18 March 2008

Socrates on Gossip

Lately I've been thinking about gossip. One of the many little indulgences I allow myself is the occasional snark - either among friends or in the larger public sphere of celebrity trainwreck action. Unlike pizza and ice cream (both of which can be worked off when consumed in moderation) I am beginning to see how the use of words can have far more lasting, and insidious impact.

In the Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz refers to one of the primary Agreements of "Using your word impeccably." In short: words are powerful, we can use them to build up or tear down, and we owe it to ourselves (and others) to use our words in a way that creates, not destroys. Ultimately when we use our words destructively - even if it appears to be against others -the true damage we cause is to ourselves.

So my obsession with snarky gossip - from chatting with the girls to celebrity snarking- not only serves no ultimate purpose, but it degrades myself in the process. Trouble is, it's so ingrained I'm not sure how to change that.

Of course, the universe reveals information exactly when I'm finally open to receive it and this little gem crossed my radar.

According to legend, the Greek scholar Socrates held a particular disdain for gossip. When faced with a juicy tidbit of info, it is said he had a three part test before allowing the giver to proceed. Summed up briefly (the whole post is circling the internet in infamy, go look it up if you need the details) here is Socrates criteria:

1. Is it valid? Do you know if the information is factual and true? Do you personally know the people involved?
2. Is it good news? Is the news your relating positive?
3. Is it useful? Is there true value to me knowing (and you sharing, or vice versa) this bit of info.

How true is this story? Ultimately, does it matter? If it was Socrates, Plato, MC Hammer or God itself. I believe it. I asked for help in how to break this bad habit, and the universe gave me the tools I need to make it happen.

I'm committing to stop feeding the gossip monster bits of my own humanity. I owe myself at least that. I'm even going so far as to drop my links to WWTDD and YBF - even Fug Yourself has to go. And before you start groaning at my being a goody two shoes - just remember, if it really is something YOU feel alright doing, nobody's stopping you, or wagging a finger in your face, least of all me.

And really, those blogs have enough links to keep a bazillion people coming there every day. Loosing me won't make anybody cry. I'm not trying to start a movement, or spoil anyone else's fun. This time it really is personal.

1 comment:

Pan/Thanatos said...

Great post!
I really like how you break down gossip from a logical and empirical point of view. My own thought process works in a similar way, though I'm a bigger fan of Plato than Socrates.
The thing about Socrates' tests: it seems he felt that once a piece of gossip, or misinformation, is spoken it cannot be discerened as such.
I don't think we're all that gulible. Sure, gossip can be self-degrading, but only if you can no longer distinguish between what is fact and gossip.
You don't seem ignorant to me, so I don't think you need to worry about getting caught up in the hype.