In a rare move this morning, I chose to explore the NY Times briefing instead of queuing up the readings of the day from the Roman Catholic lectionary. The stimulus for my choice was a headline that read “Oxford Dictionary International Word for the Year.” I had to read through several headlines to find that entry but that in itself was instructive of the culture we live in and what seems to be – or is – important to know of the world today. Much of it was still political as we wait for election results, some of which may be delayed due to unreadable ballot signatures – part of the fallout from the fact that children are not always taught good writing skills in this electronic age. Then there was the potential impending downfall of Theresa May because of her unsatisfactory planning for “Brexit,” and so on around the world.
I was not happy to find that the chosen word for the year was “toxic.” I do find it appropriate as a theoretical explanation for much of the malaise that seems to be infecting our nation and the world these days but I was taken aback a bit by the breadth of definition in what I read. The traditional definition of “poisonous, virulent, deadly, dangerous, noxious, pernicious” (that always leads me to think of chemicals) is just, as we say, “the tip of the iceberg” today. What I read related to chemicals, of course, but so much more!
There are now toxic games, and even an award winning video game development studio called Toxic Games, a song by Britney Spears (which I will not quote here), toxic foods, toxic relationships, a toxic thriller movie (entitled Toxic), toxic people (jealous and judgmental people who “have so much internal self-hate that they can’t be happy for anyone around them”) and – in an urban dictionary – “people who are trolls and a 6 year old trying to be cool.”
In desperation I needed to google “antonyms for toxic” and heaved a sigh of relief to find 60 of these in the Power Thesaurus. Here are some: harmless, healthy, nonpoisonous, helpful, safe, good, beneficial, curative, wholesome, life-giving, mild, hygienic, therapeutic, benign, agreeable, restorative…etc. Even just writing those words calms me a bit and reminds me of the power of words.
So what is the point of all this? As usual, what I derive from such exercises is a desire for deeper consciousness. I need to be aware of how I speak, what I say and whether or not my conversation is positive or negative in tone and/or content. This does not mean I will simply avoid difficult conversations but rather try to handle difficult topics in ways that avoid blaming, emotional reactivity or negativity. As always, mindfulness is key. Perhaps, in time, if we are diligent, we will succeed in righting the world.