics of how our “words create worlds.” In working with Joseph Rael, writing our next book, Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, I felt compelled to write about the responsibility of mystical, visionary, and shamanic experience—that we must work toward “Spiritual Democracy.” At its deepest point, mystical experience leads to an awareness that we are all one and this comes with a responsibility to challenge words of separation which ultimately lead to fascism. Mystical experience is a pathway that leads us to question who we are and gives us a responsibility to use our words wisely to create worlds where we are becoming the medicine that our world needs. As Rumi says, “We are pain and what cures the pain.”[2]


[1] Life Between the Trees blog, https://lifebetweenthetrees.com/2012/08/06/words-create-worlds-monday-morning-parable/.

[2] Rumi, “We are the mirror as well as the face in it,” The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks, 106.

Red Begonias, Christchurch Botanical Gardens, 2011

3 thoughts on “Words Create Worlds – new essay in The Badger

  1. Your writing is really powerful and you’ve chosen some wonderful quotes to make your point. I especially like the ominous “…when you look too long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you”. The thing I’ve found odd post-Christchurch is that suddenly our New Zealand police are carrying firearms. After years of debate on this issue, a single event has opened the door for this. I’m neither for or against this, as I see a need for Police to protect themselves, but for all the rhetoric about how the shooting would not change us, it has.

    • Thanks for your news from the front on this and your comments. It seems, sometimes, that we in the US, are in a small arms race, fear drives increased armament. I’ve been reading Kayanerenko:wa: The Great Law of Peace, by Kaynesenh Paul Williams about the Haudenosaunee law of peace the past few weeks. It dates back to before European contact in the Americas and recommends three elements: 1) a Good Message – a rational argument to stop killing, 2) a Good Power to bring together disparate nations and tribes, and 3) a Good Peace, to “make everyone related.” I keep wondering, if we were all better able to see our similarities and inter-relatedness, would it decrease gun violence as well as so many other concerns of the day, e.g. climate change, ecological issues, income disparities, homelessness, addictions, etc.?

      • And interesting idea. I believe it would. People would realise the truth – that when they hurt others or the Earth, they hurt themselves. Not simply on some mystic level, but on a very practical level too. We poison the Earth, and in turn we ourselves are poisoned through our air and food. But it would take one hell of a leader to bring the world together, if he/she could survive the backlash of those who currently gain from the way the world is now. This sort of utopia would also require us to detach from our egos. And I believe there is one other aspect missing from this law of peace, and that is truth. There are so many lies and propaganda flying around that are creating arguments and fights about smoke and mirrors. No wonder people are scared and irrational. Thanks David. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts/blogs 😊

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