What do “Words”, a Water Oak,
and Howard Cosell All Have In Common?
By Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown, January 4, 2017
can be found in the most strangest of places.
I have found wisdom on a Chinese fortune cookie, on the front of
t-shirts, on the back of t-shirts, and even on Facebook and Twitter posts. The following story came from a book on Golf
or so I thought when I bought it. Most
books on golf are instruction books on how to swing, how to get out of trouble,
how to chip or how to putt the ball.
This one was different. Zen Golf by Dr. Joseph Parent is as the title would suggest, a little bit about
Zen and a little bit about golf. Turned
out it was almost entirely about Zen thinking, keeping your mind in the place it
needs to be during a golf swing and very little about the game itself. The book could have been titled Zen Life or
Zen Thinking or Zen Business and Sales. Some
other books I have read were written by Wallace Wattles in 1910 and they too
had a message for the ages. Throughout
his books, just like Dr. Parent’s books, Wattles suggests that you MUST “think
in a certain way” to achieve what you want to achieve. Wallace and Parent are saying the same thing.
what does all that have to do with Words, a Water Oak and Howard Cosell? Thought you would never ask. It’s January 2017 and even in Louisiana you
experience a form of winter where the grass turns brown, leaves turn brown and
fall to the ground. We rarely ever see snow;
winter creates a bland type of mental picture.
This year I turned the tables a bit by planting winter rye grass and I
have a brilliant green yard all winter long – the only one on my street. With green grass comes grass cutting and that
is what I did today. Completing this
picture for you I want you to think of a massive Water Oak Tree sprawling out
in the back yard. On one hand I had
green grass that needed to be cut and I also had a ton of brown oak leaves on
the ground that needed to be picked up - first.
I began to gather up the leaves I could not help but notice more leaves falling
not only on my head but also in areas I had already cleared. That is when it struck me, a thought, not the
leaves. God only knows how long that oak
tree has stood in her position or how many families have enjoyed her shade and
the pain of cleaning up after her. She
kind of resembles life; she just keeps doing her thing. The leaves on the other hand have a short
life span, months to be exact, then they fall and eventually cleared or they decay.
The leaves of my Water
Oak are like words. They
are everywhere and no matter how much diligence you use to clean them up, every
one of them, it is an impossible task.
Don’t believe me, try it. Leaves
become sticky and stick to everything telling you that at least this one leaf
has no intention of being swept up with the others. Some fall in out of reach places like a roof
only to be later blown back onto an area you have cleared.
too are spoken words. As Dr. Parent so
aptly describes in this short story, words are like feathers in the wind.
folktale tells about a man who went about slandering the town’s wise man. One day, he went to the wise man’s home and
asked for forgiveness. The wise man,
realizing that this man had not internalized the gravity of his transgressions,
told him that he would forgive him on one condition: that he go home, take a
feather pillow from his house, cut it up, scatter the feathers to the wind and
return when done to the wise man’s house.
Though puzzled by this
strange request, the man was happy to be let off with so easy a penance. He quickly cut up the pillow, scattered the
feathers and returned to the house.
“Am I now forgiven?” he
“Just one more thing,”
the wise man said. “Go now and gather up
all the feathers.”
impossible. The wind has already
answered. “And it is as impossible to repair the damage done by your words as
it is to recover the feathers. Your words are out there in the
marketplace, spreading hate, even as we speak.”
much difference between the feathers and the oak leaves in my yard is there
not? They can be beautiful and
enlightening but they can be ugly and defaming.
In both cases, once spoken they cannot be gathered up like leaves on the
ground or the feathers in the wind. You
may be able to retrieve some but certainly not all no matter how hard you try
or even if you obtain help to do so; some will still remain in the corners, on
the roofs or even in the trees just waiting to fall or in the case of words, to
their book Gossip: Ten Pathways to Eliminate it from your Life
and Transform Your Soul, Lori
Palatnik and Bob Burg explain
how we all have accepted the negativity of words by thinking we can shun them
off by ignoring them as if they were never spoken. But they were spoken and when spoken in our midst
and we choose to say nothing we have accepted them at their face value rather
than confronting them head on. Walking
away without indicating the reason is better than staying without a word but
even just walking away will not give the speaker the knowledge that the words
spoken were harmful or hateful and serve no useful purpose. Like the leaves, they just lie there on the
floor waiting for someone to pick them up otherwise they will lay there until
they eventually decay. Still they serve
as a constant reminder for as long as they lie there for everyone to remember. Palatnik and Burg go on to say that you
should NEVER, EVER, say anything negative about someone unless it is to their
face and others cannot hear them. This
is nothing less than what you would want or expect from others is it not?
demonstrate just how devastating words can be one need only remember what
happened to the famed reporter turned sports announcer Howard Cosell. He would refer to football running backs that
were small in size and very quick as “little monkeys.” His comment on air about a running back “running
like a little monkey” got him fired for making what others perceived to be a
racist comment. People who knew Howard
Cosell knew he was not a racist but the damage was done; the leaf and feather
were in the air or on the ground and could not be retrieved.