Gordon C. Stewart, January 22, 2022
“Better to trip with the feet than with the tongue." — Zeno of Citium (c. 300 BCE)
About stumbling and slipping
We all stumble occasionally. Who hasn’t slipped while trying to say what we mean? But some slips aren’t slips. Those slips reveal what we mean.
After last night’s Senate blocked the voting right bill from moving forward to debate, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s tongue slipped when trying to tamp down any concern about Black voter suppression.
The concerns are misplaced, he demurred. Why? Because “African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.”
“We all stumble in many ways,” wrote the James of The Epistle of James. “Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check.” (James 3:2 NIV). There is no such person, he writes, for no human being can tame the tongue. The tongue’s small size is disproportionate to it power. It’s like the rudder of a ship. It guides the ship in whatever direction the pilot directs. In yet another metaphor, the tongue is a little member of the body, “and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small spark!”
A restless evil
With the tongue we praise God and curse others created in God’s image; “it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
“Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? Can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water….”
Wisdom and hypocrisy
“Let those who desire wisdom show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ is not wisdom. It does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”
A Life’s project on the tip of the tongue
Martin Luther King, Jr. is dead. John Lewis is dead. Their life project is not. It will sit on the tip of my tongue long after the slip that wasn’t a slip, however long it takes.
O, yet we trust that somehow good— Alfred, Lord Tennyson,
Will be the final goal of ill.
In Memoriam A.H. H. (1850)