Over the years I’ve worked hard to banish some words from my thoughts and vocabulary, words like must and mustn’t, ought to and oughtn’t, should and shouldn’t… learning to ignore the inner voice that has bullied me from childhood. I’ve also worked even harder to introduce a two letter word into my voice and into my life. That wonderful little word ‘no.
Granted I heard plenty of it as a child but it wasn’t a word I often used myself. Brought up to be a good girl and do as I was told, it would never have occurred to me to say ‘no’ to just about anything. And now, it’s a freeing experience to say no, and not follow it up with excuses and reasons why I’m not being ‘nice’ or ‘good’. I might sometimes add: ‘I don’t think so,’ to take away a little of the baldness of a straight’ no’. But there it is, a neat little addition to my tools for living, a power tool you could say.
But there’s another two- letter word that bothers me, that I try not to use, and which always bothers me too when I hear others using it. It’s when some- one refers to ‘My’ people,’ my’ church, ‘my party, ‘my god’, ‘my’ country…. I even used to object to the man in my life saying ‘my lawns’ or ‘my car’… ‘they’re the lawns, or it’s the car’, I’d say… and it was always the children, not ‘my’ children.
As soon as the word ‘my’ is uttered, those who are not mine, are other – different, on the other side. When someone says my country, my people, my party, they are implying loyalty to those groups, and loyalty often leads to division, hostility, and sometimes war, it seems to me. The great spiritual teacher Krishnamurti was once asked how we could stop wars. And he replied that we should not join anything – a political party, a religion, any group, implying that as soon as we are committed to a set of beliefs that commit us to sticking with them, defending that point of view closes our minds to other possibilities and ideas.
‘My’ country right or wrong used to have a fine ring to it… but now that we are a global village and after the shock of 9/11 which contributed to that understanding, we can’t afford to indulge in that mindless patriotism. We now know we are all so interlinked, that when Japan suffers an earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear disaster, it affects the ocean, and thus the whole world. When Russia’ s nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl happened, it affected farmers and their sheep as far away as Wales, and poisoned the whole crop of camomile right across Europe for starters…. so it’s getting harder to just be a patriot, now that we are citizens of the world.
‘My people,’ whether it’s a Maori elder, or a Catholic priest speaking, refers only to those who can claim to be part of that tribe or religion. The implication always seems to be that the others are less, different, not worth as much as those who are ‘mine’. We only have to look at the despair in the Middle East to see what happens when we belong to a group or a country or a religion.
Israel feels comfortable oppressing people who are not Jewish, and now, like Muslims is discriminating against women, Sunni Muslims despise and exterminate Shia Muslims and vice versa… Kurds or Yazidis, Druze or Maronite, Christians or Ba’hai are in constant danger – whenever anyone belongs to a sect or nationality it exposes them to hate or oppression by those who belong to a different religion, creed or nationality. And I haven’t even mentioned different genders…
And ‘my’ is the word that breaks up families and small communities even in so called peaceful places. Disputes between neighbours over a right- of way which runs over ‘my land’, or the rows about fishing on ‘my river’, are so often caused by that little two- letter pronoun ‘my’, while the word ‘my’ in front of money is often the reason for not sharing with those who have none… and the excuse by giant corporations for exploiting both people and oceans, wildernesses, forests and rivers.
My dog, my children, my family… as soon as we use that description, so often it becomes the unspoken reason for not caring about other children, other dogs, all families.
I sometimes feel that ‘my’ is a word that blocks love… if we thought of our children, our dog, our world, our dying oceans, our disappearing elephants, perhaps we would be able to change our mind set and work with each other to save lives, share happiness, and even save our world from the sixth great extinction which scientists fear is imminent.
