…propitiation and the narrative of intent…

“A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.” –  Mohandas Gandhi

Sometimes I pick a blog topic based on something I just read.  Ta da.  Here’s a topic that just landed in my desk via email.

Merriam-Webster offers an email ‘Word of the Day.’  The Nov 14th word happens to be ‘propitiate.’

Here is the definition:  

propitiate   \proh-PISH-ee-ayt\   verb — to gain or regain the favor or goodwill of : appease, conciliate. 

Here’s the descriptive text which they include to add ‘color’ about the word: 

“Like its synonym “appease,” “propitiate” means “to ease the anger or disturbance of,” but there are subtle differences between the two terms as well.

“Appease” usually implies quieting insistent demands by making concessions, whereas “propitiate” tends to suggest averting the anger or malevolence of a superior being.

In fact, “propitiate” often occurs in contexts involving deities, spirits, or other preternatural forces.

So why am I bringing this word to your attention?

It’s easy to get caught up in whatever is going on outside as if it has control over us.  And imaginatively, we build our relationship with coercive forces by acknowledging what’s going on for us (by expressing the impact which they have on us). 

But if our relationship stops with only our acknowledgment of impact, we wind up losing all sense of control.  The relationship becomes entirely one-sided.

What’s fascinating is how easily we first attribute and then create intention. These are not disembodied forces.  The narrative drive within us seeks to match force with force.  If the forces outside of us seem entirely disembodied then we must embody them.  We are compelled to let the story speak in ways that can reinforce our humanity.  There is no such thing as “soulless” objectivity.

We live in such a scientific age.  The narrative thread we build with our scientific concepts often loses its ability to self-connect.  Among so many nameless and faceless forces – it’s hard to know what strength we have.  It’s hard to understand that our single most important gift is to match force with force.  But not in the way you might imagine.

  • If we fall, we get up.
  • If we fail, we try again.
  • If we lose, we learn.
  • If we doubt, we accept the truth.
  • If we worry, we try our best.
  • If we fear, we give ourselves to love.

The question we fail to ask about ourselves and about power is “How do we exercise courage in the face of hardship?” 

Intent is humanly created. It’s how we put that human face on everything that happens.  It’s also the reason there is no such thing as “soulless” objectivity.

The human thread we weave around power is NOT only about the impact which force and power has on us, it is also about how we embody it.  We replace “soulless” objectivity with our own self-chosen relation, one that includes our best and highest aspirations.

Mohandas Gandhi wrote, “A coward is incapable of exhibiting love;  it is the prerogative of the brave.”

We cannot run from hardship through either propitiation or appeasement (or through shame and blame). We can, however, invest ourselves fully with whatever bravery might bring to us.  For here we find that quality of love that returns us to ourselves; it is nothing less than our own narrative intent.  It’s how we put our human face on to everything that happens. 

Don’t count yourself out! Put yourself IN!

Thanks for listening!

Special thanks to Merriam-Webster.


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