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College student hoping to expose people to thoughts and ideas they might not necessarily come across on a regular basis.

Gather the feathers...

I was watching Doubt, with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and in the movie, there is a scene in which Father Flynn, P.S.H., delivers a speech on gossip. I found it to be one of the most powerful scenes in the movie, and it changed the way I think about gossip and rumors.

A woman was gossiping with her friend about a man whom they hardly knew - I know none of you have ever done this.That night, she had a dream: a great hand appeared over her and pointed down on her. She was immediately seized with an overwhelming sense of guilt. The next day she went to confession.

Frustration is a powerful emotion, isn't it? It's so easy to get upset at something a person does, be it your husband or wife, your boss or coworker, your classmate or friend. Sometimes, and if I'm honest, I'm pretty bad about it myself, we just feel the need to talk some crap. What better way to feel better about ourselves than to put down others? Information is power in this new age of technology, and should you ever get a hold of a juicy piece of gossip, all eyes are on you! Feels good, doesn't it?

She got the old parish priest, Father O' Rourke, and she told him the whole thing. 'Is gossiping a sin?' she asked the old man. 'Was that God All Mighty's hand pointing down at me? Should I ask for your absolution? Father, have I done something wrong?

You've felt it before haven't you? That moment, whether it came immediately after your gossip-mongering or later, after you've had a chance to think about it, when you realize that you said something you shouldn't have. There's a guilt in your heart now. A weight in your soul that nags at you, and whispers to you, "Bad idea..."

'Yes,' Father O' Rourke answered her. 'Yes, you ignorant, badly-brought-up female. You have blamed false witness on your neighbor. You played fast and loose with his reputation, and you should be heartily ashamed.'

Think about it, and think about it well. If you're of the opinion that you are a good person, and for the most part, you live a good life and only occasionally indulge in gossip, how can you ever trust any other person you meet? If they're just like you, nice, warm for the most part, the question becomes, "How often do they indulge in a bit of gossip?" Hmm? What is it that you've done today that could provide raw materials for the rumor mill? God forbid they're not like you and are ruthless and cut throat. Not only do you have to watch your actions around the cruel and hateful, you've got to shut yourself off to the fair and open-hearted.

So, the woman said she was sorry, and asked for forgiveness. 'Not so fast,' says O' Rourke. 'I want you to go home, take a pillow upon your roof, cut it open with a knife, and return here to me.'

Perhaps it's time for you, and me, to dig deep into our souls. I don't think people do that enough. We're all so concerned with what other people think of us, and how we seem to them, that we fail to give ourselves a good look. We neglect to turn our analytical minds inwards to examine the motives behind our actions.

So, the woman went home: took a pillow off her bed, a knife from the drawer, went up the fire escape to her roof, and stabbed the pillow. Then she went back to the old parish priest as instructed.

There's a reason this is essential. People, on the whole, are really not as different from each other as we like to think. It's true that there are multiple academic fields, psychology, sociology, anthropology, all studying different stimuli and influences that shape humanity. What is also true, however, is that these fields have discovered an important truth: There are patterns.

'Did you gut the pillow with a knife?' he says.
When we get down deep, when we peel back the outer layers that we shield ourselves with, humans, with a few exceptions, act in relatively the same way. It's what allows detectives to understand the motives of a criminal.

'Yes, Father.' 'And what were the results?'

It's what allows us to predict the way someone will react to a piece of information, or a joke, or a smile.
'Feathers,' she said.

'Feathers?' he repeated.

'Feathers; everywhere, Father.'


The problem we have is that in our moment of frustration, in that flash of anger or exasperation, we don't think about what we've learned. We don't think about what we know about ourselves, about others. We disregard the fact that in our heart of hearts, if we found out someone we knew was gossiping and spreading rumors behind our backs, we'd be devastated. Betrayed. We just speak.

'Now I want you to go back and gather up every last feather that flew out onto the wind,'

'Well,' she said, 'it can't be done. I don't know where they went. The wind took them all over.'


A profound truth is that the words one speaks can never, ever be unspoken. The moment those words leap pas your lips, there is a gravity, a truth to them, that cannot be altered. The deepest lie contains within it a truth. The truth that the speaker is hiding something within them, and they are too scared to speak of it.

'And that,' said Father O' Rourke, 'is gossip!'

Words don't follow Newton's First Law of Motion. Words in motion stay in motion, even when acted upon by an unbalanced force. In fact, we should all hope that our words are never acted upon by an unbalanced force.

You've heard it a million times. Think before you speak. I could take a lesson or two in that art myself. I just hope that we can all put this ideal into action before we learn the lesson the hard way.

6 Responses so far.

  1. A. says:

    Dude i stumbled across reading your profile, and i have to say, glad to find another coheed fan brother. :) Nice blog too, will be reading and following.

  2. Great movie, I need to watch it again it's been a long time.

  3. Mike says:

    really nice post! you were able to capture my emotions! i agree even frustration is good any kind of emotion is okay in my book

  4. Rawr says:

    great post, supportin

  5. wow this is the longest post i have ever seen

    Poetry <3

  6. People who gossip or even bother listening to it are usually shallow and dumb.

    /discussion

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