Congratulations, You Can Speak – Now What?

“Words are weapons. They blast big bloody holes in the world. And words are bricks. Say something out loud and it starts turning solid. Say it loud enough and it becomes a wall you can’t get through.” ―Richard Kadrey

As late as the 16th century it was commonly believed that an Angelic language existed. Supposedly, God used this Angelic language to create the world and to name all things in existence. It was the same language that Adam used in Eden to speak with God and angels.

As the story goes, the Angelic language was lost after Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden. It wasn’t until many generations later that the Angelic language was restored to Earth when the patriarch Enoch was allowed to record it in a book. Very inconveniently, this book was lost in Noah’s Great Flood. 

I can’t help thinking that hope for us humans to communicate perfectly with each other disappeared with that book. Most days it seems that all we have is our feeble intellect and our imperfect language to make sense of existence and to relate with one another.

Professor Leonard Rubenstein knows this: “Language does not describe the world we see: We see the world language describes.”

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Scriptures contain many stories regarding the power of words. The first chapter and verse in John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

I’m not sure what that means exactly— the Word was God— but it sounds significant, and it points to the reality that words have tremendous power.  

It aligns with a Hindu teaching that each word contains power to create, sustain or destroy.

As children in Sunday school we’re taught many other examples of the power of words— Jesus commanding the blind to see, the lame to walk and the dead to rise. The account of Jesus commanding stormy seas to calm, or sending demons from a man possessed into a herd of swine.

But very often we forget the power and value of words. We would do well to practice Gandhi’s direction, “Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”

Jewish mysticism teaches that our souls have three garments— thought, language and action— and that God has given us the faculty of language specifically in order to put our thoughts into words and to then use those words to serve and uplift others. 

Think for a moment about how amazing that is— that’s why we have words— to carry our thoughts to bless and assist other people.    

Author Molly Friedenfeld tells us, “There is great power in our words, because they are thoughts to which we have given additional energy by speaking them aloud so another person can know them.”

May we recognize the power and potential of words and always strive to use them to improve our own lives and the lives of others.


Success: Is It Worth It? (Part 3)

I had always kind of figured that my dad would die of a heart attack at his desk.

It seemed logical given his incredibly long hours, heavy workload, high stress, poor diet, minimal exercise and little sleep. It’s an understatement to say that he pushed himself hard. His autobiography was appropriately named— he was driven. 

Eventually he did have a heart attack. He wasn’t at work, as it turns out, but it was only one of a host of significant health issues that eventually caught up to him.

Our family was fortunate to spend my dad’s last couple of weeks by his side. One of my life’s greatest blessings is to have seen that at the end of his life he was at peace with himself and the life he’d lived.

I knew absolutely that I wanted that same peace when my time on Earth was up. I also knew that Euripides was right— No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow. I felt an urgency to start living the life I wanted, in a way that made me feel peace, now.

Observing my dad’s life and death caused me to think that one of life’s major aims must surely be to learn to die well.

In the final analysis, I don’t think there’s much my dad would have changed about his life even if he could have. I think of Patton’s words, “If a man has done his best, what else is there?” 

When I debate with myself whether or not the high cost he paid for his success was worth it, I reflect on the jobs he created, which today number about 10,500. I think about the families supported by the income from those jobs, and the healthcare benefits provided.

I think about the scholarships awarded, and the innumerable opportunities for personal and professional growth. I think about the existence of a company that employees can be proud to work for— a company that does meaningful work that enriches lives.

I think about all the taxes collected that help keep the government running strong and ultimately enhance the quality of life for so many.   

I think about the speeches my dad gave, the mentorship he provided and the lessons he taught formally in classrooms and informally everywhere. 

I think about all the customers served, and all the goods, services and experiences transacted in safe and clean facilities by excellent employees.  

I think about the philanthropy that he and my mom provided so quietly that I often didn’t know about it.

I reflect on Albert Schweitzer’s words, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

When we serve others we are happy. My dad found many ways to use his time, talents and energies to serve others. He served until he was literally unable to do so any longer. 

It is impossible to say whether or not the price my dad paid for his success was worth it. I often think that he could have achieved 90% of the success he did by putting in only 60% of the time and effort.

But he was at peace at the end of his life. He genuinely enjoyed the work he did and he loved serving others. He wouldn’t have changed much about his life.

For all these reasons I tend to think that the price my dad paid was worth the results he produced. Ultimately, I know, whatever results we achieve come at a cost— we’re always trading our time and energy for something.

Whether that something is worth the price we pay for it is a question we should ask ourselves from time to time.