There are few TV shows these days that have consumed my attention like The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. Maybe it’s because it’s set in a New York City I’ve fantasized about but is no more (and which my friend, Howie Siegel, who was born in Brooklyn in the late 40s and bleeds “Dodger Blue”, has said probably never existed in the first place); maybe it’s because it’s about a standup comic and in a previous life, I dreamed of being a comedian; maybe it’s because the scripts come off like Neil Simon’s Greatest Hits.
Hard to say. It’s the closest I come to binge-watching (sitting through two episodes is binge-watching, for me), and that’s having an effect: I woke up in the middle of the night, the other night, brooding on the developing situation.
POTENTIAL SPOILER. I’LL TRY NOT TO.
One of the underlying themes that has developed involves people who can’t keep their mouths shut. Gradually, other people’s lives and hopes get eroded and damaged as a result.
That’s what kept me awake the other night: not worrying about the characters, but considering the number of times and ways that I’ve made an unguarded remark, or said something I thought was incredibly clever and witty, and it’s either set me back or caused grief to others.
My late mother, who was not exactly a shrinking violet herself and was arrested for producing a “lewd and filthy” play in Vancouver in the 50s (“Tobacco Road”, which had been the longest-running non-musical on Broadway by the time it closed), once told me, “Never say anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times!“.
James puts it another way:
Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they mayu obey us, and we turn their whole body.
Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.
Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!
And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.
For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind.
But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.
Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing., My brethren, these things ought not to be so.— James 3:3-10
The tongue leads us to react, rather than respond. Sure, it can tell us if a burger tastes good or the milk has gone off; it also told me that the can of Sprite my friend Bill handed me at school one day had been spiked with gin and that it tasted pretty good: before I knew it, I had trouble distinguishing the door from the walls.
In other words, if something “tastes good” to our tongue, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for us. Before we know it, we’ve swallowed something that we shouldn’t have.
The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil tasted good to Adam and Eve. The tongue — that “little member” of the body — overruled the brain and any sense of obedience to God.
Whether it’s words, food or drink, our tongue can lead our entire body and soul into places it shouldn’t be going. James is right: we humans are incapable of taming the tongue. We need help. We need to turn to the Holy Spirit to guide the things we say and moderate our reactions so that they become considered responses. Think of it: when that happens, we’ll become less hurtful and less judgmental, and people around us will be more receptive when we share the Good News of Jesus.