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TODAY news for Thursday, August 24, 2006

School of Medicine news

Innerweave: The Wholeness Story

Wil Alexander, PhD
Wil Alexander, PhD
From the world of words, in which we live so much of our lives, is a challenging quote from Sir Thomas Moore. In this book, you would find a use of words that will keep you thinking more deeply than you do about most words:

“In modern life we place our trust in machines and in understanding. In our physical work, the need for craft has diminished considerably as we continue to invent sophisticated technologies, while in our personal lives we seem to think that if we could only understand what we’re going through, our problems would be solved. But the soul is more deeply affected by the imagination than by clever and expert coercions. It is moved by good words and images. A stirring story may have more effect than a reasoned argument. A picture may truly say more than a million words. A poem may depict the soul more than a long, footnoted treatise. A simple song may linger in the memory and affect our mood.

“In recent decades our language has become brittle and abstract. We use abbreviations as though they were words, we use a common jargon for our subtle emotional experiences, and we prefer tables, graphs, numbers, and step-by-step procedures over lengthy reflection. All of this is the result of the spirited bias of the times. But the soul takes things in slowly and piecemeal, savoring the details and the qualities of expression. A good phrase may inspire meditation for many years, and a good tune may stay with us for a lifetime.

“It makes a difference what kind of language we use to express our feelings and thoughts. Some words are more evocative than others, some fresher than those that immediately come to mind. Choosing the right word may make all the difference, and that choice requires art.

“Words become sentences, and sentences paragraphs, as our language takes form, and although the form may look rational and straightforward, there may be a wealth of fantasy and story beneath it. Words have their rich histories, which are always to some extent present in every usage. A dictionary may give the impression that a word can be defined simply and definitively, but the etymology and history of a word suggest that words are alive and can’t be stuffed once and for all into a definition.”

        —Thomas Moore, The Education of the Heart

By Wil Alexander, PhD
Professor of family medicine, School of Medicine

TODAY news for Thursday, August 24, 2006