The Pope’s call to act to rescue our planet from impending disaster actually means giving up the word ‘my’ and beginning to think in terms of us and our. It could even mean giving up loyalty to deeply held beliefs, letting go our loyalties to race or colour or creed, and opening our hearts to other minds and other ideas. We might even discover that no-one is right, no-one is wrong, that we are all coming Buddhas, and that that little two -letter word ‘my’ was irrelevant. That would be a world on track towards a great leap in consciousness…’we are the world’…
Food for threadbare gourmets
This is the first recipe I shared in my first blog back in 2012. There may be readers who would like it now, so here it is, comfort food with just three ingredients – a simple potato hotpot:
Peel and slice some potatoes, chop some onions, and chop up some bacon – the more you can afford, the better. Make plenty of white sauce, using butter and if you add a little cream, all the better. Then layer the potatoes, onions and bacon in a casserole or oven-proof dish, finishing with a layer of potatoes.
Pour the white sauce over it, letting it seep down through the layers. Cook in a moderate oven for one and a half to two hours, testing to see the potatoes are soft. Eat with some green vegetables or a green salad. Cheap as, delicious, and filling.
Adding anything like cheese utterly spoils the taste… it’s one of those simple things that is perfect without any so-called improvements.
Food for thought
I allow myself to say ‘my’ birthday! A friend sent me this prayer for my birthday yesterday.
May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love
to postpone my dream no longer
but to do at last what I came here for and waste my heart on fear no more !
45 responses to “That two -letter word”
That’s a beautiful prayer for your birthday. Many happy returns. I do agree that some words are very unhelpful. The word I try to avoid is ‘deserve’ because it implies that we are divided into those who deserve and those who do not eg “Those people don’t deserve to live off the taxes from my hard work.” I can see your point about ‘my’. I will keep a close eye on my my-s!
I so agree about the word ‘deserve’… the implications of that word would fill a whole blog !!!
Thank you for the birthday wishes… birthdays get better and better with so many good friends !!!!
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That’s good to know ~ that birthdays get better. I have a nice big one next year. 🙂
Thought provoking thoughts!
Thank you Bruce for your thoughtful comment !!!
Saying “no” takes years to learn and I still need regular refresher courses. I’ve noticed that it doesn’t seem to be as hard for men to say … or am I wrong? I hope you had a very happy birthday yesterday Valerie … and many more.
Elly, thank you for your lovely birthday wishes.. I loved your comment about having to have a refresher course on saying ‘no’… it creeps up, forgetting that we have the right to say it, doesn’t it !
Thank you for the very thoughtful post. The shorter the word the more ingrained it is in the language. I always considered ‘my’ and ‘no’ as two year old words bc my kids at that age would use them almost to the exclusion of any others. Do you think they are developmental markers?
I wish many happy return birthday celebrations for you.
Dianne, thank you for your birthday wishes. – such a treat to have them from my blogging friends, I never thought anyone would really take that on board!
Yes, I know what you mean about the age group that uses ‘my’ and’ no’ – do you think most of the world is stuck at that stage of emotional development !!!
Happy Birthday Valerie! You’ve made me think about how and when I use ‘my’ 🙂
Thank you so much Andrea, it is so lovely that my blogging friends noticed ! ( and there- I used the word ‘my’ !!!!)
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I love those words for your birthday and send you my love for your day. Thought provoking post, thank you 🙂
Sally, thank you so much for your loving words when you are so up against it at the moment.. do hope the situation is sorting itself out…. thinking of you both, love, Valerie
Lots of truth and food for cogitation there. As you add, though, nobody is wholly right or wrong. In fact, the only absolute is that there are no absolutes. This is another ongoing fault of mankind – the fixation with things being either one thing or the other, and not seeing that everything is somewhere in between.
I love the way you bring another perspective to the discussion…thank you, I think you’re so right…. and not wrong !!!!
Birthday? Many truly happy returns of the day!
*clears throat signalling the commencement of an untuneful rendering of ‘Happy Birthday’ and giving fair warning that it is wise to flee out of earshot*
Thank you, I decided it would be worth staying within earshot to hear an original rendering of the ancient folk song..sung for me , so far away, and thank you for bothering !!!
I can’t work out how to reply to your comment on Jeffrey’s comment ! there doesn’t seem to be an option.. but I did want to thank you good friend, for your very kind and temperate reply, which is much appreciated. You may be interested in my reply below to Jeffrey…
Thank you. I think you have done a very thorough job of putting matters in perspective.
