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We teach children that sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you. We teach them to turn the other cheek. Depending on the situation, that sounds like a stoning to me.

If I had a nickel for every time someone told me to “just don’t let it bother you” or “put your big girl pants on,” I’d retire early. Like tomorrow. My whole life I’ve tried to take the high road, as I was taught. And what I learned in the past year was that if someone calls you names long enough and loudly enough, people will listen and the label will stick, or at least it will leave a residue that has very real consequences.

So I’m wondering about the wisdom of the high road. At the same time, I don’t think you combat unethical behavior with equally despicable acts. So you won’t hear any name-calling from me.  But you will hear me beckoning to my detractor from a higher road. Look up, my broomstick is just above your head.  Come on then, if you’re gonna call me names, I’m gonna own them.

If you’re gonna call me a witch–an agnostic paramour– then I’m gonna own those terms. Because first of all, I’m quite sure you don’t even know what they mean, and secondly, they don’t pertain to me. But let’s just play along, let’s say they do. I’m the agnostic paramour.

So let’s talk about the ethics of divorce and plastic surgery and the power of naming and whether it matters most that we call ourselves good people or whether we do good acts or whether maybe being moral (having integrity) doesn’t involve both values and principles. If you’re gonna call me names, you better know what they mean. You better be ready to look yourself in the mirror. And you better be ready to own your behavior.

I teach philosophy for a living and struggle, like everyone else, to make the right choices.

My blog is an exploration of gender, philosophy, and the ethics of relationships.

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    1. Jenn says:

      Hi Wanda,

      I too believe that words are very powerful. Stones usually get thrown once. They either hit their target or fall to the ground with an insignificant thud. Words can bounce around forever – from person to person – and can take on more dangerous meaning, or intensify in hatefulness, with each repetition. The political scene today can testify to that. Also, as one who has endured “stoning,” I can attest that bruises heal quickly and the physical scars fade, but they are nothing compared to the mental scars that must be overcome. I think the high road can definitely be from an assertive lofty perch, ready to pounce on ignorance and sweep away the oblivion. I’ll bring out my broom and fly with you any day! Also, I am glad you are exploring the “ethics of relationships” because “ethical relationships” is often an oxymoron and may be very difficult to explore. 

       Jenn

      • admin says:

        Hi Jenn,
        Hegel made the much-debated claim that “the wounds of the spirit heal and leave no scars behind.” As much as we strive for a higher form of consciousness in hopes of overcoming hurt, it’s a long road, as you point out. The advice that’s out there ranges from encouragement to fight as they fight (dirty if need be), to try to ignore it, or to not let yourself get pulled down into that darkness. Exploring all avenues, I have read about and dabbled in the meditation technique tonglen for some time now. Buddhist nun Pema Chodron writes a good deal about it in her various books. The idea is that when you do on-the-spot tonglen, you let yourself feel what you are feeling–the other day it was righteous indignation as I jogged around a track–and then you breathe out compassion into the world for others. In this case, I focused on compassion for those who have been falsely accused and for women in particularly who truly cannot protect themselves. Then, with a capitalist twist, I went and donated a small sum to Amnesty International for those who are falsely accused and a small sum to a local women’s shelter for women who cannot protect themselves. It seemed to mitigate the anger I was feeling (that usually only comes back to roost within me and wear me out).

        Anyway, I am sorry to hear that you have experienced the kind of stoning I’m talking about and hope that most of the healing is behind you. I agree that it is the repetition that does the real harm. Thanks for joining me on the broomstick highway. I’m not saying it’s the moral highground, but I do hope it’s a way to push back and balance out that disturbance. I’ve been wondering if the key isn’t so much battling against all that negativity, but rather neutralizing it.


    2. Jenn says:

      – You stated, “I’ve been wondering if the key isn’t so much battling against all that negativity, but rather neutralizing it.” –

      Nicely put. I think you hit the nail on the head. Battling infers violence, which only brings more negativity. Neutralizing negativity, while nurturing creativity and harmony, may be the ultimate goals of humankind.


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