Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies Quotes

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Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre
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“The story is told of Mother Theresa that when an interviewer asked her. "What do you say when you pray?" she answered, "I listen." The reporters paused a moment, then asked, "Then what does God say?" and she replied, "He listens." It is hard to imagine a more succinct way to get at the intimacy of contemplative prayer.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“We have become desensitized, in ways discussed earlier, to the electrifying power of the well-chosen word. But sometimes it breaks through like a ray of light through a cloud bank. We all know the experience of reading or perhaps writing a sentence that evokes with absolute laser-like precision a particular feeling, atmosphere, action, or thought which, being named, seems to take on brand-new life.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“In a broad and true sense, good conversation is life-giving: it inspires and invigorates...livelieness in our use of language, both oral and written, matters: how lively language is life-giving - how it may literally, physiologically, quicken our breath, evoke our laughter, raise our eyebrows, open our hearts, renew our energies. Lively language invents and evokes and sustains.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“Conversation is an exchange of gifts. Native American tribal wisdom teaches that when you encounter a person on your life path, you must seek to find out what gifts you have for one another so that you may exchange them before going your separate ways. This seems true even of daily encounters with those we know well. We come into one another's presence bearing whatever harvest of experience the day has offered, and we foster relationship by making a gift of what we have received.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“Truth-telling is difficult because the varieties of untruth are so many and so well disguised. Lies are hard to identify when they come in the form of apparently innocuous imprecision, socially acceptable slippage, hyperbole masquerading as enthusiasm, or well-placed propaganda. These forms of falsehood are so common, and even so normal, in media-saturated, corporately controlled culture that truth often looks pale, understated, alarmist, rude, or indecisive by comparison. Flannery O’Connor’s much-quoted line ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd’ has a certain prophetic force in the face of more and more commonly accepted facsimiles of truth - from PR to advertising claims to propaganda masquerading as news.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“And sometimes words become objects of interest in themselves. Suddenly we notice them. We see and hear them the way poets do, as having vitality and delightfulness independent of their utility. Language may suddenly appear not as a closed system where meaning is simply constructed or a drably utilitarian system of reference, but as a dance - words at play - words not just meaning or reporting or chronicling or marching in syntactic formation, but performing themselves, sounding, echoing, evoking ripples of association and feeling, moving in curious sidelong figures rather than left to right in orderly lines.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“...in providing refuge and in challenging us - [stories] are instruments of healing. For all these reasons, the power of story is one we must not abdicate. The church needs to be a place where stories are told, where we are invited back into the stories we live by, and where we come to find ourselves at home again in a dwelling made of words that is reconstructed in every telling. We need good storytellers to keep us alive and imagining. The exercise of the imagination is the training ground of compassion. Stories educate the heart. Stories, like poetry, are related to prayer. They have an incantatory, invocational function. They call forth and focus our dread and desire. They are vehicles of confession, thanksgiving, petition.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“Let me tell you a little story, is one of the treasures of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Stories are the oldest and most valuable equipment we have as a human community and as a people of faith. The power of stories lies not only or even mainly in their explanatory function, or in the ways they mirror a community back to itself, or in the examples they provide, or the analogies. That power lies also in the way stories allow us to focus and give shape to our hopes, and to come to terms with the inexplicable and bewildering freedom we have as creatures made in the image of God.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“Good conversation is a courtesy, a kindness, a form of caritas that has as its deepest implicit intention binding one another together in understanding and love.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“Anyone who speaks through electronic media has had his or her patter carefully shaped by a script; the delivery - tone, intonation, emphasis - has been rehearsed:' He adds, "TV kills the human voice. People cannot argue with anything on the screen. TV images pass by too fast for young minds to consider or analyze them." No matter how "lively" the conversation modeled on television, the medium itself works to suppress the spontaneity, imagination, and attentive listening required in actual conversation.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“A good conversationalist directs attention, inspires, corrects, affirms, and empowers others. It is a demanding vocation that involves attentiveness, skilled listening, awareness of one's own interpretive frames, and a will to understand and discern what is true. It may be that we don't often enough consider conversation as a form of social
action, as a ministry, or as a spiritual discipline. That it may be all three, and that it is a significant part of our life and calling as people of faith, may be more evident if we consider what good conversation does.
In a broad and true sense, good conversation is life-giving: it inspires and invigorates.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“f the “Christian right” would acknowledge the existence of a Christian left, the community of believers might be able to deliver a lively witness to the capaciousness of our faith in spirited (and I used that term advisedly) debate.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“In reading a recent novel, I myself was convicted by a comment the mother makes to her adult daughter: ‘My dear, you’ve missed so many opportunities to say nothing.’ We do miss these opportunities, as well as opportunities to say less and say it more judiciously. And so we miss particular delights of finding words and speaking them into silences big enough to allow them to be heard.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“It seems to me that the call to be stewards of words requires of us some willingness to call liars to account - particularly when their lies threaten the welfare of community. Certainly we need to do this with humility, aware of the ways in which each one of us has a heart that is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9)...if there is to be health in the body politic and in the Body of Christ, healing involves naming the insults and offenses. It involves holding each other and our leaders accountable. It means clarifying where there is confusion; naming where there is evasion; correcting where there is error; fine-tuning where there is imprecision; satirizing where there is folly; changing the terms when the terms falsify.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“When we converse, we act together toward a common end, and we act upon one another. Indeed, conversation is a form of activism - a political enterprise in the largest and oldest sense - a way of building sustaining community.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“[George] Steiner makes two other points worth mentioning about the consequences of language abuse: as usable words are lost, experience becomes cruder and less communicable. And with the loss of the subtlety, clarity, and reliability of language, we become more vulnerable to crude exercises of power.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“Caring for language is a moral issue. Caring for one another is not entirely separable from caring for words. Words are entrusted to us as equipment for our life together, to help us survive, guide, and nourish one another. We need to take the metaphor of nourishment seriously in choosing what we "feed on" in our hearts, and in seeking to make our conversation with each other life-giving.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“A good conversationalist directs attention, inspires, corrects, affirms, and empowers others. It is a demanding vocation that involves attentiveness, skilled listening, awareness of one’s own interpretive frames, and a will to understand and discern what is true.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“Normalizing the language of the marketplace within the academy and the church confuses and ultimately subverts our deepest purposes: in the one case, to promote critical thought and exchange of ideas free from coercion by those in positions of political or economic power, and in the other, to call people to something so radically different from the terms and paradigms of this world that it can be spoken of only in the variegated, complex, much-translated, much-pondered, prayerfully interpreted language of texts that have kept generations of people of faith kneeling at the threshold of unspeakable mystery and love beyond telling.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“There are generous and inventive ways to enjoy words and to reclaim them as instruments of love, healing, and peace. All of us who speak, read, write, and listen to each other have opportunities to do that and to foster the kinds of community that come from shared stories and surprising sentences.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“The dumbing down, oversimplification, or flattened character of public speech may make our declamations and documents more accessible, but it deprives us all of a measure of beauty and clarity that could enrich our lives together. In more and more venues where speech and writing are required, adequate is adequate. A most exhilarating denunciation of this sort of mediocrity may be found in Mark Twain's acerbic little essay, "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses," in which he observes:

