Scattered Feathers

“I’m giving you
On count of three
To show your stuff
Or let it be…
I’m telling you
Just watch your mouth
I know your game
What you’re about…”

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while but as always life gets in the way of doing what one considers pleasurable and somehow makes it that much farther from one’s reach. In this case, writing. Yes, me love to write, but me no write! The best way to sum up what I want to write about is ensconced in a fable that comes in many different versions but always ends with the same moral.
The versions below have been borrowed from different online resources.
Version: 1
Once upon a time there was a man who loved to gossip. Every day he would sit with his friends gossiping about the bad things others may have done. “Can you believe he did that?” “Can you believe she said that?” “And did you see what he was wearing? A man of his age…” On and on and on he would gossip.
One day the Rabbi asked to see him. “There’s something I want you to do for me,” he told him. He gave him a cushion and told him to go outside, cut it open and release all the feathers to the wind. “But why?” he pleaded. “Just do as I ask,” he told him.
The man went outside, slit the cushion open and released all the feathers to the wind where they were quickly blown far and wide and out of sight.
‘Now,” said the Rabbi, “I would like you to go out and bring back all the feathers.”
“But I can’t,” he pleaded. “They’ve been blown from pillar to post, down the street, over the hill. I’ll never be able to bring them all back.”
Version: 2
Once a church member saw a young woman leave a pastor’s office one morning. Due to the early hour, the older woman thought this to be odd since the younger woman was all disheveled. It so happened that the older woman later also heard that the younger woman was divorcing her husband. In her good heart, she had to tell her friends of what she believed to be an early morning transgression. Soon the entire congregation thought that the younger woman and the pastor were having an affair. The older woman found out later that the rumor was false. The younger woman was not leaving her husband and she was suffering from severe depression and had spent the night counseling with the pastor and his wife in his office. It did not matter that the pastor and his wife were trying to help a woman who was desperately in need of help. The reputation of both the younger woman and the pastor could not be salvaged.
The older woman wanted forgiveness and wanted to set right the wrong she did, so she went to the pastor and asked how she could do that. The pastor replied, “I want you to take a feather pillow to the top of a high hill, rip it open and scatter the feathers to the wind. Then find and pick up every feather.”
“That’s impossible,” exclaimed the older woman.
“That’s right,” replied the pastor. “That is what happens when you spread gossip. It is impossible to contact and change the opinion of every person who heard it.”

And I could go on with endless versions of this story. Today’s post as you can tell is about the mother of all pleasures–GOSSIP. It is incredible to indulge in but has far-reaching consequences and can dangerously damage relationships. I am not writing this as goodie two shoes nor am I preaching. I write this post specifically to women–grown, educated women. All my life I’ve steadfastly believed that women, help, nurture, support and build their closest allies—other women.

We find friends and take comfort in knowing there are like-minded women who understand us. I make it a point to surround myself with women who love and respect themselves incredibly because this love translates to how they love and respect women around them. Strength builds strength. The reason for this post comes from a very recent encounter where I’ve been the outsider listening in. The exact fable(s) listed above were playing out. Without naming names, these are women in my neighborhood thinking they were “discussing” things. They did not understand their idle gossip was slowly turning into slander and hurting someone they barely knew. I removed myself from that conversation and left. I came back home and thought long and hard about why this was troubling.

Although I do not have a young adult at home, writing this post makes me feel like I am writing to my teenage child. Everything has a history, and in the case of gossip, there is an interesting one as well. “The English word “gossip” originated as “godsibb,” referring to a godparent. Because godmothers often assisted with the birth of a child or were present in all-female settings, the word became understood as women who talked frequently. Until about the 16th century, gossip denoted friendship.” The Puritans convicted gossipers and confined gossiping women to chairs and brutally dunked them in cold water. Interestingly, I could only find material on women who gossiped and nothing really on men. I will leave that for another day.

Gossip is endless and exciting, right? Take the example of celebrity gossip–glossy, glamorous and smutty. Media channels want to sell, so they build and burn. People know it to be false yet indulge in it forgetting celebrities to be people. We quickly make paper dolls out of them. But who cares. They are rich, and our slander or gossip will not hurt them. Not true!

What is wrong with gossiping? It hurts. It hurts the one who indulges in it the most.

You look bad to me: Yes. I will distance myself from you and refuse to know you. Remember your friends are a minuscule circle, and there is a larger social circle that matters. Life plays out in strange ways. The one who shied away from being your friend because of what you were indulging in, might be the one who could potentially help you find a job or help you build an outstanding network for your next project.

You’ve destroyed trust: I know for a fact that women in this close circle, gossip about each other. Sad that you’ve made paper dolls out of yourselves.

Fitness will not help you here: Gossip breeds negativity. Negativity eats into you and corrodes. It settles down like dust, quietly. You could be doing a 100 Surya Namaskars, but your bad karma will unseat your kundalini. Stanford research shows how negativity increases cortisol levels and impacts how the brain processes information. It physically peels away neurons from the hippocampus, and shrinks it. Cortisol builds and interferes with the bodies mechanism to process things. The heaviness settles in and dramatically displays itself for you to see.

Words are powerful tools. If you bitch and gossip and slander, the universe is listening, and the universe will send negative energy your way. You will receive what you send out. Once you indulge in this activity, be assured your karma will play out. It comes back in ways you did not imagine or ask for. As innocent as it seems, when you hurt or malign someone, you are, and you will earn that for yourself in return.