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Sunday, August 07, 2005

Taming the Tongue

"It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul."

This stanza was written by a famous author, sometime in the mid to late 1800's. His name was William Ernest Henley.

The word "strait" means narrow, difficult, rigorous and confining. It's not the same as "straight", which means free from curves.They are two completely different words.

Having said that, if you spend time studying and thinking about this verse you will learn some very interesting things.

First, life is a difficult and strenuous passage ("strait"), fraught with peril and all manner of evils. Life is not easy, full of pitfalls, distractions, pain, pride, etc. But, there are openings through the barriers, that we find ourselves up against, only it is up to us to find those doors, or "gates" and figure out how to go through them. However filled, even to capacity, with suffering, pain and loss ("punishments" {not necessarily a retribution for wrong doing, as in the belief in reincarnation and Karma}), we are told that we will be, by some message delivered by someone else attempting to write our script (the scroll), or by our own actions, I have the control over my outcome. And, most importantly, I have control over my personality and emotions. This verse is not talking about the physical or temporal plane.

For instance, take the parent who tells their child, throughout his upbringing, that he'll be a loser, won't amount to anything and will always be good for nothing. The child believes and accepts it as fact, until he becomes of an accountable age where he sees that the way he turns out and the way he views life is wholly up to him. We all go through the same process. We can either believe what others say about us, "You're lazy and want to get out of work", "You're a drug addict and will be that way forever", "You just want attention." Or we can believe the truth that we know about ourselves and walk confidently in that knowledge.

We don't have a choice in the range of difficulty of the path we are on. What we do have control over is how we are going to handle those situations and how we will conduct ourselves. Therefore, if this verse is true, then it stands to reason that whatever another human being tells you about yourself, or your future, is flawed and most of the time completely invalid. We can make it valid by choosing to believe the hogwash. We all know ourselves and our bodies, though some of us are more in tune to our basic natures than others. When you know exactly the kind of man/woman that you are and the truth about yourself, then, and only then, will you be confident to be your own master and the captain in charge of your personality and emotions, your soul.

There is a verse in The Holy Bible, King James Version, (James 3.2),that has this to say about talking,(paraphrased): if a man can tame his tongue so that it doesn't offend in any way, then that man can control/guide/tame his whole body.

It's an important concept and when you think of it is just a fancier way of another of our sayings, "The less said, the better."

This is probably the MOST difficult practice in our lifetime! Benjamin Franklin used to keep a "Virtues" diary with him at all times, in which he listed all of the virtues. One of those virtues was speech. He would ask himself each day, is what I said important, does it have merit, did it hurt anyone, did it edify anyone? He would check off his list and score himself daily and weekly to find out what areas he lacks character in. It's so amazing to me that he took the time to do this. Now, that's a man truly motivated to be a better person!

It is quite difficult to hold your tongue when really you want to lash out at someone. It is difficult to keep from saying everything that pops into your mind. But, if you begin to practice this type of deep meditation study, you will really listen to what you are saying and about 90% of it is unnecessary or mean or petty, just babble to hear ourselves talk, or just simply uninteresting.

Taming my speech is one of the reasons that I prefer to write than to chatter. When you write, everything you write is filtered through your mind. You can go back and delete or change words until you are putting across exactly what you mean. When you're speaking you can't take back your words. Once they're out, they're really out! But, when you write, there is a purpose to what you write, giving it it's significance.

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