TELEPHONE LINE

In SACRED WORLD by Mike Edelman0 Comments

You may know of or possibly remember an old childhood game. I asked my cousin’s 2 six year old kids one time about this and they immediately knew the game. They said it was called “telephone line.” It goes like this. A teacher gets a classroom of kids to sit in a circle. The teacher, sitting in that same circle, whispers a short sentence or phrase into the ear of the child sitting next to them. That child then turns to next and repeats the same words. Now this child repeats the phrase to the next, and so on. This continues around the circle until it gets to the last child who then speaks out loud what they had heard. What is said out loud at the end is totally different from when it started. The kids roar in laughter. Good fun!
This is one of the ways how gossip works. Partial truths can unintentionally get twisted. Details can be speculated when we don’t know the whole story and when repeated often enough become fact. Usually not intended to be hurtful but many times with the caveat, “Don’t say anything,” or “You didn’t hear this from me.” Repeating gossip harms in many ways we fail to see.
Got a telephone call last year about a sick family member. I heard my uncle was placed on kidney dialysis and had a very ominous diagnosis. Pretty serious stuff. This news came through a series of people who ate at same restaurant for breakfast everyday with my uncle for years. As it turned out, he was sick yes, but not to the extent as gossip would have it. The rumor caused quite a bit of anxiety at the time, until the truth was known. This is just one example. I’m sure we could all recall a time when we became the recipient of misinformation that had been passed along. Maybe we’ve told someone else something we’ve heard about someone else? Even if what we repeat is not negative, it is still gossip.
The mind becomes like a flag in the wind. The Buddha taught that refraining from idle chatter and gossip was so vital to enlightenment that he included it as part of the Fourth Noble Truth.
The story is easily changed with unknown personal details that are speculated. Without knowing the truth of a person’s life, great harm is done without even realizing. Damage is done once mistaken words, thought to be facts, get repeated. The nature of repeating gossip is such that these mistaken words often are never known by the people they hurt the most, living in the minds of those who choose to speak them and believe them.
About the Author
Mike Edelman

Mike Edelman

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In 1978 did first Buddhist retreat at Insight Meditation Society with Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield. Worked as an electrician for 28 years until retiring due to injury in 2010. Now living in Cambridge, Massachusetts as mindfully as possible and constantly reminded that this moment is enough.

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