You must’ve heard the ph­rase ‘if looks could kill’. Ever wondered why there’s no phrase that says ‘if words could kill’? Here’s why: words do kill. In more ways than one.
Legend has it that in the Solomon Islands, villagers had a novel way of felling a tree. The local shamans would gather round it and start yelling and hurling curses and believe it or not, the tree would start withering. This would continue for 30 days, at the end of which, the tree would die. Swearing and cursing at the tree, said the shamans, kills its spirit and consequently the body. Words are capable of a lot more than you can imagine.
This story doesn’t seem so incredible when you remember that Tansen was able to light diyas with his voice and that a sh­arp, high-pitched note can shatter glass. Curses, taunts and constantly launched word-arrows can kill not just the spirit of a tree but also the spirit of a human being. Like the proverbial silent killer, you can’t blame them or send someone to jail for it.
Piercing words create ill-will and resentment, even low self-esteem over time. And they are not easily forgotten. They keep vibrating within your mind, creating stress — a diseased mind and a diseased body. The reverse is true, too. It’s common knowledge that talking gently and lovingly with your plants causes them to grow faster and healthier. There’s no reason why the same shouldn’t be true for people too. Happy words of love and encouragement are an essential prerequisite to good health and to good relationships.
A look at an instrument called the Eidophone reveals the importance of positive words. Put simply, it consists of a tightly stretched drum surface, covered evenly with a moldable paste-like substance and a mouthpiece through which sounds and words are uttered beneath the drum surface. Happy words create sh­apes on the covering substa­nce: shapes like trees or flowers, as they are in nature. If sand is spread on the drum surface, these happy words produce precise geometric designs, which are called Chladni figures, after their original discoverer Ernst Chladni, famous as “the father of acoustics.”
Under the same drum, when you utter obscene or ugly words, the patterns fo­rmed are chaotic, with no real form or figure. That, precisely, is what ugly words create in our universe: chaos and disharmony. The words we utter are not lost as soon as they descend from our lips; they keep vibrating within the ethers — reaching a frequency that makes them inaudible. Wo­uld we rather have pleasant words vibrating within our relationships or sounds that create chaos?
It is a commonly held belief in many cultures to only speak ‘fortunate’ words, because the vibrations may influence reality. If we speak and imagine good, only good will happen, says tradition. Blessings are, therefore, very important —they are positive words and wishes for good fortune. That’s the reason people begin their day by ‘blessing’ each other: good morning is a simple enough blessing, and so is assalam-alaikum — which means ‘peace be upon you’. Within the famous tehzeeb of Lucknow, you are supposed to begin your morning by saying a’daab to the elders, after which they proceed to shower blessings upon you.
You may or may not believe that curses can fell trees. They can surely fell a blooming heart, though. And even if you don’t believe that speaking good can manifest good fortune, you can still believe that it can make you a better person.
(The writer is a freelance journalist)
Zehra Naqvi