Thought for the week: George Macpherson has some words on the Word

‘Words are the medication to treat fear: they are the start of solutions.’

‘Words are the medication to treat fear...' | Photo: Raphael Schaller / Unsplash.

What gives us the right to rule the planet? Surely it’s the knowledge gathered from our forebears over millennia through language: words. Perhaps that’s what St John is referring to in the first chapter of his Gospel: ‘In the beginning was the Word.’

Having language gives us the ability to speak and write, improve our survival – not only from immediate danger but in planning defence against future threats. We have related and recorded our failures and successes. Words are the medication to treat fear: they are the start of solutions.

Our politicians love to say: ‘The security of our own people is our number one priority.’ Things haven’t changed much, except that humanity now has choices of defence, especially against our most dangerous threat – other humans; but despite strategies to promote peace and safety offered by the most brilliant philosophers and prophets ‒ by negotiating, collaborating, sharing and treating others as we would ourselves – we rarely take their advice.

To me, the best offer so far comes from a humble Jewish son of a carpenter’s partner, whose ideas and personality are particularly vibrant and relevant today. Thank goodness that our society continues to use ‘the word’ to improve its knowledge and understanding – with the result that our children and grandchildren are more inclined to adapt to the way he teaches us – even if they no longer keep formal religious connection.

We older folk should celebrate! The strategies laid out by Jesus are so successful that it makes sense for us to modify our laws, regulations and behaviour to adopt them. Witness abolition of slavery and capital punishment – and how ‘public opinion’ puts pressure on governments to legislate against evil postings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; and how school children are highlighting the urgency of climate change with their school strikes and protests; and how universities are agonising about how opinions should be phrased to avoid dangerous conflict.

We can, however, offer the young support and encouragement. The pace of their lives causes burnout and mental turmoil. The profound silence of a Quaker Meeting can bring them calm within, which they can use to make sense of the Word and its heritage. As Jesus’ friend John continues: ‘and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’; and we know what ‘God’ means, here, because Jesus defined that: ‘God is Love.’

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