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I suppose every language contains poison words, ones best avoided. These words twist back on themselves, biting their own butt, flipping their intended meaning; poisoning.

My poison word list remains gratefully short, though I constantly catch myself teetering on the edge of invoking every one of them. My list?

You must read what follows because it should help you do all you can. It is the truth.

Notice how you feel after reading that last sentence? I’ve just poisoned you.

Hey, no ill intent, I was just demonstrating a simple truth that too often cloaks itself in alluring promise. The kind of promise that inevitably becomes a lie.

Should points her blaming finger into your dominant eye. This doesn’t hurt so much as incite. Should distracts attention toward what never has been, just as if it always could have been, if only. If only you’d done something different. If only you did what I would have done. Who farted and made you God to invoke the unholy ‘should?’ How could you possibly know what I could have done, what I ‘should’ do?

I do not aspire to live up to your aspirations for me, for I am me. You, fortunately, are probably you. Do not, please, insist that I be you to satisfy you. I have no interest in satisfying your aspirations for me. You may safely employ your sharp-edged shoulds with yourself. Beyond that narrow edge, that narrow cutting edge, you hold no license. Your should remains a statement about you, never about me.

Must smells musty, seasoned by a lifetime sequestered in some moldy cellar, in serious need of some airing out. You elevate yourself to an ignoble throne whenever you insist that I must. I likewise degrade myself accepting it. One sure way to discount my influence in the world involves accepting your imperative, and ‘must’ stands above most of these. When I declare that ‘you must,’ I am admitting that ‘I need,’ and my vulnerability becomes the foundation upon which our relationship continues.That math don’t add up.

I can command with little effect. Nobody obeys. Why should they? When I insist that you ‘do’, I disclose my neediness, perhaps my desperate need, that you do for me. How is it that I’ve suddenly become so needy that I need you to do for me when you could conclude for yourself?

’Do’ discloses my own vulnerabilities, foisted on you, insisting that you fix me. Just ‘do’ this, I insist, and I will be okay, then I’ll testify that you’re okay, too. Do not, don’t, insist that I do lest I lose the ability to choose for myself and learn from that choice. I’d like to know from your experience, but your conclusions seem better informed than mine. When you insist, I cease to exist. I cannot do your bidding without losing my ability to do anything. Don’t ask and I won’t have to tell.

Can can’t, or hasn’t yet. This declaration qualifies as pure speculation. As The Muse’s mom once told her grandson, “Come back and tell me after you’ve done it, don’t tell me you can.” Thinking I can might motivate, but it’s no competition to already having done. ‘I’ve done’ spews little steam, but says more.

Enticing others to believe they can might satisfy the motivator more than the aspiring performer. I might need a splash of ‘can’ belief, but miles separate that exhortation from the expression; realization. I think of canned tomatoes, almost entirely unlike fresh. I can can any aspiration, but I’m wise to understand that the result will never measure well against the genuine article. I can can, but I can also simply be.

’Is” qualifies as a false equivalence. Whenever I say this is that, I might just as well insist that that is this. I’ve said nothing, and so freaking eloquently! Jung found algebra morally reprehensible because it thrived on false equivalences. A is not 1, but A. In this same way, nothing seems equivalent to anything else. ‘Is’ seems at best a metaphor killer.

’Is’ might be better expressed as ‘seems to be’, anything to escape the clearly false equivalency. Is isn’t. There’s a phrase to thrive by. Whenever encountering an ‘is,’ better, perhaps, to recognize in that moment a false equivalency and start constructing a more useful bridge between this and that. If this really was that, we would not need this. If that really was this, we wouldn’t have any need for that, either. Is seems neither this nor that, but somewhat similar to both. This is one likeness worthy of my hate.

What poison words have you noticed? I suspect that my short list might only hint at a beginning. How many poison words did I use describing the poison words?

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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