“Now, as words affect, not by any original power, but by representation, it might be supposed that their influence over the passions should be but light; yet it is quite otherwise; for we find by experience that eloquence and poetry are as capable, nay indeed much more capable, of making deep and lively impressions than any other arts, and even than nature itself in very many cases.” – Edmund Burke, On the Sublime and Beautiful, 1756.

The effect of homeopathic medicines is not at present clearly understood, but those who swear by its effectiveness claim that it works, in part, because of its subtlety. In fact, the idea that dilution increases potency rather than decreases it – less is more – is a central tenet of homeopathy.

There is much evidence of this principle at work in nature and in human nature. Burke’s eloquent words above point to the fact that a symbolic representation of something can bring about a far greater influence than the thing itself. Our words, which are symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us, do not touch upon the truth  of the material or ethereal entities we seek to describe and yet they, by only poorly understood means, compel men to love, hatred, war and peace.

Too many people are, as John Wayne once quipped: “…[s]hort on ears and long on mouth.” More often than not less is more. A compassionately delivered ounce of well-chosen words will always make a more deep and lively impression than a desperately strung together ton of ill-conceived words.

7 thoughts on “Representation

  1. Joshua

    Beyond the spoken word
    Lies in wait
    The universal language,
    Who then shall rise,
    Distilling this cacophony of chatter
    As though sifting through silt
    Seeking with eager patience
    The one true pearl
    That in its spoken impression
    Sends out ripples of quietude
    Stilling minds and hearts, out of place,
    Restoring glass-like serenity
    Unto the storm.


  2. David R

    How we use words, and how we respond to them, tends to define us at such a central level. Restraint, balance, patience and poise in articulated expression allow us to be vessels for the fiery Word of Creation. For no lesser reason were we created.


  3. Steve V

    I am compelled to echo and acknowledge your words, “compassionately delivered ounce of well chosen words.” This does serve as a starting point in our hearts for as we were speaking of yesterday for hitting the mark in our living.


  4. Coco

    This was explained quite clearly …”O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”
    I think the homeopathic comparison is excellent. It’s akin to the spirit in the heart forming a shape in our words. Regardless of what is said they carry the very essence of their origin in the heart. We always reveal what is going on there.


    1. Steve V

      Thank you for bringing to mind how words originate from the heart. Looking upon the heart helps in understanding what is going on within ourselves as well as others and how we can best converse.


  5. April

    Thank you Gregg for the reminder that sometimes it is the small things that mean more than what we see as the larger things. A few seconds of kindness, a few kindly spoke words can make a persons day. We feel sometimes that we must do great things for someone or make a powerful statement but kindness has no bounds. May we all take that moment today to let others know the gratitude and appreciation we have for those around us and what they do for the world we live in.


  6. Isabelle

    One of my favorite quotes is “An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises.” by Mae West. There is a lot of talk – at work, on the news, families, friends, etc., but there isn’t a lot of quality “talk”. It’s good to look at the nature of our conversations and the words we choose each day to express what is in our thoughts and hearts.


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