Sass O’Flynn grew up in the Wicklow mountains on a farm, racing horses and out in nature. Life growing up wasn’t easy. The educational system did not lend its self to supporting artistic nature or dyslexia. Sass finally found a place to excel. School of Arts in England. She studied Theatre, English and History. Sass headed to the US for a few years. She came to Galway for a weekend, played a role in the Town Hall Theatre. When she is not working, Sass is a Musician Singer Songwriter and Poet. What Joy!
Are we at war with words?
Someone I used to know, said to me once, that I had stolen her words, it was a phrase that I had used in a poem. I instantly felt bad and changed the phrase before I sent it to be published, relieved that I now had a clear conscience, and honouring my friend, by showing respect. But something was still not sitting right with me and made me question the ownership of words. I was not even sure of what exactly I was questioning. For “pig iron” sake, I decided to google the phrase, and there I found it, in lines of songs, and paraphrased, through lectures with Jean Houston and Caroline Myss  some were literal and some phrased closely.
I love history and storytelling and most of it, I absorb through listening, which is funny because when it comes to listening in an emotional sense, which was and still is a hard nut to crack! Anyway, back to words, who owns them, are they not the universal language of communicating with each other? Surely, if we accuse each other of stealing phrases of expression what have we left? While I do understand the difference in an academic sense; for example, plagiarism, now that kind of theft to me is dishonourable, as is stealing music, which is a whole different subject matter.
I honour those who honour the owner of the work that they are expressing. I wrote a song about Jean Houston’s words, and phrased them all in my song, and honouring her by name; her most amazing line being “we are made for these times.” I am sure, if I ever got the chance to meet her, she would say, that those words are not owned by her either. Who is to know, how she would feel, I do not know, I have not asked her! This story is not about someone I used to know, she has her own opinion on words, and I respect that too. I just want to figure out, for myself, have we now decided that owner ship of words for the comfort of emotional expression, has a price?
I learn how to express how I feel, through listening to people’s stories, history, life. I am still listening and still learning this, but if I do not listen to these stories, those voices; echoes of history, the vibration of sounds from the depths of broken hearts and broken lives; I would not resonate with them, I would not be exposed to the different ways in which people express themselves, nor would I have been given the language to express how I feel. I would never find the words to articulate my own “love language” that makes sense to me. Through the expressions of what precedes me, those ghosts give me the words and language to express what I do not know is stuck deep down inside of me. Stuff that has been there for an exceptionally long time, or perhaps ancestral stuff that predates my own existence. I do not know this as a given. I just know I found words for myself to bring up to the surface that help me express, the vibrations that rumble deep down within.
I am older now, but by no means necessarily wiser! I am learning from my kids, and their expression of language, trying to move and grow, and bring a little depth of wisdom, or what I believed to be wisdom through words, yet I feel I am learning that bringing wisdom is not words, but a doing word. I am continuously blown away, by their ability to discern and understand the original concepts of “Woke” culture and “Cancel “Culture and how it has become a weapon of words, with catastrophic consequences.
Are we at war with words, as well as with each other? Have we become so smart, that we are ignorant or in denial of our own stupidity? Caroline Myss has touched on this under the topic of “we are unreasonable” and she is so right. So, has society grown its own fear-based culture? Our media, government edited news coverage, our own hunger to justify our own behaviour?
I busted out of “children are seen and not heard.” I remember my parents saying this when they we were incredibly young. I remember this phrase ending also. Had my parents suddenly, learned from me that I was not going to take this lying down?
I cannot recall them articulating that it was the wrong choice of words. I did not hear them tell me that it was something that they too, were brought up with. I just remember the feeling that they, figured it was an outdated concept, and yet it was never put into words, but it was felt. Was this wisdom by doing? A doing word.
I know that we are on the cusp of revolution, and some say we are already in it. Not in the traditional sense, or partially. The pendulum has swung too far, but it must in order to come back into its own balance, eventually. I look at the changes that are coming into play, how our religions no longer hold us in the “traditional sense,” no matter which one it is. I wonder have we become so desperate in our search for the spiritual, we got lost in our own words, and others administering words of war. What is this meant to look like, and why am I not feeling it the same way as someone else is. Is there something wrong with me? and there I go, lost in a war of words with myself! I do not have the answers, I am figuring this out, and no matter which way I want to look, dissect, objectify, ridicule, love, fear, it does not matter, it could be my opinion or observation and feeling, but who am I , to force my own made-up word dressed as beliefs to others. I just want to express in words and feel that what I put down is real for me. Would I like to think someone would connect to my words? Absolutely, yes, of course, a connection by words, delivered to the heart by feeling. Is this another doing word?
