Speak Kindly. Our Words Become Reality.

Notes on the Sunday address by Dr Francis Macnab, November 30, 2014.
By John Abbate

“Life is a long search for a good conversation.”—Dr Francis Macnab

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Rough Sea c.1840–5


Good Conversations (more goodness, less judgement)
Talking to each other can be the pathway to many enjoyments, or it can be a road littered with potholes, the source of so much anguish and discontent. Our conversations can be enlightened expressions of our highest selves, or they can be outlets for schadenfreude, gossip and hate. The ability to speak with a positive demeanour, with dignity and grace, is a learned art and a focused way of being.

Focus is important to this discussion. “The focus on things positive widens the world,” said Dr Macnab. Our focus determines our moods. Dr Macnab cites the example of a person (the writer/comedian Larry David, creator of Seinfeld) who, after being cheered by an entire stadium of spectators, becomes consumed by a single derogatory remark hurled at him from a car window on the same day. We have a propensity to focus on the negative, while dismissing a wider awareness of what is good around us.

Dr Macnab ends the first part of his address with five lines of advice (after Jeanette Winterson):

  1. Be born
  2. Grow old
  3. Make your life a good experience
  4. Remember, love is a miracle that needs constant practice
  5. Remember to get a good mind, and give part of your good mind to others.

The New Faith (ways to thrive)
Dr Macnab asks, “What productive contribution can the New Faith make to the way we talk to each other?” He goes on, “The old religion is heavily loaded with conversations that are ugly. We [Christians] are well practiced at being hypocritical and hostile, and we’ve lost the art of a good conversation.” Ghandi put it another way: “Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Many people would cling to this “old faith.”

What can we learn from Jesus? Dr Macnab cites the story of Jesus lifted on to the boat and bringing calm to the troubled waters, which is useful here as a metaphor (whatever one happens to believe about the historical veracity of the event). In our conversations we can lose containment of our fears and anxieties; we lose the coherence and elevation of a better conversation. In the story, Jesus brings a presence of calm containment, and the alleviation of fear.

The New Faith brings calm to our troubled states, said Dr Macnab. It brings a presence that speaks of courage, kindness and inspiration. It speaks of an intelligent coherence that stands stronger than the chaos all around. It is an image of being lifted out of where we are, where we were, or where we fear we are going, and being carried forward.

Calm, courage, coherence, carried forward — these words are part of our best conversations. They are also ingredients in the best psychological health and wellbeing. They are words of generosity, beyond judgement.

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