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There is such a superfluity of subjects that are associated with the word motivation; it piqued my curiosity when preparing to write this column. I decided to look it up. As a writer, I'm fascinated by words and the nuances that lurk behind them, an obsession that has led me to dog-ear many a dictionary. Once the decision is made as to a title, I find myself looking up title words, even ones with obvious or the most associated meanings. I've dog-eared many a Thesaurus, too. What I find interesting is that 'obvious' doesn't really apply to language. Many words have meanings that aren't obvious at all.  

When perfecting the art of bantering rhetoric or, as is so common in these recent months of endless political chatter, these oft unknown meanings offer the ability to masquerade what is really meant. The speaker or writer may hope you misconstrue as they design by their word choice. We are all familiar with the way a proposed referendum is written on a ballot. It's usually worded in a way to lure you to do the opposite of what it appears to say. A safe way to guard against this is to vote yes if it appears that you should vote no or no when you favor yes. A friend of mine always checks what the newspaper advises as a way of explanation. The newspaper is owned by corporate conglomerate whose motivation is profit, so she systematically goes down the list and votes the opposite of the recommendation. She swears it works every time.

Personally, I'm not interested in employing rhetoric when writing a column. I save that for fiction when my goal is to create an element of suspense or to build to a surprise ending. Sometimes, I use satirical humor to illustrate or expose the ludicrous i.e. Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. In a nonfiction piece, I'm attempting truth, or at the least, a reasoned, researched and responsible opinion. That calls for a certain validation, or a possible alternative for the reader to consider. Many of you around Fab 40 have seen me refer to my opinions as 'thought food'.  

Before I lapse into rhetoric here myself, these are the three most common meanings I received when asking, "What does motivation mean to you?"  Inspiration, drive, and desire were the answers. No one mentioned the word that is part of the word itself . . . motive! No one mentioned purpose or intention both of which are listed under the meaning of 'motive'. As we all know, purpose and intention can often be more self-centered with masked meaning than inspiration or drive for a cause or principle. Desire, I suppose, is wide open to go either way. An interesting response in itself.

The more I pondered on this topic, the broader it became; this thing called motivation. It started in my mind in the political sense with Independence Day on the horizon. Now, I'm understanding that it permeates everything we do. Motivation is the tool used by the most innate and dominant drive in any living organic being, from a one-celled microbe to the most advanced organism: the survival instinct, which is survival of self first or the species. In species other than human, it is often more the survival of the fittest, the integrity of the 'pack' that rules.  

That one factor, that survival instinct trickles down, to borrow a political nuance, to every goal, ambition, purpose, or self-serving thing we do. Even a devotion to a religion or faith stems from a fear of life ending in pain and punishment vs. eternal bliss and reward if all rules are followed. They never are because it’s impossible to be perfect in all things, so we invent escape from that ultimate end. Even a pantheist such as myself can't truly imagine 'nothing' even though lacking a belief in the traditional heaven and hell as an objective to achieve or avoid. Even though most folks won't readily admit being motivated by fear, chances are near 100% that they 'think' it or 'worry' about it. With rare exception is there a life that travels through the door without a struggle, not even for eternal bliss.  

Even a suicide is a desperate escape because the living has become too full of pain or hopelessness to bear. Even if the suicide is accidental as in a drug overdose, the addiction itself is a result of seeking comfort from some kind of despair. It's all self-serving. That is the base drive of living things. Just as a plant will bend and distort to lean toward the sun. Even those agnostic who question, who do believe life does end and 'here' is all there is, will spend their last gasping breath hoping for a doctor, a last second cure, even a miracle for survival of that inevitable end.  

When my mind first wandered into the scope of this premise, I kind of shocked myself! Right or wrong, I wondered if this survival of self drive is behind the present unrest in Iran. These people are tired of having their lives and their purpose defined for them. For years now, they have been under harsh Clerical rule. Women have been thought of as property rather than individual beings. Dreams are snuffed before they can become fruitful. The basic survival instinct is stirring in these people so long under a thumb, be it political or be it faith-based. Or be it a mix of both.

So, does this premise obliterate all faith, all good intentions, all trust in our fellows? Everyone is really running around totally void of compassion, caring for another, a cause, the power of empathy? Is there no such a being as a dedicated and truly honest politician? No genuine friend or confident that really cares about you, your passions or purpose?  

Of course not! What it does is, hopefully, increase everyone's awareness of the power of language. The little nuances of every word uttered. Some expressions are beautiful, heartfelt, honest, and as pure as the finest crystal. Just focus on the power of discernment rather than rhetoric. Focus on leading toward good rather than following for self purpose. How many people enter a voting booth with less focus on what the vote is going to gain them personally then with a true devotion to country and patriotism? What is a voter’s honest motivation? Everyone seems to want ice cream but instantly balk if it means having to pay for it with taxes. Where do they suppose the money for their ice cream comes?

Think about that during this approaching celebration of Independence Day when comments, political jargon, references to the forefathers and our constitution flow like the hot dogs and mustard. Don't be hyped at the exaggeration of rights and freedoms. Remember all words have a motive. Learn to discern the motive of a cause or a speaker, the intention of a writer or a leader. No matter the message, no right and no freedom comes without a responsibility or a sacrifice. May we all discover a remnant of truth.            

Susan Haley, Author
RAINY DAY PEOPLE – A Novel
FIBERS IN THE WEB  

     **Susan Haley is the published author of two books, several articles and essays. She is an award-winning poet, an independent copy editor and book reviewer for AME Marketing out of San Diego. She also contributes a column to "The Florida Writer" the official magazine of the Florida Writers Association, of which she is Facilitator for the Sarasota County Chapter. The audio version of her novel "Rainy Day People" was awarded in the 2008 Indie Excellence National Book Awards. She also contributes a variety of editorials and excerpts of her work to various E-zines, newsletters and local papers. Her third book, "Soul Songs" will be released in the fall, and she is currently working on her second novel, "The House Is Burning."



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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Kmarie wrote Jun 23, 2009
    • I really enjoyed your article today. I have been pondering the question of what my true intentions are versus the reality of my choices and are my true intentions really echoing my desires, and if not then why?



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