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September 23, 2014
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The Potency of Words

By Maura Stone

When I was involved in a cult they interrupted me constantly. “Enough with the story already. Just tell us in ten words what happened.”

I should’ve known better. In my life, nothing’s ever straightforward. One story is a skein from another, equally vital and germane. From there, I weave an intricate design, a pattern of words to provide a scenario, background and rationale to what occurred, what may occur and the importance of whatever I have to convey. To reduce a situation to ten words makes as much sense as Albert Camus’ character in “L’Etranger” who stated, “Au cause du soleil.”

Still, it took ten years to acknowledge I made a huge mistake. At the end, I was proud not to have been brainwashed.

Okay, the cult threw me out. The Grand Poobah pulled me aside. “God knows we tried. You’re way too disruptive for us. Those one-liners of yours are a major distraction.”

To understand how I got immersed in the land of Nanu Nanu, I need to address the phone call that changed my life.

“You must take this seminar!” exclaimed my closest friend. “You wouldn’t believe what happened to me afterwards!” He then recounted a garbled story about going to a social function, meeting Russian delegates and concluding a million dollar deal over a handshake. He quit his job as an executive in a Fortune 10 company and overnight opened a consulting firm in Russia even though he lived in Canada. It was quite a bit to absorb in three minutes.

In the midst of his narrative, a deviation from who he was as a level-headed ex-military businessman, he paused to ask me this pivotal question: “Do you trust me with your life?”

How could I say no? He was, after all, my closest friend. In candor, he grabbed my attention at the onset when I heard, “concluding a million dollar deal over a handshake.”

“Hey, if this is all it takes to make a million dollars, I’m there,” I said.

Days later I entered a large room with a hundred other puzzled people. They, as well, were bamboozled through loved ones to take a seminar without having any idea what it was about. All I knew was my friend exhibited an excitement and zest he hadn’t had for a long time. Also, my curiosity was piqued as to what could’ve caused him to do something as farfetched as leave his long-term stellar career for some nebulous business venture. Let’s not forget about that million dollar handshake.

A man walked up to the podium. After getting our undivided attention, he cited the following quote:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

I was hooked.