On Gossip & Communication
By Reza Ganjavi
"The deepest human trait seems to be gossiping" Jurgen Brandt
"Don’t believe it buddy and don’t pass it on. Gossip is a grapevine that grows only sour grapes. Don’t eat them. Produce better. Live better." [unknown]
"I don't pay attention to that [gossip]. In my opinion, it's ignorance. It's usually not based on fact... Every neighborhood has the guy who you don't see, so you gossip about him. You see those stories about him, there's the myth that he did this or he did that. People are crazy!" Michael Jackson
[This was written not as a critique of human condition but as a personal meditation/emptying......]
I define gossip as words or actions used behind another's back which would not be done in their presence.
Ever since I was a child I used to hate gossip - I saw plenty of it as a child in a closely tied Iranian family life with lots of regular interactions with many many relatives. As a grown-up I still abhor gossip - it's one of the most ignoble things - along with cigarettes it's one of the ugliest things in life - and sorry to say, the world if full of it. One of its roots is fear - if you have the courage to speak to the object of gossip directly you would not speak behind his/her back. The fear is of facing facts which may bring an end to the gossip (fear has other roots - e.g. merely biological if one is a meat eater...). Gossip is energizing for some people. The point they often miss is: if X is talking to me behind Y's back to me, he will surely talk behind my back to Z. In the corporate world it's full of it - in some places more than others - I perceived a lot of it while I was living in England - the culture as I perceived it is more tolerant to it: "as long as you put on a good face" - than my experience in America where people I dealt with were - more or less - more one-faced (generalizations are incorrect anyway). Also in culturally confused places such as a place I lived in southern South Africa there was plenty of it - I also saw plenty of it in another small town where many gossip-brains lived! Certain educated, strong cultures do not tolerate it (e.g. I've seen a lot less of it in Switzerland than anywhere) - they see it immediately as violence - their education prohibits it (again wrongly generalizing). I've also seen a lot of it in certain circles or gatherings of people. And also in circles formed around an important person:
We have too many cases in history where the inner circle of a great person believed the person is theirs - and this possessiveness built a psychological wall which could ultimately lead to distortions. But the greatness of the person itself - if genuine - saves their work.
Opposites bring unity - when you and I find a common object to be opposed to, that is a unifying factor for us. It is sad that it has to be so: for gossip to unite and otherwise, ununited relationship. The weak-minded are easy victims of gossip. They fall for it because they're victims of others' opinion. The circle of gossip is strengthened by numbers - the more people engaged in the same thinking, the stronger the belief and so the more righteous it is. One who is strong-minded and free from fear communicates. A child communicates, fearlessly. If I am wondering something about someone, I ask - I don't go chit-chatting, speculating behind their back. But for "gossip-brains" it's easier to speculate than to inquire. The weak cannot think for themselves so they need others' opinion to give shape to their perception.
All this is based on images. Communication is a dangerous thing for the one-in-dark - because communication is light. But lack of communication skills is another common human factor. Most people I know do not have good communication skills: to voice or write an idea - most know that and admit it. I know many who want to write a letter but don't because they're simply not good at writing. And sometimes we try to avoid issues by lack of communication - but I try to always communicate - I do not want to avoid anything - if I do not want to talk to someone who is trying to call me or write to me, I tell them - gently in the right way - by DEALING with the issue they want to talk about....
People are generally not good at getting hints. I try, and I am not too dumb to not get hints, but hints are horrible things - let's be open and say the fact instead of saying 1/10 of it and allow room for reading the remainder 9/10. Especially when someone is "in love" or extremely attracted - they're very bad at getting hints - and what they need more than anything else - like I believe we all do in our relationships - is COMMUNICATION - facing facts - I've observed in my life what a magnificent, releasing thing communication can be: facing "what is" - being in touch with it - seeing what it is - otherwise, walls of images can easily build up - the walls that imprison us - psychologically. This is quite a deep subject - but just to touch the surface, it is the "I" which in the very nature of its existence, psychologically, is a prison - I versus non-I - and the "I" itself is an image fueled by memories and the bars of the jail are made from thought - which in the absence of insight are stronger than iron. And with insight into the nature of the "I" itself, separateness comes to an end - now - not in time as "forever or not" - and one's in tune - in harmony - give the body is cared after - with totality - of what one might call "otherness". But this is not a conclusion - thought, "I", desire, cannot touch this.
Image-making is a primary process in the habit of human condition - and it takes energy, courage, intelligence, love, earnestness, love-of-truth to end images. Otherwise, one lives in a realm where experience gives further strength to images - and images being fictitious in their nature need nourishment for their survival. The light of truth ends the darkness of images - but I have known many people who prefer the comfort of their little comfortable shadow of the known - which has nothing to do with life, love, the present, communication, freedom.
This is funny - it was painful but now it looks funny - and sad.
Two of our friends (1 American, 1 Dutch) who are organizationally very close to this work decided to have some entertainment and talk behind someone's back. I guess they determined it would be much more fun if in their stories they leave out the truth. I guess truth would have had a better chance in the world if it was more exciting, entertaining, stimulating. It would have been a good companion to a glass of wine which unlike the author many people consider as such an important aspect of living. [One of our friends once said life would be nothing without wine! -- I disagree!]
Anyway, the point is, they left the truth out - they each had a story about that poor chap which was false, and they both knew it was false, yet they failed to see the false as the false! This seems typical in gossip whose purpose seems to be a) entertainment b) bringing the parties who are gossiping closer together in the light of the opposite. Unfortunately to create that unifying opposite people with certain values, or rather lack thereof, do not mind stepping on the truth or keeping truth in the dark.
Life would have carried in its merry way had it not been for the fact that the poor chap/subject of the gossip turned up, unexpectedly, and caught the gossip right in the air!
To make a long story short, the American man was put on the spot to reveal what had been said - and in doing so he a) got the chap off the hook by revealing the truth and b) revealed that the European man had (inappropriately) resurrected an old case which was long-closed, officially, and in which the chap had not been found guilty of any wrongdoing -- but he also conveniently left out the latter part. The problem with resurrection is that it ignores the beauty of ending.
Two "higher-up" people had to get involved in order to confirm that the poor chap was completely innocent and they were disgusted when they found out the level of gossip.
This was the biggest "gossip bust" of my life - it was painful to go through it but the cards laid out so clearly that the parties who were morally "arrested" hopefully got a good lesson out of it. I presume it all boils down to values isn't it? Where is the philosopher - the lover of truth? Thank god this work is not bound by the administration of it. The closest is sometimes the farthest, it seems.