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Bamidbar: Whatever

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Have you heard the latest idiom? “Whatever” seems to be on everyone’s lips.

An articulate friend called me the other day. Usually I allow him to ramble to this faithful sounding board that I so aptly become. I don’t need to listen to his words as much as I need to be sensitive to his feelings. But this time something struck me, something was different. In addition to the prerequisite “y’know’s” I have become accustomed to, his words were peppered with a new word: “Whatever.”

I actually counted: In a ten minute conversation he used the words “y’know” at least 15 times (I may have missed one or two), once every 12 words. And “whatever” cropped up 17 times, once every 10 words.

Y’know. Whatever.

I then began noticing that this meaningful word has recently become part of countless dialogues.

Someone describes a thought. “I went to a party. Met a boring person. Whatever.” I ask: So what happened? Response: “Whatever.” I want to know. Really. Whatever.

So why are you telling this to me, if it doesn’t really matter? Whatever. Let’s move on.

I am reviewing a document with a writer. He tells me that he disapproves of an editor’s deletion. Then he adds, you guessed it, whatever.

What ever is going on? What does “whatever” mean?

Language is either a barrier or a channel. Words either obscure our true thoughts or express them.

Language is either a barrier or a channel. Words either obscure our true thoughts or express them.

Your words are a reflection of your state of mind. “Whatever” may just be an expression of a person’s  insecurity, or fear of disapproval of his thoughts, that prevents him from finishing a conclusive thought and creates a need to leave a “back door open” called “whatever.”

And “Y’know’ ain’t much better. “I want you to invest in this business of mine, it’s a great opportunity, y’know, many potential customers.” No, I don’t know! Convince me. Y’know” can be another manifestation of insecurity.

Like a verbal security blanket: You have no confidence in your words, so you use a word — “y’know,” “whatever” — as a crutch to lean on.

A friend once declined a favor I requested of him. He explained: Because I can now say no, you know that when I say yes it really will mean yes. I never felt so good being denied. We tend to have a fear of discomfort and saying no even when we really feel no in our hearts. How often have you gotten yourself into trouble by avoiding to decline at the outset? How much anguish could have been avoided had our intentions been clear in the beginning?

So, now we have discovered a new word to buffer the discomfort: Whatever? Which literally means: that the conclusion can go either way.

Think of it this way: You fall in love. Propose marriage. And then you get the reply: Yes… whatever. Better yet: whatever without a yes.

“Whatever” is not just lazy thinking, it is plain mediocrity. Not to say that those using the word are mediocre. Rather, the prevalence of the word symbolizes a deep erosion of inner confidence and value of our instincts. Sort of a collective mediocrity has crept into our lives. A communal resignation is simmering beneath the surface of our battle scarred lives, inundated with images we are asked to buy into.

So begin counting: how many times do you use “whatever” in your conversation?

Perhaps the “whatever” epidemic is a wake-up call that the time has come to begin rebuilding our inner selves. To reclaim our self-confidence, to discover our inalienable sacred self — and communicate it.

So, whatever you’re doing, even if y’know where you’re headed, take a moment and transform your “whatever” into substance and “y’know” into focus.

What’s my point?

Whatever…

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