Annette Poizner
This Way Up: Psychological Means to Spiritual Ends

On Mindfulness & Masks

The coronavirus, airborne, is a tiny particle that lives for several hours, yet look out the window and watch people walking on the street without a mask. We perceive others as the source of contagion. In the meantime, the air hosts our pathogen, catching us off guard. The infection levels climb.

In other ways, as well, we are oblivious to the invisible impurities that linger, suspended in the air we breathe.  I’m not referring to chemicals or electromagnetic radiation. As we sit on the sidelines, praying for respite from an invisible enemy, we might wonder what each can do to restore purity to the air we breathe.

Have you noticed the degree to which crude language peppers everyday speech, the movies we watch, the chatter we hear as we move about our day? In suggesting that impure speech renders negative effects, I draw upon a source with at least some ‘street cred’. In Deuteronomy 23, 13 – 15, we read the following instruction for Israelites in the battle field:

You shall have a place outside the camp, and to it you shall go out. You shall have a shovel in addition to your weapons, and it will be that when you sit outside, you shall dig with it; you shall go back and cover your excrement. For Hashem, your G-d walks in the midst of your camp to rescue you and to deliver your enemies before you; so your camp shall be holy, so that He will not see a shameful thing among you and turn away from behind you.

People today unleash 4-letter words with hardly a thought, quite sure that they incur no negative stain by doing so. I, on the other hand, perceive that speech peppered with F-bombs and ‘S’ words sullies speaker and listener, alike, and paves the way for more negativity. Maybe G-d turns away. Maybe other verbal pathogens breed. But in an era where Dr. Jordan Peterson has roused us to clean our rooms, this current malady, which fells the lungs that breathe our words into existence, can get us spring cleaning in a radically different way. Something in the air is making people sick. Let’s clean up what we can. This is something we can work on.

Remember learning that the Eskimos have 50 words for snow? Linguist Kate Burridge notes that the English language has accumulated over 2500 words for the procreative organs. How did we fall so low? Want to turn the tide? Want to clear the air? Let’s collectively clean up. We have talked our way into a mess, and we can talk our way out.

How to proceed? When you wear your mask, let it remind you of the words you best filter, moving forward. At a minimum, we need Divine grace to help us weather our current challenges. Let Him not hear shameful things, lest he turn away in our hour of need.

About the Author
Annette Poizner is a Columbia-trained clinical social worker who graduated with a Doctorate of Education in Counseling Psychology. Her work has been featured extensively in the media and in academic venues. A vocal advocate for the psychological utility of classic Jewish values and perspectives, she founded an imprint. Lobster University Press, which explores the work of Jordan Peterson. Her books (and coloring books) explore the intersection between some of Peterson's insights and Jewish wisdom.
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