Blogpost, self-reliance

Fealty and Fidelity

Language is something that has intrigued me for almost my entire life. I remember distinctly wondering why the change of one letter could get me into trouble. Changing a singular letter in the word “duck” could get my butt beat. Although I didn’t understand the why behind it at the time, I definitely understood the importance of words and getting the words right. Despite the importance of words, we live in a world where there is so much information coming at us that we tend to only take in small chunks of it. Even before this information overload, there were several experiments where letters in the middle of words were jumbled to see if people could still read them. It turned out that as long as the first letter or two and the last letter or two were correct, the text was “readable.”

Whether you share my fascination with language or not, the words that you use to describe yourself and your world matter. Your brain is an extremely complex super computer that can produce astounding results for you, if you program it correctly. The problem is that many of us are consistently shoving poor programming into our minds. Not through any form of malice or contempt, simply due to routine, culture or laziness. Listen the next time that you ask someone “How are you?” You’ll hear a variety of answer that people use automatically. The problem isn’t that the answer is automatic. The issue is the content of what they say is impacting their disposition toward their present situation. “Fine” “Not bad” “Surviving” What the f#@%!?!?!? This exchange is so extremely low stakes as a conversation. The person who is asking may or may not care what the answer is. However YOUR BRAIN IS LISTENING! It heard you just say that you’re “surviving” and it takes that message semi-seriously. Now that super computer can send you all kinds of information to back up that assertion. It can send you pain in body parts or turn your focus to the unfortunate circumstances in your life rather than the great ones. Your brain is your servant and it’s only doing what you tell it to do.

Most of us have not lived life with servants. It’s less common than it was centuries ago. In the past, kings and other members of the ruling class had people who were loyal to them. Or rather they had fealty, a loyalty that was usually associated with living on the king’s land. While fealty is loyalty, it would often come from force rather than choice.

On the other hand there is fidelity. Only a few letters difference but conceptually huge. Fidelity is loyalty by choice. The person serves because they want to rather than are obliged to. Given the choice, which form of loyalty would you rather give to others or have from others? My personal preference would be to give/have fidelity.

Now think of that servant inside of your head. Is it exhausted by the thoughts that you force upon it? Has your routine, culture or laziness condemned your mind to living on the scraps of your poor perspective? Is your poor self-image an inheritance from past events or is it a daily tax that you’ve imposed because you’re afraid to forgive yourself for anything? The quote “The mind is an excellent servant but a terrible master” brings the entire idea into focus. Our mind should be our servant but we should be looking for its fidelity rather than fealty. A servant who chooses to serve will go out of his/her way to improve the life of the master. The one who is forced to serve will only do what is necessary to avoid punishment. Be a good master today and win your own fidelity. Then do the same with others.

Have a great day!



What Language Are You Speaking?

Languages are essentially agreements.  At the moment, you and I are working under the English agreement.  We both agree that you are using “eyes” to read this post and the thing that processes your thoughts about it is called a “brain”.  As my day job, I try to get young people to accept the Spanish agreement.  Over the years that I have explained this concept, I was aware that there are many variations underneath each agreement.  There is American English and Australian English but in essence they are close enough to allow communication to flow.  Today I had a thought that I may have sold the idea of variations a little bit short.

The problem with the language agreement is the same as with most contracts: the fine print.  As I was driving home, I began thinking.  If language is an agreement, why do we disagree so often?  One of the issues is that I am not exactly writing English here.   I’m writing American 39 year old moderately educated Northwest New Jersey English.  I could probably lump a few more descriptors on there but you get the point.  Does this mean that we can’t understand each other?  No, that’s not necessarily true.   The key is to recognize what language you’re really speaking and the language of the other person.

This simple shift can make your communications better with the most important people in your life.  For example, silence can mean something very different in the female language than the male.  It can also change person to person.  The key is to work to understand the other person’s language rather than assuming that your languages are compatible.