How much weight does a word hold?
As a woman who has experienced various forms of violence from an early age, you would have heard me say, I would prefer a punch than hurtful words. The problem was after the fear of violence past, and the wounds began to fade to a scar, I started to hear those words that accompanied the violence so long ago, and they took hold. They were cruel words. Were they my inner critic or were they memories distorted by fear? Do I keep them until they become clear, or do I throw them in the bin?
Those words have legs and they marched themselves into my head, sit themselves down and pour each other a glass of word liquor, and they do not stop! I run around a lot to stay ahead of those words, because if my feelings catch wind of them, I know, I will collapse into another bout of darkness. In that darkness, lurking; is violence, not the physical kind, they are words in uniform, like an oppressive military regime. There is no “out” when they arrive. I am still learning how to work with this fight when it engulfs me. Its battling words in military uniform, the defining screams of orders, dictating what I am not good enough to do. Everything inside of me fights it. Yet, believes it. Until I eventually raise my white flag. A doing word.
It’s funny, even now in my effort of doing wisdom, a note in a song with haunting lyrics, can trigger a memory where the words of that old moment appear out of nowhere. Questioning myself, I thought I had let that go. But the same words come back, each time, the same words appear in a different sequence, which sounds like they were said differently. A tone? A phrase? I am not sure. The words from that memory teach me something different each time. Sometimes with a hint of my own personal philosophy, when I realise what I used to believe, I no longer believe anymore.
The unlearning of words
The unlearning of words. This confuses me a lot. Surely, I am learning from each word that has passed through me. How can I un-learn something I have experienced? There is a notch inside my body somewhere for some of the more “flavoursome” ones! It is in soft lens memory. There are always cinematic pictures and imagery with my words, not as I speak but in reflection. Which I guess is my tool to attempt to fully understand or empathise by teaching myself to be more compassionate. Or not.
I was always fascinated in church growing up, and I went to a lot of different religious faiths just to see what was going on. As I wandered into Catholic, Methodist, Protestant, Buddhist, Evangelist, Islam, Hindu, and many more houses of “worship,” all be it on a quest to hear music. All of them seemed to issue words of instructions, and words in chant forms.
The resounding unification in their speeches from the pulpit was, “be compassionate.” The one thing that I have always found amusing is, with all the time and effort these different faiths took to write their beliefs down in words. Not one of the faiths, actually used the word “how.” Was there a time once, where all these words from different religions, held us in unification, or if indeed they nurtured the split and divide culture we have become? Was or is this part of some greater plan? How can we change our words, do we change ourselves?
There is an argument that religions are falling away and dying. I am questioning whether all the words we have heard from each one has become ingrained in us, to the point, that we do not need to go to houses of worship anymore, because we incorporated a belief system in ourselves, where we shut people down, and ruin their lives, because of some ill choice words they have applied in their youth, without the wisdom to realise that words have consequences. Are we looking at the religious faiths model, of issuing instructions, and if we do not follow word for word, or indeed the “correct” or “right” words, we will be dammed to being cancelled out of society? Well, this then would resonate for me in relation to Caroline Myss words of, “we are unreasonable.”
The only religion that I could find which does not like to be listed as a religion but a way of life, is Shamanism. It predates all the religions, even Christianity, because it is passed on generationally through doing and being, a way of life through the natural world. It took me time to research and understand this. Shamanism did not just come from our wonderful native Americans. Shamanism has been alive for 30,000 to 40,000 thousand plus years. Historians have clocked it around the early upper Palaeolithic, in eastern Europe alone, never mind anywhere else! In each part of the globe there is Shamanism , working with the earth, listening, and understanding it and so much more to it than this.
There are so many books written about it, but there is not one book steeped in its rituals. There are no words, only vibrations through doing. It is the only “religion” that does not address itself as a religion that has never been written down on paper, of course it has been written about. There are thousands of books you can choose from, as humans who try and articulate it and attempt to restrict its ethos by their own narrative. But the beauty about this is, there are no words bound in “holy leather” for us mere mortals to re-interpret, or alter its instructions, or change what we don’t like or put in words that are filled with our own opinions, and dismantle its initial intention, and if that is the case, what was the initial intention of all these different religions that had to be written down and deemed holy.
Whatever or whoever our God is, none of us know what he/she said, none of us were there, and if we were there collectively, we, each of us would have our own interpretation of what we heard or indeed, did not hear. Shamanism is the only one, that carries our ancestral echoes, through experiencing nature, and respecting it not through written word, for there are none, but through being and doing. A doing word.
