What’s in a Word? How the Tiniest Part of Speech Reveals Our Largest Concerns of Life.

My teacher Colette was always a stickler for precision in language. During my long apprenticeship, her insistence to be precise came through even in her heavily French accented English. Our use of imprecise prepositions covers a vast area of unseen and unwitting destructive implications that permeate our lives. As you remember from grammar school prepositions are words that precede a noun or pronoun to show the noun’s (or the pronoun’s) relationship to another word in the sentence. Let’s look at a few examples: 1) for/to; 2) and/or; 3) of/into.


For/To: I’m thinking in particular of the word “responsibility”- a word that burdens most all of us. Often I hear people say: “I’m responsible for so and so...” To which I reply, “Do you have a responsibility for or to someone?”  It makes a heck of a difference. As a human being, I feel responsible to my fellow humans to teach what I have learned, especially in the realms of healing and Spirit. What they take away and use to further their lives is their responsibility. Sure, I am glad to clear up possible misconceptions they may have - that is my responsibility to them.  But, I don’t have responsibility for them. To use or not what they have learned. That is their freedom. I am careful not to tread on their freedom of free will and choice. That is what we are born with. If I assume responsibility for another I have crossed a line that may, and often does, violate a cosmic spiritual law that says, “don’t covet”, don’t claim and/or possess for yourself what doesn’t belong to you. Instead we are asked as selfless humans, to encourage the freedom of others in the course of everyday life experience with each other

Parent/children relationships often get twisted and enmeshed over this point.  My daughter goes to college. I am responsible to her for the tuition, books, travel and the like. She is responsible for her finding her own way, program, major, in sum, her life there. If she asks for my advice I render my opinion as I see it; she is responsible for her choice. I have been responsible to her by giving my input when asked.


And/Or: This prepositional pair plays a featured role in the function of doubt and faith. “And” is the operational word that defines doubt.  It is usually aroused when choices and decisions are presented to us. The doubt response to these options brings “and” into the forefront of consciousness. There is this possibility and then again there is that possibility. I’m torn between the two, finding myself in indecision, creating scenarios about the two sides - answering both “yes” and “no” to the choice at hand. In all spiritual paths the principle is to choose - to turn the “yes and no” into “yes or no.” When we do that, we take a definitive step into the next instant. We call this decisiveness faith.  Otherwise, we remain stuck; movement becomes slowed, often to the point of paralysis, and action is stalled. Yes and no, yes or no reflect the universal tension between doubt and faith, which lie at the base of the troubles besetting us in life. “And” reflects the doubt in us. It leads us to make up stories - illusions really - about what doesn’t exist. Doubt engenders endless mental gyrations that have nothing to do with truth, but are tales of the future - what is in store for us in some time, place and circumstance that does not exist.


Of/Into: This pair is a natural progression from and/or because of its connection with faith. Faith reflects an absence of concern with the illusory region called “future.”    Faith’s concern is with the moment, the instant of action, not dictated to nor determined by the existence of the doubt realms called personal past or personal future. Faith is about right here, right now, suggesting to us that actions in the moment will determine our future, not that actions taken with a misperceiving eye on the future as the determinant of our present.

 For instance, hedonists characteristically live for their sense pleasures as they consider all life stops at physical death. Thus, their eyes are always on the next sensory pleasure ahead of them. “What does it matter I’m going to die anyway, maybe sooner then later, so I’ll live it up as much as I can.”  Deaths, annihilation, are always in the background beckoning persistently. “I might as well eat all the junk food I can. Faith means nothing to me because there is no meaning to life, other than continuous sensory pleasure.” 

To counteract the death shadows we can chose to focus on the life impulse ingrained in the life force of faith. To practice faith, we need to make the shift from leap of faith to leap into faith. A leap of faith, to my mind, is an intellectual shift. For instance, a person may come to believe in the existence of angels. Before then, he/she didn’t believe in anything existing beyond this material world grasped by our five senses. Where as a leap into faith requires an action, a step we often physically take, by taking a decision not focused on the outcome or result, which we, by logical configuration, cannot possibly know. Instead the leap into faith takes stock of the process not the product in advance of where we are right now.  Certainly, anyone who practices an Eastern meditational form is not looking at where something will end up,  but is interested in what’s right here. In addition, the leap into faith comes on the heels of the yes or no response. Once the choice of “or” is answered, we usually know the action to take. Then we become responsible for and to ourselves.  

We might call this whole process “growing up”  - and it can be as easy as noticing the grammar of everyday life.