Unity in Daily Life

True unity lies at the crossroads of wisdom and pragmatism. The underlying web of life to which we all belong is undeniable. Yet, this is an intellectual concept. Language can only produce concepts; that is its fundamental limitation. It cannot describe Truth. It cannot describe Beauty. In cannot describe Love. Language is rather impotent when it comes to describing the ineffable nature of experience. So, in order to make this intellectual concept of unity mean something real in our daily lives, we must rely also on pragmatism.

One of the most direct manifestations of this is the invocation of the concept of unity to defuse or avoid conflict. Conflict is rife in society today at every level and shows no sign of going away. A true unity of mankind would preclude conflict. How does one have conflict with oneself? Conflicts which arise from different points of view or different ideologies must be seen as part of the larger unity of consciousness. There must be darkness for there to be light; there must be hatred for there to be kindness; there must be fear for there to be liberation. In this way we respect the darkness as a necessary part of the light.

This does not mean we get to ignore our responsibility to speak out against injustice or alleviate suffering. Not at all! It simply provides a larger context in which to continue our work. By recognizing the darkness as part of the light, we see that the very nature of the darkness itself is suffering. Those mired in hatred, bigotry, greed, and selfishness are suffering in that same darkness. Their apparent, individual consciousness may not realize or accept this, but it’s true. They are striving against their natural state, which is Love. Being separated from Love is the very definition of suffering.

So, we must first acknowledge that those who peddle hate and fear are a symptom of our diseased society, not the disease itself, and that they are not their words or their ideas. How do we approach this pragmatically? We don’t add suffering to suffering. We speak against ideas and ideologies, not against individuals. We don’t label. We offer love to the unloving as well as the unloved. Is this easy to do? Absolutely not! But it is necessary. The cycle of conflict cannot be broken through constant escalation. It can only end when light is shone into the darkness and Love is offered unconditionally to all.

For, truly, we are One.

In Defense of the “Articulate F-Bomb”

Language is a funny thing – composed of these strange symbols, which allow us to transfer recognizable images from one mind to another.  Through our spoken and written words, we are able to communicate complex ideas, instruction and insight, and even pass along our accumulated knowledge from one generation to the next.

In short, words have power.  But not all words are created equal; the power spectrum of words runs the gamut, from feeble, mono-dimensional words to the most provocative and profound oratory.  The ability to use words to tap into the psyche of others can be a tremendous asset.  Choosing the words we speak is very much like a gifted artist selecting the shades and hues with which to create his masterpiece.

Since language provides such a powerful, engaging toolset, it is easy to see why the abuse of these tools can be damaging.  Irresponsible use of vocabulary has always been a problem, and will surely continue as long as humans continue speaking.  And while they may change over time and over generations, there are certain words that remain taboo.  American comedian George Carlin introduced us to seven of them in 1972.

One of these infamous words is “fuck”.  It is called “the F-bomb” for a reason; the power it contains, when used effectively, is unparalleled (at least in the English language).  Now, don’t misunderstand; I am in no way defending gratuitous swearing.  Ill-timed or unnecessary profanity is considered offensive to many, and is rarely useful in civil dialogue.  However… there are those rare occasions when dropping an F-bomb can completely reposition what is being said.  It can evoke a visceral response in the hearer that is more profound than anything a lesser word might be capable of.

A perfect example of this viscerally appropriate use of the F-bomb can be found in the Noah Gundersen song, “Jesus, Jesus” (2009, track 5).  After a verse lamenting the current state of world affairs and expressing his desire to experience life and love, the artist gives us these lines:

“Jesus, Jesus
It’s such a pretty place we live in,
and I know we fucked it up.
Please be kind.”

I can think of no more evocative way to convey the sentiment behind those words.  He’s expressing his deep affection for our world and how the beauty and purity of nature is being slowly strangled by our human selfishness.  We haven’t simply “messed up” this “pretty place we live in.”  We haven’t “damaged” it, “abused” it, “ruined” it, or even “raped” it.  Though that last one comes pretty close.

No.  We fucked it up.  Royally.

Even the pleading tone of the singer’s voice on the next line, “Please be kind”, seems to be an acknowledgement of our abject unworthiness of that kindness, in light of what we’ve done to the precious gift we call home.

Art has always been capable of manipulating human emotions, and songwriters are perhaps uniquely gifted in this ability.  Music can effortlessly bring us to tears, drive us to the brink of rage, or enfold us in meditative peace, depending on the notes that are played and the artist’s choice of words.

Words also have the potential to change minds and hearts on critical political and social issues. Who can overstate the impact of Alexander Hamilton’s essays on the formation of the United States, or the ability of religious leaders to incite positive change in their communities? Who questions the influence of a political candidate’s fiery rhetoric to galvanize their base (or their opposition)?  It is precisely because words have such power, that they must be used responsibly. Remember that it was the words of Adolf Hitler, which were used to provoke one of the greatest travesties in human history.

So when is it appropriate to drop an “articulate F-bomb” into a sentence or a song?  It really comes down to intentionality.  The speaker or vocalist must know the audience they are communicating with, and choose words deliberately to emphasize a specific point or concept.  Superfluous use of profanity does little to enhance art or conversation, but the occasional “articulate F-bomb” can evoke an emotional response that would be otherwise unattainable.

In order to be an effective communicator, all options must be left on the table. We should not expect people to tie one hand behind their backs by stigmatizing and excluding certain words from their vocabularies. It is important that we not lose sight of what words actually are. They’re just symbols, after all. Symbols, just as stop signs, corporate logos, and hand-drawn illustrations are symbols. The point is the meaning they convey and how well they convey it, not the particular form being used. Rejecting certain symbols out of hand can impede our ability to communicate.  The pen is indeed mightier than the sword, but only if we allow it to be wielded to its maximum potential.


Gundersen, Noah. (2009). Jesus, Jesus. On Saints & Liars [digital]. Seattle, WA: Independent.