I am not promoting Shamanism, but I am fascinated, that it is one of the oldest religions that has never had the title of religion, and my understanding of it, does not want that title. Yet it is still practised today all around the world in many diverse cultures and landscapes. There is not one extremist Shamanism group who are bludgeoning the world with violence through someone’s (in my opinion) outlandish and distorted slant on a belief of words from a leather-bound book that justifies, their atrocities.
Words in Colour
I long to jump inside a person’s head who see words as colours. I can comprehend the concept, but I cannot understand it. For I know if I do not think like that in any way, shape, or form, then how can I deem to fully understand it?
I have spoken with people who see colour when they are playing and writing music. I do not have this gift, for me when I am playing and writing music, which are words. I never really know what I am singing about until the end. I cannot bring an outcome to a story, that I have not finished, because I write from some ethereal place. I have not found the words to express this. I thought that I had, and I realised that the words I used to say, I no longer believe. Maybe it was my own arrogance at play.
It is only recently that I have discovered people who see words as colour. I believe the term is synesthetes, even though I cannot pronounce this word. Some say that it is a blending of the senses. It’s funny how we seem to have made up words for everything. Is anything being left unspoken? What happened to a look or a feeling that connects us to another human being? What happened to standing there fully present in the moment when nature shows us something beautiful that unfolds. Words are not necessary or adequate to use, and if we were in a wonderful position of standing in that moment with someone you have a heart connection with, and they too see and feel it in that moment, and all it took was a look towards each other, an unspoken acknowledgment, which requires no words, just feeling.
I have had a moment like this with a stranger on a cliff edge. I never found out their name nor did I hear the sound of their voice. We both looked over at each other, knowing words were not necessary or an attempt of imagery snapped by a phone, we both knew the glorious moment would not be captured by either of us. In that fleeting moment, I felt like I connected with a kindred spirit without requiring a word. The interaction was feeling based. Have we lost an emotional connection with our words? Or are we dictating words that appear correct in fear of retribution from our split and divide culture our governments, ourselves, devoid of all emotion. Can the two coincide?
Is there a connection within? If some are gifted by seeing words in colour, have we fully lost the open vulnerability to look into another person’s eyes when speaking words. Is there a connection in the colour of our eyes to the colour of words? They say that the sea is not actually blue, that it is merely the reflection of the sky. But that is not fully the truth either. The sea absorbs light, and so it will hold some of its own colour, as well as the reflection of the sky. I know there is a science bit included. Not my area, and so I will hold any attempts of words on this to myself!
Are our eyes merely reflections of colour from our own words? I know that eyes can reflect so much on hearing words from someone else. Are we missing the connection between the earth and ourselves in a war of words? Have we spoken our hurtful words into the eyes of someone we want to cancel out? Have we become a Shakespearean play? “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”( this is not about woman, this is a universal statement!) Have we all become “Hamlets”? Protesting too loudly because we know the opposite to be true? We have watched historically government propaganda based on exactly this? Protest so loud, all is lost in translation, and let the truth go un-worded and untold until it is too late? Shakespeare used the best words to point out that revenge is deadly. And it is all portrayed through beautifully crafted words. Is this what we are doing to each other? Are we at war with words, or have we allowed words to be at war with us?
Words in the Clouds
We have put our absolute trust in technology that lives in the sky, a one-sided relationship, where this place in the clouds holds our biggest most inner sanctum of words. Words that could heal and destroy nations. A Cloud that could disappear in a moment, nowhere to be found yet, we totally believe that it would destroy us, and yet we trust it implicitly. Which cloud holds my information? yet our leatherbound holy books, which are in every top drawer in hotels worldwide, Hold the same threat, but do the words inside hold the same trust? Are they there to be used as weapons, by being open to interpretation?
Pages and pages of words in the clouds, Pages, and pages of words in leatherbound holy books. Is it us that has got so caught up in the war of words in order to slot them into divisions, and boxes, and preconceived ideas, that we lost hope, have we forgotten that sometimes words are not what we need?
I am wondering whether I am still in my analytical head, or is this my soul talking? Have we captured and tortured our own intuition with words? Are we solely reliant on how we use words resulting in labelling our intuition as a practical mental tool? Is this what we have reduced ourselves to?
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The Galway Review 10 Anthology is a ninth printed edition of The Galway Review. This literary magazine has evolved from the popular online edition which has now more than half a million online readers.
The Galway Review 10 – Pre-buy at least two copies
 Jean Houston, Ph.D. Scholar, Philosopher, and researcher in Human Capacities.
 Caroline Myss is an American author of books and audio tapes about mysticism and wellness.