Many happies for the birthday and the year ahead.
As to our rather than my, this is why I say I am a peopleist. The only grounds for equality aren’t things which might divide us like gender or race, but what should unite us, our common humanity.
Thank you so much Ellie, lovely to hear from you.
And I love your comment, it’s wonderful the way bloggers of like minds come together with so many possibilities of missing each other in the blogosphere…
John O’Donohue’s poem ends with “fear no more!” Wanting to claim anything as mine is related to fear. “My home” is a safe place. We needn’t fear when we have a place to come home to. “My husband, my child, my friend” are concepts that give us confidence that we’re not alone in the world. “My car” means I’m not stranded. Fine. But when fear causes us to extend our ownership to creeds and countries, though we may feel more secure, we exclude others.
Thank you for a thought-provoking post.
And thank you for your thoughts.. which are always so intriguing and always give me more food for thought…
Happy Birthday Valerie!
I see how that word “my” creeps into people like a learned and heard habit that requires a certain consciousness to eliminate. I hear myself using it and wondering why, when speaking for example of ‘my friend’ when reciting an anecdote rather than saying a person’s name. A poor choice of words and I recall reflecting on this, though not thinking so much of the possessive use of ‘my’ but why I didn’t use a persons name instead? There is something intimate about the use of a person’s first name, something we notice when people do have that habit. Oh there are so many word habits we aren’t even aware of Valerie!
Thank you for the birthday wishes Claire, I’m so touched that so many blogging friends should have noticed !!!
I found your comments very thought -provoking.. there are so many nuances in our speech that we’re only aware of when we start to examine them, and listen to ourselves, aren’t there…
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Very thoughtful piece, thank you.
Thank you so much… so good to hear from you
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Oh this was a sad surprise! Your comment about Israel was itself wrong and biased. How I enjoyed your blogs, now to find that you single us out, and mistakenly accuse us of behavior that we ourselves abhor. Ciao.
So sad to have upset you Jeffrey. Not quite sure what you meant… that you abhor the way Palestinians are treated? And I didn’t realise I had singled out anyone, I had listed so many oppressors – which isn’t difficult to do….
I feel I don’t have a nationality these days, don’t belong to a political party, or attend a religious group, and try to stand back and be an observer/ witness.
But it’s still difficult to remember Marcus Aurelius’ advice, not to have any opinions, so I do feel sad about all those who are, or have been oppressed, whether Jewish families in ghettos in Europe or Palestinian families in ghettos in Palestine, Armenians marched to their deaths in the desert, genocide by Pol Pot or the killing of Yemeni civilians in Saudi Arabia … and women oppressed by discrimination everywhere.
So yes, I suppose I am biased and opinionated !!!
It’s so difficult being human !!!!
Because I have so admired your thoughts in the recent past, I will respond now. Sadly (I repeat this word) you may have gleaned dislike/abhorrence of Jews in your formative years. Perhaps you do not known that almost every member of my deceased wife’s family was butchered, yes that is the correct word, by the Nazis and Poles, infants included. So her parents spent a combined 8 years in slave labor camps, where a 2 cm piece of carrot was only to be dreamed. Both survived (chance of that? 1 in 10,000,000,000 I think). They were liberated and re-met to finally marry (they were dating before the Shoa). They were human skeletons when they were liberated. She made a more than 80 mile walk in the freezing snow, barefoot. They came to the U.S. Most of the liberated human skeletons fled to what is now Israel, our ancestral home. These 5’4″ men and their 5′ wives soon found themselves under the gun again, attacked by trained Arab armies. G-d, yes G-d came to their rescue. Today Israel has about 2 or so million Arabs, and they are free, happy and flourishing. The economy is strong and much building is going on. 97% of the construction companies/workers are Arab there, and they are quite successful financially. Even if the media shows you some living in mud-looking homes, these choose to do so, and have 60″ TV’s, expensive Persian rugs and furniture. I have family in Israel and go their once or twice a year. I travel extensively, and I know it. You may not have ever been there, and Sadly (capital ‘S’ by my choice) you have been duped by the media. Duped into believing that Israel oppresses. When rockets are fired at Israeli infants, children and mothers and elderly, you Valerie, have kept silent. The media and maybe some church, has sold you the bill of goods that the Arab oilogarchs are paying them to. Your written piece stung me. OMG! Valerie, that sensitive, discerning beautiful mind, is seeking the murder of millions of Jews, whether wittingly or unwittingly, because . . . after the ovens, just some 70 years ago, they have nowhere else to go.
