People today use the word “toxic” to describe problem areas of modern life. CFP
There’s only one month left of 2018. If you could pick a single word to describe the year, which would you choose?
This year the Oxford Dictionary has gone with “toxic”, its “word of the year”.
The word toxic has become a “descriptor for 2018’s most talked about topics” and it “has been used in an array of contexts, both in its literal and more metaphorical senses”, according to the Oxford Dictionaries website.
Defined as “poisonous” and first appearing in English in the mid-17th century, “toxic” is still often used to describe chemicals and substances like plastics. It has been frequently used in heated discussions on the environment in our communities and society. For example, phrases like “toxicity of plastics” and “toxicity of air” have been used repeatedly in recent years.
But now the word is being used metaphorically. Workplaces, schools, cultures, relationships and stress are being called “toxic” today. Used in this way, “toxic” means an invisible detrimental circumstance. For example, the Me Too Movement, an online campaign that supports women against harassment, puts the spotlight on “toxic masculinity”, which may hurt women physically or mentally.
So, if there is much that is “toxic” today, what can we do to restore our moral integrity?
It is difficult to answer this question, but we can find guidance in the example of people from the past. One was the famous Song poet Zhou Dunyi (1017-1073). In his poem Ode to the Lotus Flower, he compared himself to the lotus flower which “grows in mud without being contaminated by it”. Here Zhou declared his determination to stay away from evil and corruption.
But perhaps you can’t see yourself as a person like Zhou Dunyi, and are still confused about how to stay free of toxicity. These words of US author Leo Buscaglia (1924-1988) may help: “The easiest thing to be in the world is you, and the most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don’t let them put you in that position”.