When a person has a poor ear for music, he will flat and sharp right along without knowing it. He keeps near the tune, but it is not the tune. When a person has a poor ear for words, the result is a literary flatting and sharping; you perceive what he is intending to say, but you also perceive that he doesn't say it. This is Cooper. He was not a word-musician. His ear was satisfied with the approximate word.
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“Conversation, like good reading, nourishes.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“The metaphorical habit of mind, one of the principal fruits of practicing poetry, allows us to penetrate
walls of abstraction and arrive at truths accessible only by its means. Metaphor teaches us radical connectedness: that in this world of the five senses, all things bear meaning in relation to one another.
Think, for instance, how richly and consistently biblical metaphors reaffirm our relationship to the natural world and in doing so teach us about our relationship to God. Images of water, rock, light, fire, and wind enable us to recognize the movement of the Spirit in all of creation. Images of food - bread and wine, milk and honey, meat and drink - offer particular insight into the radical intimacy of a God who enters into and participates in the most physical facts of life in the body. Animal images - the dove, the raven, the lion, the great fish - invite us to reflect on our likeness to other orders of being. And images drawn from human occupation - builder and shepherd, bridegroom and bride, warrior and king, father, mother, and child - not only mirror the rich diversity of relationship necessary to human community, but also show how all of those are gathered into relationship with a God who is more variously and persistently present than we think.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“Have you ever heard a friend returning from a party describe how merry it was? Unless you're very, very old, I suspect not. The word survives in American usage almost exclusively as a vestigial reminder of certain obligatory feelings of good cheer around Christmastime. But merriment itself seems to belong to a place beyond the looking glass - something we can imagine wistfully as we step into the world of Austen or Dickens, but can't bring back into the milieu of the contemporary cocktail party. Merriment seems to evoke two conditions of community life we have largely lost: a common sense of what there is to laugh about, and a certain mental health - what Williams James would have called "healthy-mindedness" - that understands darkness, but doesn't succumb to cynicism. Merriment has fallen into near extinction by a disuse that both signals and hastens the demise of such attitudes.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“Tell the truth, but tell it slant...' is Emily Dickinson's advice....

I've been struck by how often slant is confused with bias - as though having a point of view, a set of assumptions, or a firmly held opinion is in itself unscrupulous or unfair. And as though neutrality is the mark of fairness or truth.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“Curiosity. It was Oliver Sacks who first made me reflect on curiosity as a form of compassion. An ingenious and creative neurologist now well-known for his “clinical tales,” he begins his work as diagnostician and healer with the implicit question ‘What is it like to be you?”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“Good conversation comes form just such flexibility. As observations come up, it meanders, following a course that tends in a particular direction, but moves responsively in new directions as associations are triggered, words are paused over to consider their implications, examples are invented, connections are made. Like jazz, it is a work of improvisation that entails listening intently for what the others are doing and moving with them. The curiosity which sustains that intensity pauses at every turn to notice what's happening, to raise new questions and pursue them. In a gentle pursuit of ideas, it makes room for the unexpected. Exercised in this way, curiosity becomes an avenue of grace. Conversation pursued in this spirit is full of surprise. It connects one idea or thought or analogy with another in ways that could not have been predicted.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“The difference between hearing and listening is significant...Listening well means knowing when to interject questions, when to redirect the conversation, and, more importantly, in what terms to interpret the other's narrative. It means recognizing that the speaker is making purposeful choices, consciously or unconsciously, and considering what those purposes might be. It means accepting the tension between making judgments and withholding judgment as the other's story or line of reasoning unfolds. It means hearing and noting the omissions. And it means listening not only through the words spoken, but to them.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“Eugene Peterson claims that "to eyes that can see, every bush is a burning bush:' Poems, when they are doing what they do best, offer us a glimpse of that fire.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies
“...there is no question that precision is difficult to achieve. Imprecision is easier. Imprecision is available in a wide variety of attractice and user-friendly forms: cliches, abstractions and generalizations, jargon, passive constructions, hyperbole, sentimentality, and reassuring absolutes. Imprecision minimizes discomfort and creates a big, soft, hospitable place for all opinions; even the completely vacuous can find a welcome there. So the practice of precision not only requires attentiveness and effort; it may also require the courage to afflict the comfortable and, consequently, tolerate their resentment.”
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies

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