While Jeffrey echoes sentiments which I have heard from others who regularly visit Israel, it is indefensible to speculate with no evidence that you have a dislike of Jews, and to attack you for accepting the version of events which is so widely propagated – and which is not entirely unfounded. A vicious circle has been set up there, and it IS based on beliefs.
A bald explanation of what he sees as the true facts, without wailing about being stung, or accusations of murderous inclinations, would have been far more appropriate.
I hope this reply gets into its right order, but am not good at juggling technology…
Thank you for your reply. I can well understand how you feel about your family and the Nazis, I have several friends who have had the same experience.
One of them – the daughter of two survivors who met after the war, lent me recently the hand-written account of her surviving aunt’s experiences in concentration camps which I read, as I have read so much other history and literature on the subject, alas. I also know someone whose Palestinian family had lived in Jerusalem for nearly a thousand years, and who lost their home when the country of Israel was created in 1948. And I have Baha’i friends who lived in Jerusalem for twelve years until recently. So it’s not necessarily the media who have shaped my understandings.( I don’t have a TV and I don’t buy newspapers.)
Having lived at Belsen just after the war, I’ve always been aware of the suffering of the more than 14 million people- six million of them Jews -who died in such unspeakable conditions, and no, I don’t have an abhorrence of Jews.
The inspiring contribution that the Jewish refugees from Hitler have made to the cultural, musical artistic and scientific life of England since, and presumably the same for the States, means that if only for that reason, I have the greatest admiration for the Jewish race.
But this does not mean that I don’t notice injustice by any people towards any other people.
I can’t overlook the words of Arthur Balfour, the English statesman instrumental in helping to establish the principle of the state of Israel saying that : ‘ it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.’
But it didn’t work out like that and the Palestinians lost out, and so did the Jews in other Middle Eastern countries like Iraq, who ended up being expelled as scapegoats for the Zionists, having lived in Baghdad for nearly two thousand years.
According to Palestinian leader, Sheik Abdullah, the Arabs were “annoyed and insulted by the Zionist immigration, but not alarmed by it.”
In the 20’s, Jewish immigration was small, but in the thirties, the Depression and Hitler’s rise to power caused a huge
jump in the figures. Speaking in 1947, Sheik Abdullah told an audience, that in 1932 only 9,500 Jews came, but this didn’t bother them as they never thought their Arab majority would be in danger.
But the next year 1933, when Hitler came to power, immigration jumped to 30,000, in 1934 it was 42,000, and in 1935, it was 61,000.
And, of course, it has never stopped, and the Palestinians have lost their country.
All this of course is water under the bridge, and nearly seventy years later, it would be wonderful if peace could break out between peoples who misunderstand each other and have great gulfs of forgiveness to bridge. And the only way we can help. it seems to me, is to try to be peaceful ourselves, and refrain from taking sides through loyalty and old beliefs.
Your attack on Valerie had so little to do with what she wrote because it wasn’t meant to initiate dialogue. Those of us familiar with your approach recognize it as a transparent and widely-used strategy employed to silence non-Jews and to intimidate the many Jewish people who oppose the Israeli occupation of Gaza and reject the state of Israel as it now stands. As a defender of Palestine with many Jewish relatives, some of whom also lost family in the Shua, I challenge your use of a global Jewish voice. You do not use that voice in good faith; rather you appropriate it to silence dissent.You know full well that entire Orthodox sects have long stood in strong opposition to Israeli authority, that the number of IDF soldiers and Reserve members refusing to serve has rapidly increased, and that a national movement of high school students produces a crop of graduates who report to prison instead of boot camp every year. Israelis of Ethiopian descent are nearly unanimous in their charges of discrimination and in their open support of Palestinians
In New York City alone, frequent protests outside the Isreali Embassy draw thousands. This also applies to Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, D.C., Philadelphia, and Toronto.
