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Spirituality

Scripture, Facebook, and the Impact of the Written Word

Rodney Richards | Aug 18, 2016

PART 3 IN SERIES The Power of the Word

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Rodney Richards | Aug 18, 2016

PART 3 IN SERIES The Power of the Word

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. – Mark Twain, October 1888 letter

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

What Mark Twain said holds much meaning for the spoken word, but even more so for Facebook.

My wife Janet has said to me, “Don’t post that – it’s not public,” or asked, “Rod, how could you write that?” when one of my (I thought), innocuous Facebook comments caused umbrage from an FB friend. Finally I asked her how to edit (or delete) my poor or insensitive wording—and I think I’m always careful!

The written word, it turns out, can have an enormous impact.

Granted, you can’t please everyone. You can’t know where others have been or come from, or how they’ll feel about a subject unless perhaps you know them. But as human beings, we have an innate desire to express ourselves, and we will. Hence over 17 million books now available on Amazon, a drop in the bucket of the 129 million ever published.

Spoken words have an immediate effect, but can be forgotten, overlooked or forgiven. We’ve all had experience with that, with our own or other’s words. But the written word is permanent; it can leave a stain on one’s character that cannot be removed by the most heartfelt protestations. The written word lasts ages and centuries and is timeless. Rereading the written word invokes its power endlessly, for good or ill, inspiration or degradation, upliftment or cruelty.

As a writer I am keenly aware of this. Listening to others’ stories in multiple writing groups and seeing their words on paper always has immediate and sometimes long-lasting impact on my emotions, as well as in my thoughts and beliefs.

That permanence makes the goal of every balanced writer to “write with authority”—so different than those blog rants these days, which may be true but offer no solution to any problem. Balanced writing calls for understanding both sides of the issue.

Of course, you can find the longest-lasting and most influential writing ever in the scriptures.

The scriptures of all great Faiths depart from the writings of us mere mortals. They contain more than balance and truth as we perceive it, for their words give us life’s true balance. They create entire civilizations, influence history forever, and change the lives of billions of people. Granted, it’s difficult to accept the veracity of some of those words, written hundreds of years in some cases after the prophet’s death. Nonetheless the power of universal truth they contain is unmistakable. The founders of those great Faiths, each and every one, are the original sources of true authority, the authority inherent as the mouthpiece of the unknowable essence God. Their role: to converse with God’s creatures and guide them to peace and security, despite their lower natures, concerned with ego and self.

Whole books have been written on this theme, from St. Paul to Freud, but the point I wish to make is that the words, “the speech,” and writings of the Prophets change, in one master stroke, the concepts and fortunes of all of humankind’s social as well as religious relationships. Explaining this, Abdu’l-Baha wrote:

… when difference and variety of thoughts, forms, opinions, characters and morals of the world of mankind come under the control of one Supreme Power and the influence of the Word of the One True God, they will appear and be displayed in the most perfect glory, beauty, exaltation and perfection. Today nothing but the power of the Word of God which encompasses the realities of things can bring the thoughts, the minds, the hearts and the spirits under the shade of one Tree. He is the potent in all things, the vivifier of souls, the preserver and the controller of the world of mankind. Praise be to God, in this day the light of the Word of God has shone forth upon all regions, and from all sects, communities, nations, tribes, peoples, religions and denominations, souls have gathered under the shadow of the Word of Oneness and have in the most intimate fellowship, united and harmonized! – Tablet to The Hague, p. 13.

History has proven the power of the written word of God to create whole civilizations, encompassing most of humanity. Baha’is believe the word of God  has now appeared again—that the future holds, in this unsurpassed cycle of unending knowledge and abilities, great promise for the stability and peace of humankind’s ordered life on this planet.

In this age, as in none gone before, we have access to hundreds of books and written tablets from the newest founder of a great world Faith. In his hand, Baha’u’llah wrote down this new revelation, confirming the spiritual teachings of those gone before him and bringing a new cycle of divine guidance to the world.

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Comments

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  • Duane Troxel
    Aug 21, 2016
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    You hit one of my soft spots. I have often had to write someone back and say something like, "I wish you could have heard the tone of my voice when I said that in my mind." Words are incredibly powerful and you write them very well.
  • Aug 19, 2016
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    I will try experimenting more with my Facebook posts. I will try to find quotes for my Facebook posts, status updates, lifetime events, etc. Threefold Lotus Sutra, Innumerable Meaning Sutra, Lotus Sutra, Samantabhadra Meditaiton Sutra, Gosho (Writings of Nichiren Daishonin), etc are things I have been reading very recently and have been looking for Facebok shareable quotes.
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