How hollow your voice rings out against the background of deeply-felt Jewish voices such as these, and compared to Valerie’s thoughtful, long replys. Don’t feel so free to squander her great heart again or to use her journey as a foil for your bankrupt party line.
And don’t squander accusations of anti-Semitism and murderous intent either – you have no basis coming onto Valerie’s respectful, inclusive space and calling her a murderer and a racist.
I learn from this long response that you have a deep resentment toward Jews, toward the millions of them. That you accept all that the liberal media tells you, and that your goal, as has been that of others for thousands of years, is the disappearance of the Jewish people, men, women and children. You are, sadly, a Hater, for you hate million of people, actually only one group of people, and your Hate would, if enacted, see their slaughter. We will never communicate again, sadly.
I think you have confused me with the person who wrote the comment. I hope that is the case, as I have no resentment or hate towards Jewish people, which I thought I had made clear in my reply to you.
Sorry about that. That person wrote me a lengthy message. I hesitated, then decided that I must express my response. When I sent it, I discovered, OH OH!, its on Valerie Davies’ blog stream? I did not mean for it to appear there. I remain a fan of yours, admire your work, but do hope that you visit Gaza and Israel soon, and do so unaccompanied. Things are so complex in the real world. Be well . . . .
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Birthday wishes for a wonderful year ahead, Valerie! Thank you for reminding us that we are all one, not separate. The sooner we realize this, the closer we will come to peace on earth.
Lovely to receive your birthday wishes, and to read your beautiful words… thank you, thank you.. we are on the same path…and of the same mind… wonderful how many of us are…
Valerie first, Happy Belated Birthday.
This was wonderfully and beautifully done. I do hope you will not take to heart the accusations of Mr. Zablow who is crying his version of truth, without compassion or empathy for all the others caught within the terrible tragedy of current events in the middle east, including Israel.
You are so right, it is terrible and difficult being human.
Val, thank you for so many things – for you, – for starters – for your birthday greetings, lovely, and for your warm and encouraging support… I have done some soul searching, and in the end,, can only say what i did in my reply to Jeffrey.. if you have time, you might like to read it.
Again, thank you as always for your support, good friend across the world.
One of the things I love about reading well written blogs is the learning, also, affirmation, or not, of things I have held to be true. All were contained in this post, Valerie. I learned to use that little two letter word ‘no’ late in life, having been brought up as a ‘good girl’ as well. And, like you, it has further liberated me to say no and not give a reason. I can hear my father turning in his grave… Also, you have broadened the scope of my feelings about why ‘my’ is a divisive word and one I try to use sparingly, and carefully. I’m not a joiner, and just to prove that to myself, I made one last attempt a few years ago. Thinking it was my ‘duty’ to give back to a community I have loved, I stuck with it for four years. Then in a particularly horrible ‘committee meeting’ I realised ‘I am done’. The lesson has finally stuck! I have further realised I can contribute much as a loving and sharing individual. If we could all reach our potential of compassion and openness, the world would be much improved. Belated Birthday wishes, too. I think this post came through when we were away last month but I saved it until I had time to absorb your thoughts. xx
Dear Ardys, what a treat to find your thoughtful comment, and what a compliment that you bothered to read the post after all this time…
I know exactly what you mean about committees- and not being a joiner. Going against all my instincts I agreed to serve on various village committees and others. In one traumatic year I dropped off the SPCA committee, the anti-vivisection committee and the school committee, and have never joined anything again… you can either do that stuff or you can’t… and I also think it has a lot to do with different levels of consciousness, and different levels can be like oil and water !!
Very hearteningly, I’ve had a number of comments from (live !!!!) readers
about this post, so many more of us feel the same, and it must make a difference …..
So good to be in touch, and know that we are on the same wave length,
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